Daily Archives: September 13, 2017

Boys will be Boys…or is it More than That?

boy jumping kid-enjoy-sun-set-157878

{As I share about our journey with our son and autism, I’ll share where I was, where I am now, and where I hope to be. Today, I’m starting from the beginning before I knew what I know now.}

I don’t remember anything obviously different about my son’s infancy – he sat up, crawled and walked at all the “right” ages. That said, I remember when he was born, I did have a deep-down feeling there was something…different about him. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it was there, whatever it was. If I could go back with the knowledge I have now maybe I would see things I didn’t see before. Or maybe others noticed but didn’t say anything.

When our son was about three we noticed subtle changes in his behavior, a regression of sorts. Where before he was a generally mild-tempered baby, now he became agitated easier and walked around with a semi-permanent scowl.

His little brother, our third child, was born around this time so we figured he was just having a hard time getting used to another little person in the house taking up mama’s and daddy’s attention.

Since he’s our second child, the first boy after a girl, whenever I mentioned how different he seemed compared to his calmer, obedient, imaginative and precocious older sister, the same clichéd responses bounced back to me.

He’s just being a boy.


Boys are so different from girls!

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard those words…

He acted impulsively, easily angered, and had the.worst.tantrums! Oh, those tantrums! I’m sure I earned more than a few years off purgatory for those.

Though his behavior drained the heck out of me in those early years, I still clung to hoping this was all still within the boundaries of “normal”. Though I grew up with three brothers, I didn’t feel like I had much to compare to since he was my first son and it seemed like all little boys acted impulsively, lost focus easily and seemed oblivious to other people’s feelings.

Well, boys will be boys, right?

Or will they? Over time, his erratic behaviors intensified at home and I grew more and more confused and frustrated.

He behaved his worst when he was with me and at home. We never had anyone outside of family “complain” about him or bring up any serious concerns. In school, his teachers described him as a sweet and kind boy who was just kind of “shy”, struggled with following directions, and often seemed like he wasn’t paying attention – unless it was about something he was super interested in or excited about. Then it was hard to get him away from that. He had friends, looked people in the eye and, from what I could tell, interacted well socially.

Since he only acted “badly” with me, my next “logical” conclusion was that it was just me. I was the problem.

{If I were talking right now, I’d probably start choking up.}

Was I doing something wrong as a mother? I was told I shouldn’t take things so personally, but when he acted like an “angel” for everyone else all day but then turned into a growly-faced-green-eyed monster as soon as he was with me, it was hard not to feel hurt and confused by that.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so thankful he behaved well at school and with his friends. But I started feeling like it would make things easier if he didn’t so I knew for sure it wasn’t just me.

I know that was so selfish and vain but that’s how I felt. I tried prodding teachers and his friends’ parents to see if they might say anything, but no one really did. Or maybe they were afraid of offending me?

My mind tortured me with a swirl of questions, doubts and fears.

I went ahead and checked out some books from the library on Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, ADHD, and other “spectrum” conditions. As I read and went through the checklists in these books, I noticed his behaviors lined up with some of the listed characteristics but then not with other more commonly known ones and his behaviors weren’t consistent in every environment.

{Note: Most of the books I read were from the library and written years before our current understanding and terms for Asperger’s and Autism.}

I hated those books! I banned myself from reading blog posts about it to prevent even more confusion and frustration.

I over-analyzed everything he did, hyper-observed him and constantly compared him to other boys his age desperately wondering – is my son normal…or not?

I looked and looked for where he fit but he was his own unique shape with no matching hole.

If I noticed him doing something like walking around on his tiptoes while flapping his arms around like a bird, I’d freeze in fear – he has autism.

But then, I’d see another friend of his do the same thing and let out a sigh of relief.

Nevermind, he’s just a normal boy. Calm the heck down, brain!

Then, during one of his hours-long meltdowns, I’d sob as I held his door shut so he’d stay in “time out” and completely tear myself apart.

This is all my fault. I should have played with him more or read more books with him, I didn’t give him enough attention after the baby was born…I’m a terrible mother…

Then, I’d read something about autism or ADHD and it would start all over again.

I felt like I had become a crazy paranoid mother looking for an excuse to make me feel like less of a failure who couldn’t handle her own child. I felt isolated, confused, and weary.

Finally, when he was about seven and after the absolute WORST summer ever with him at home, I broke. I could not do it anymore. The day-long tantrums. The hellish meltdowns. The brain-rattling screaming. The disobedience. The constant bothering and not listening. No. more.

I sent a message to our family doctor – whom I had shared my concerns with but hadn’t taken much action yet since he didn’t notice any other major red flags – and he sent us a referral for a family therapist who specialized in behavioral therapy.

I will say right now – going to a family therapist was the scariest, most humiliating, best thing we did.

Our son was very quiet in the first few sessions and seemed aloof and disengaged. This led the therapist to at first admit he suspected Asperger’s as a possible explanation. {Remember this was pre-DSM-5 when it was still called that.}

Though I didn’t like hearing this, it at least made me feel less alone in my own suspicions. However, after a few more sessions, our son opened up more and the therapist seemed to change his initial insight and suggested our son only had a bad case of anxiety.

The therapist gave us practical ideas (which I’ll share later) we could use at home to help ease his anxieties and handle his meltdowns better. Life improved in some ways but worsened in others.

At first I felt relieved he “only had anxiety”. I forced myself to stop reading anything about Asperger’s, Autism or ADHD because it was making me crazy. But deep down, I wasn’t satisfied, I knew there was still something else going on…

To be continued or this blog post will turn into a book chapter. 😊

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