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  • Little Houdini, Part 1

    5 posts, 4 voices, 464 views, started Oct 6, 2008

    Posted on Monday, October 6, 2008 by Feathermaye


    • Carnelian

      Raising a child with behavioral disabilities is hard for the exact reasons you think it should be: routines are hard to establish; the child’s disruptive day care/classroom behavior never fails to disrupt your own day; and most of the time you‘re too exhausted to even handle the normal parenting stuff, let alone prepare to face yet another day of the unexpected.

      What a lot of people may not realize, however, is that the silent contempt of the public observer to the behaviors is harder to deal with sometimes than the behaviors themselves. My son Jonathan was an assertive toddler at best, yet being that he was so much bigger than most kids his age, he was mistaken for aggressive and therefore not a popular playmate.

      The way other wives and mothers in the base housing community excluded me and my son was devastating. I was a young woman, far from home with a child I didn’t understand and a part-time husband. But, according to the attitudes I encountered in what should have been my peer group, I was somehow to blame for my son’s behavior. I don’t think it ever occurred to any of them that I was doing the best I could.

      By the time Jonathan was two he was too big for the kiddy-seat in grocery carts. And it didn’t take too many attempts to discover that putting him in the basket portion of the cart just guaranteed crushed food and dramatic tip-overs. There was also no way he’d ever walk alongside the shopping cart without dashing off into the depths of the store.

      The few times he managed to get away from me in a store, I had to enlist the help of other shoppers and store personnel to find him. He was always so pleased to hear all the different people calling his name. Time actually seemed to stand still for Jonathan in these moments! People stopped shopping and instead looked for him. People stopped working to look for him! He thrived on these moments.

      I, on the other hand, did not. As I neared my wits end over how to control this kid long enough to get some grocery shopping done, another Navy wife that I had managed a tentative acquaintance with came over one day with a child’s safety harness and (for lack of a better word) leash. It fit over the child’s shoulders and chest, fastened in the back and sported an adjustable leash from the center of their back. She attempted to apologize in advance in case I was offended by her suggestion, but she couldn’t have been farther from the reality of the situation. I felt as if I’d been saved! (Jonathan absolutely hated it, and within 6 month’s time he had figured out how to slip free of its restraints. It was amazing to watch him roll his shoulders and twist his torso to accomplish the escape.)

      With a new sense of being in charge, I ventured back out into the world of commerce. I didn’t work in those days so any activity that would bring us out of the house (and one that I could maintain control of!) was a good thing. The harness was everything I could hope for, especially since Jonathan was smart enough to know that his resistance just made it worse. We achieved a temporary truce.

      I actually had a woman approach me once in the PX and say, “I can’t believe you have that child on a leash!” Without a second’s hesitation I said, “When you‘re ready to chase that child around this store for the next hour, I’ll welcome your opinion. But until then, mind your own damn business.”

      Containing Jonathan at home was no easier. As was begun in Orlando when he was 18 months old, Jonathan continuously sought new and innovative ways of getting out of the house and getting me to chase him. It was like a game with him and I was running short on ideas on how to convince him of the trouble we could both be in if he continued.

      The first time he got out while we were in Jacksonville, Florida was the first time the police brought him home. He was just past his second birthday and had recently achieved sleeping through the night in just his ‘big boy pants‘. Which means that when he left the house one morning at approximately 5:30am, he did so in nothing but his ninja turtles underoos.

      He walked a half mile to the 24-hour corner store, entered through the automatic doors and announced to the clerk on duty, “Coke, please!“. The cashier, thankfully a good-hearted old man, got Jonathan a Coke out of the cooler, situated him on a stool and promptly called the police.

      While at home, I’m still enjoying the sleep of the blissfully ignorant...

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      Feathermaye, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.


        • 0 votes vote up vote up

          Feathermaye wrote Oct 18, 2008
        • I don’t know about amazing, Dana, but I thank you very much nonetheless.

          I think I learned way more from Jonathan than he ever learned from me. Today he is mainstream and accomplishing goals I had long-ago written off. It was a long road getting here, but I’m finally, FINALLY feeling like it was worth it.

          And that’s something I never thought I’d say!

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