This is likely to be an epic ramble. It's a difficult post to write for two reasons: one, I'm in the thick of it and feeling a little (a LOT) tender about it all. And two, it's to do with Noah and I'm not in an objective enough place to write about his issues in a way that doesn't violate his right to privacy. I feel very protective of him.
So forgive me if this is a little vague.
I will start by saying that for years we've had certain issues with Noah's behaviour and responses. Nothing we tried seemed to work, none of the books I read were entirely helpful, he didn't respond the way it was expected (by that I mean is "in a normal way" or "the way a normal kid would"). For ages I've had the niggling instinct that there was something different and not quite right going on with him.
I have been feeling increasingly frustrated and lost as I've been dealing with an increase in some of these problems recently. Close friends of mine have had me weeping in despair to them, "I just need to understand what's going on!"
Yes, he's sustained major loss and change with our emigration. Yes, he's separated from his father for a time. But that didn't entirely explain the things I've been dealing with. Sure, they were a contributing factor but not the answer or the cause.
My reserves are low at the moment anyway and I felt bombarded. I felt like I didn't have what it took to deal with Noah right now but that he needed me more than ever. But I didn't know how to even begin to figure out what he needs.
And then yesterday, on a day when I desperately needed it, a day that started out badly and I made mistakes and felt rock bottom, I felt God's hand in my life as He answered my fervent prayer for some guidance and answers.
I was in the library browsing all of the non-fiction sections to see what caught my eye, just for general leisure reading. I was determined not to get a parenting book out because I was feeling too despondent about the whole parenting deal. I didn't need to hear an expert saying, "Do ABC and then XYZ will happen," because it's incredibly frustrating when XYZ doesn't happen and I'm left thinking I did everything wrong, and feeling more like a failure than ever.
But a book jumped out at me (almost literally) as I browsed past the parenting section and I found myself checking it out of the library. I won't name the book here on my blog, in the interests of Noah's privacy, but the title was enough for me to think that it might be helpful in our particular situation.
Yesterday evening I started to read it and had my tiny mind blown almost instantly.
I have never read a parenting or self-help book that so exactly reflects what I am experiencing and feeling. That so exactly and precisely describes Noah and his issues. That explains so much. I read some of it with tears in my eyes and some of it with my mouth hanging open in shock at the insight.
My thoughts were racing so much that they woke me at 3am and I couldn't sleep. I am only a third of the way through this book but it is quite literally a God-send.
I'm actually crying as I'm typing this. It is such an incredible relief to have some answers at last. To know that it's not my fault and that the things I have been doing can't work and why. To understand how Noah is different and what I can do to help him.
I have had a MASSIVE paradigm shift. It's like I've had this clarity overlaid onto our experiences with him. Past events and situations, current problems - they make sense now.
Yes, it's painful. Yes, I have regrets with how we've handled past events in a normal way when he could never respond to that because of how he is. He's not "normal" or average. He has certain issues. But now I understand them and I can help him.
I find myself feeling defensive here because I know some of you are probably raising your eyebrows and thinking I've gone and diagnosed Noah with whatever it is, without an expert assessing him, etc. I'm not talking about serious issues like autism or ADHD or bipolar disorder. I'm talking about how Noah is made a little differently, has a certain challenge. Trust me when I say I know my child intimately and that I am as sure as I can be that this is the answer for him and about him.
Armed with some of the things I've learned, I had a little chat with him and asked him some questions which confirmed it for me.
Do I wish he didn't have the challenges that he has? Sure, for his sake as well as the rest of the family's. Do I love and accept him the way he is? Absolutely. Will I do everything I can to help him to learn the skills he needs to overcome the problem? With all my heart. The willingness was never lacking; the knowledge was.
I don't expect all of our problems to fade away overnight. But at least now I have some insight, some answers, and a way forward. Yesterday I was sobbing to my friend R, "If we keep doing what we've been doing we're going to keep getting what we're getting. But I don't know what to do differently!"
What a blessing to have the information - now I know what to do differently. I'm so grateful for divine intervention that has saved me repeatedly and in more ways than one. So grateful that I'm not doing this alone.
Oh and for those who are wondering what I did yesterday, I sent the boys on their way without me because it only occurred to me about 5 minutes after they left that I should have walked with them. By which time they were at school already. As long as I was in the equation, Noah would continue to act up; he wouldn't do that for Daniel. But I felt absolutely wretched about the situation and knew that I'd made a mistake. Totally not fair on Daniel. In my defence, I'm running on empty right now and my first priority was to disengage with Noah as I felt like my attention was feeding his acting out. But yeah, had to have a heart-to-heart and apologise to Daniel yesterday afternoon, even though he assured me it had been fine. Poor guy.
Since it's a concern for a lot of you: They have been walking together to and from school for weeks and usually enjoy the freedom. Obviously we've ensured the route is safe and that they can handle it. It's a couple of blocks up the road on a paved path separated from the road (i.e. not up against the kerb) and they have a scholar patrol to cross at. It's the norm here for kids to walk to school by themselves, as it was when I was a child. But cultural norms aside, we wouldn't let them do it if we didn't believe they were safe.
Once before Noah came back from the end of our cul-de-sac refusing to walk, and by then they were going to be late so I drove them. I believe that yesterday he didn't feel like walking and thought he'd get another free ride; when I refused to drive them is when he lost his temper. And turns out yesterday they weren't actually late for school after all.
It's taking courage for me to publish this post. I probably wouldn't be blogging about all this if I hadn't done so yesterday in a fit of wretchedness. Please be gentle with me.