As much as I love to write from the heart (mostly about myself), and as much as I love to read the words of those who do likewise – I have a difficult time writing about my children and their struggles. I have been known to do it anyway – but my goal is always to speak the truth in love and with the hope to educate/bless/motivate/or otherwise “reach out” to others. The truth is not always easy to put out there. Certainly not as easy as adorable pictures of the loves of my life.
In this case, I’ll settle myself to the truth anyway, and quite frankly it hurts. Hurt to hear it and it hurts to tell it. But it hurts most of all to live it.
Quint, from a very young age, displayed an uncanny sense of defiance. I think he was right around nine months old when we started to see his personality shifting. And long-time readers will recall some of my frantic “new-mother” posts regaling the battles he and I went through that first year. Even in his infancy, he took me to the mat every single day. He was not compliant. Not “easy”. Many interactions with Q were hard-won and left us weary. On the other hand, we simply adored him. Struggle and all - he was downright the cutest thing we’d ever laid eyes on and we were hook, line, and sinker for his charms. Most people who met him were!
Still, the constant fight to gain any semblance of control with Quint was met with the longest and hardest of parenting days. As he grew, he was demanding, often frustrated, prone to tantrum from an early age, overtly physical with us and with other children. His need to “tackle” and dominate was powerful. He struggled with a flaring temper and high levels of frustration when his needs were misunderstood. Even on my best days, I often found myself crying and wondering what I was doing wrong.
I did reach out to find help – but no one seemed to know what to offer. And who could blame them? On the outside, Quint appeared to be a happy-go-lucky growing boy. And he was and still is in many ways! But when his ire or frustration was stirred – we were often faced with a completely different child.
Additionally, Quint did not speak until he was 18 months old. And even then, he would only say “Da-da”…and then at 19 months came “mama”. Very slowly he began to utter words that to anyone else made no sense. But as with most parents, we could understand him. Time went on and it wasn’t until he would speak around other children his age that we realized that his speech level was significantly behind. Children all speaking at different ages, notwithstanding – this was different. He could not repeat words or sounds. He did not mimic or even try to talk. He did not sing or attempt anything other than general utterances.
Toddlerhood did nothing to help diminish Quint’s behavior or to push along his verbal skills. If anything, He became more aggressive and struggled even more to communicate with us. And to be clear - not usually in a malicious way. More so in a “I don’t know what else to do with how I’m feeling, so I’m going to tackle this random kid” kind of way. I was constantly making excuses for him. At the park, at the mall play areas, with friends and their bewildered children, to curious onlookers. Yes, even to strangers – I would offer my apologies as his behavior would peak and and his inability to control his impulses revealed a very frustrated child. What appeared to be overt toddler meltdowns to the onlooker, were actually accentuated levels of rage and frustration from a little boy truly struggling.
I should clarify that Quint is a very bright, affectionate, and loving child. No, I’m not just saying that. He continually amazes us, his teachers and even his doctors with his intelligence and charm. No one seems to be immune to his sweet nature and endearing personality. He has a 1000-watt smile and a very gentle side. I have seen him lovingly hold his sister. Pat her on the back or comfort her when she’s hurt or crying. I have seen him offer affection to animals in a gentle, kind, and loving way. I have witnessed him helping others, playing nice, sharing, and extending sympathy…“ahhhhh, poor sissy”. He thrives on praise and attention, just like any child. He loves to help and create and sing and dance. He is in so many ways, a typical three year old.
He screams. At the top of his lungs in the highest of pitches. He throws himself onto the floor or into the couch – over and over and over again. He screams randomly and for no apparent distress or reason (did I mention the screaming?) He is overtly physical with his sister; rough and aggressive – though bless her, she handles herself quite well. He squeezes everything much too tight; as in us or Keira or the dog. He has little to no impulse control. What he wants, he takes. What he longs to touch, he simply does – no matter the consequences (i.e. a hot stove, a curling iron, breakable items that he knows are off limits). If he longs to pull items off a shelf in a store, he simply walks along and knocks them all off. He responds to discipline in the moment but has no retention of it. He shows genuine surprise when his behavior illicits anger or consternation from us – as if he had no idea what he was doing was wrong. Consequences mean very little to him. He takes them willingly, but does not learn from them. Consistency does nothing for him. He repeats bad behaviors with rapid succession.
It took us over three years to find answers. Three years to be able to put a name to Quint’s struggle. And perhaps we haven’t even uncovered all of it yet – but we’re certainly trying. I thought there might be a bit of Autism in Quint - but it turns out, not so much.
Instead, Quint has only 30% speech capability right now. He’ll be four this year. That means that even those that love him can only understand 30% of what he says. I’m here to convey that the other 70% gets lost in translation and has caused some excruciating interactions with Quint. When we cannot understand what he wants to tell us – his level of anxiety and frustration is palpable. He is so wounded that we do not know what he is trying to communicate. Even more, we are BROKEN for him – that we can’t meet his needs or understand what he is trying to convey. (*His hearing was tested by one of the best specialists in the large metroplex where we live. His ears are perfect! Praise!)
Moreover, Quint was diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder. I lack the energy to define all the various ways that this disorder can affect a child and his/her family – suffice it to say, it certainly offered a lot of “aha!” moments for Anton and I when we were finally able to put a proper diagnosis to our son’s behavior. Tantrums, screaming, aggression, hyperactivity, constantly needing pressure (think throwing himself into couches or us, squeezing too tight too often, and his overt physicality), inability to control his impulses - on and on the confirmation came.
Coupled with a genuine speech delay, you have a recipe for a very frustrated little boy.
For so long I thought his extreme (albeit short) tantrums and excessive physicality were a product of typical toddler behavior. For so long I had believed myself to be a failure at parenting my son. For so long, I thought I had tried everything and could still find no relief from our daily struggles. For so long…and for so many tears…and for so many moments of brokenness.
For my heart, this has been a road I have longed so many days not to travel. So many times I have thought maybe it was all in my mind. That his struggles were merely an exacerbation of my inability to cope as a new mother. That somehow, what Quint struggled with was really just a reflection of my failure to thrive as his mom. That somehow Quint’s behavior really only represented my short-comings – and could have somehow been prevented had I parented him differently. And I can’t tell you how many nights I have laid in bed crying over that lie. Until Keira came home. And I generally loathe comparisons between children – but this was different. There was a clear and obvious difference of so many factors between our kids – and it was painfully clear that Quint was struggling in un-natural ways. Ways that could not continue and ways that needed attention quickly. He had coped long enough and we were all determined to get answers and help for him – no matter how long it took.
Today my little 3-year old son climbed onto a big, but very special, school bus. He is getting intervention and I’m so sad and so glad all in the same breath. We are so very fortunate to have the resources available to us, in our community, for Quint to receive the special schooling, help, and therapy he needs to overcome these obstacles. And by fortunate, I also mean TRULY BLESSED. Because we are not so blind as to miss that many children struggle in this same way – often with much more debilitating issues – and have no access to the resources with which we now find ourselves benefiting from.
God has created this amazing boy and we get the privilege of loving him. I’m sad it took us so long to get help for him – but I take comfort in knowing that we probably could not have done much differently. These things had to be revealed over time – and in Quint’s case, had to show up in certain ways to be identified. At 12 months old, it would have been virtually impossible to diagnose some of his struggles. Now we can clearly see how age has brought about certain things that can and will be helped.
We are trusting, hoping, praying, leaning on God’s love, remembering His faithfulness, reaching for grace, and trying to extend it to ourselves and our little boy. And I can tell you that it’s very hard. Each day a new trial. Each day, still having my son take me to the mat. Each day finding strength to get through and see the good and soak up the beauty and remind myself that these things take time.
Each day reminded that the truth hurts…
Each day reminded how blessed we are…no matter what we face.