Thursday, November 5, 2009

Zen Mama

I never intended to be a mother of a Demon Baby. My other three children are very creative and wonderful and . . . calm. Oldest Son walked in to the house from high school yesterday and said, "I've thought about it and I think I want to be a Buddhist. I want to find enlightenment." That's Oldest Son, all right. Calm. Peaceful. Brilliant. Zen.

My other three didn't have childhoods like his, and I confess I spend a great deal of prayer time and a great deal of tears over how, precisely, to be a good mother to this amazingly wonderful HIGH-energy child, who makes me feel anything BUT zen.

This blog is full of his funny stories. But what I don't post . . . the fact that he gave up naps by a year or so old, was climbing from his crib at 13 months, and doesn't need to sleep. Some of his oddities, like needing a separate fork for all the items on his plate, and the off-the-charts tears and hysteria that can result if he doesn't have separate forks. It's not "faked" on his part. The anguish is palpable, so I spend time trying to understand the way he sees the world. I suppose that is the best I can do. And now . . . .

He has started escaping the house. And crossing the street. And going to neighbors' homes. Even at night. On nights without a moon. When it is pitch dark. So much for my showering in the evenings when the other kids are asleep. And recently? He sleepwalks.

So now I must purchase door alarms and all sorts of latches, not to keep intruders out, but to keep my child in.

Last night, I tucked him in around 9:30 (EARLY for him, since he does NOT sleep). And he popped into my room at 11:00 to watch the end of the Yankees game with me. We snuggled and he told me I was the best mother in the world. Something I wish were true, but is far from it.

"Well . . . I wish I was more patient. I'm sorry I sometimes yell at you. I guess I don't understand why you do such naughty things." (Oh, like peeing places he shouldn't, and kick-boxing his brother.)

"When you yell at me, I get angry and then it makes me want to do bad things. I have an evil king inside my head, and he sometimes tells me to do naughty things just to make you mad."

"Well, don't listen to your evil king."

"It's hard."

Oh, our conscience can be at work, even at age 4.

The blog? It really is to remember all the funny things, for the times when I want to cry. Discovering your child has left the house while you were asleep or folding laundry? That he is so fearless--even in the dark and the cold, to leave barefoot and go exploring? It strikes terror in me. I don't sleep. I make coffee and stay awake. And now, bless the man who told me where to get these alarms (Radio Shack). I don't like to use my deadbolt. Fear of a fire . . . I want the kids to be able to run out without fumbling for a lock. But now . . . along comes a special child. And so the way I used to do things has to change. The way I used to mother has changed. It is me . . . me who is walking barefoot in the dark, not quite sure of how to do things anymore.

His pediatrician said, "Would you want to medicate him?"

No. And occasionally I hear from a lurker or two to this blog who reprimand me and think all he needs is a really good spanking. I don't want to hear from you. That isn't the answer. And for me, neither is medicating the spark out of him. The pediatrician looked relieved and said, "Good. Because I just think he's a genius. Channel it."

But how can you channel something so remarkable?

It's funny to be a writer and a blogger. After I am gone, my children can read my words. I can only hope someday he will look at this and know how horribly inadequate I felt, how hard I tried, and how fiercely he was loved. He is God's practical joke. I thought I knew how to be a mother. But I have a lot left to learn. What is the zen saying? When the pupil is ready . . . the teacher will appear.



Heather Lane said...

I have been at the locking the doors to keep a child in phase for a number of years, and recently I have put the fear of God into the teacher of my five-year-old. "Just when you least suspect it, just when you start to feel like You are the one in control, just when you feel like you can relax, that is when my child will take off from your classroom and cross that busy street to find home and mom. Do not let down your guard. Even for a second."

Once, at 6:30 in the morning, on a Saturday, my son walked barefoot through the snow to visit his best friend. I'm so thankful they took him in. And called me.

Everyone in my neighborhood pitches in to keep track of my son. And most don't judge me for it.

Erica Orloff said...

Bless you. You have no idea how I needed to hear that I am not the only one. It's hard because I only have my other three to compare to. And they just weren't like that. By this age, my oldest daughter was already playing the violin . . . my oldest son was do his times tables, and my younger daughter was already into art. None of them had his physicality or his LOUDNESS, the way he just moves through the world like a dragon slayer.

Nadine said...

Our friend's daughter would do the same and she put the alarms on every door to the outside, so when a door was opened, she would hear it. It worked really well.

When my husband was a child, he was rambunctious, overactive, hyperactive, attention deficit, - you name it, he was it. And his two siblings weren't. Watching videos of when he was young, he was always bouncing off the walls and constantly in trouble.

But his parents didn't medicate him - they just gave him continual love and support. And he has grown into the most loving, charming, and intelligent man I could ever ask for.

I know it may be tough right now with Demon Baby, but he will eventually grow up and I know some woman is going to be very lucky to have him.

Melanie Avila said...

Erica, that must be so terrifying! It sounds like you're getting good advice and I hope the door alarms work. He's a lucky little boy to have you for his mother. Far too many people choose medication instead of finding a way to make things work.

pita-woman said...

Oh my, how scary! I can't imagine the horror you must feel suddenly finding he's escaped the house and wandered off. May have to put a tracking device on DB.
As for the sleep walking, I did it a lot when I was younger. I eventually out-grew it (at least, I think I have...???). If nothing else, follow him around when he sleep walks and see what fodder he can provide you for your next book/blog. Good luck!

Erica Orloff said...

That is very comforting. It really is. I have no doubt he is going to be an amazing guy. However, my gray hairs multiply by the day. LOL!

Erica Orloff said...

I have had opinions from people (largely uninvited) all over the spectrum. I don't criticize the medication route and I know some kids whose lives are the better for being able to manage that inability to control their impulses and so on. But I just love his spark. It's killin' me, but I love his spark.

Erica Orloff said...

Well, the other night he fell asleep on the couch, started laughing HILARIOUSLY--the craziest giggle--all while sleeping. Stood up, and walked over to the fireplace to pee in it. All the while laughing, laughing, laughing.

Managed to steer him to the bathroom.


Robin said...

My son once sleep walked into the closet and pooped on the floor. That was nice.

My feelings about medicine are that you save it for when the kid's stuff is interfering with his functioning and the kid is suffering. I've been following DB stories for a long time, now, and I hear about a creative, smart, funny, happy kid. You are wonderfully accepting of his idiosyncrasies, and nurture his development. If it gets to the point where stuff is getting in the way of his happiness, relationships, or school maybe you could consider medicine, but I'm not even sure for what.

You really are a terrific mom. I can think of people who need a good spanking, and Demon Baby isn't one of them.

Erica Orloff said...

Thanks, Robin. You are a sweetie.


Cheryl Kauffman said...

We tried the medication route with my daughter when she was misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and ADHD, but only made things worse. Since we learned she had Asperger's, took her off medication, added some nutritional supplements, and put her in a private school, she is flourishing. Her teacher accepts all her students for who they are and as a result her students have great self esteem, which is better than any medication. I do, however, realize there are some instances when medication is necessary and would never criticize someone for doing so. I think the key is the correct diagnosis.

My grandparents used to tell the story of when my mom was 4 years old, she left home and walked over to her grandparents house a few streets away. My grandmother didn't even realize she was gone until her mother called.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Cheryl:
I am so glad she is thriving. WHAT a BLESSING!

My sister teaches in a gang-ridden school (last week one of her kids was involved in shooting a man). Her kids get murdered. Her kids commit murder (8th grade). Yet she believes in her students and treats them all with respect. I love her!


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