I used to think maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a mother. It was all I ever wanted, but I wasn’t very good at it. I was trying so incredibly hard, but I seemed to fail, every day. When I compared myself to other mothers, life looked so much easier for them. Small tasks, such as going for a walk, or getting children dressed, didn’t escalate into huge battles. Sure, everyone had off days, but it seemed we were stuck in the OFF setting. I wondered if I had done the wrong thing by having such a small gap between my children. Maybe my eldest needed me and I wasn’t available enough?
I tried all the kinds of Mothers.
I tried soft & loving.
I tried strong and hard.
I killed with kindness…
and ruled with an iron fist.
But no matter what I did, nothing seemed to calm my beautiful son.
One day, Hamish & Hunter were on our family farm while River and I stayed at home in Arrowtown. It dawned on me how much of an impact my son had on the entire household.
Was this normal? Maybe? He is nearly three after all… but I decided to do some searching.
It was timely that I had a Plunket appointment that week, so I confided in my Plunket nurse. “I’m just not coping.” I went into quite a lot of detail and discussed Hunter’s behaviour, his routine, and what sets him off. We talked honestly and she suggested a two-pronged approach: 1) Family Centre – she gave me a referral and someone would contact me for an appointment. Family centre is staffed predominantly by nurses and social workers. The idea was that they could help me with some strategies around behaviour & bedtimes.
2) A trip to the GP. I brushed it off at the beginning, what could a Doctor really help with? I still believed it was my approach that was wrong; I needed to be taught how to parent. Remember too, that he is well behaved at day-care and with other adults (except Hamish) 95% of the time.
I had been convinced that he displayed “normal” toddler behaviour. But deep down, I really felt there was more to it. I had looked up all sorts of conditions in the past but there had always been voices giving me evidence why the diagnosis didn’t fit. I buried my suspicions.
Two weeks went by and no call from the family centre, so I wrote a list, a long one, and headed along to see my GP. I was only onto point 2 of my list and she interrupted “Sounds like there could be issues around Sensory Processing.”
YES!!! THANK YOU!!!
Finally someone wasn’t answering me with “It’s just a phase, he’ll grow out of it.” Actually it was the complete opposite. My feelings were validated and, best of all, PEOPLE CAN HELP!
I discussed everything on my list and my GP explained more about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and referred me to an occupational therapist (OT).
I went home feeling not sad, but buoyant. I couldn’t wait to work WITH my son instead of against him. I was eager to learn more and consulted google, as you do.
Slowly I felt my shoulders relax.
The examples given were just like a day in our life. I felt a single tear slip down my cheek.
Hunter was not disobedient, or difficult. He just needed a little more help with certain things. A little more patience. Some lateral thinking.
I can do this!
I can help! I can be patient! I can do lateral!
If you want to know more specifics about SPD click here. And my favourite article so far, which includes so many of the positives of SPD, click here
Whilst waiting for the OT appointment to come around I looked at things differently. I was able to offer more of myself in difficult moments with Hunter.
When we met with the OT I had completed a multi choice form and a large questionnaire so that the therapist could understand our situation and some background.
Then I met with Fiona. I didn’t take Hunter along as I was conscious I wanted to speak about his behaviour openly.
I talked, she threw in questions along the way.
There was nodding. There were notes taken.
Nothing seemed to shock her. More nodding. I was waiting for her to say that this was SPD or, in all honesty, I was bracing myself to hear that it actually wasn’t, and there I would be, back at square one. But she didn’t. After about 45 minutes I blurted it out, with some trepidation “So… do you think this is SPD?”
“Oh yes absolutely.” Was her reply.
Ahhhhhh the weight lifted.
Yes, some of this behaviour IS or CAN BE present in toddlers, but when it is so pronounced that it gets in the way of day to day living, this is when it is often SPD.
So for us, for our little family, the best part is Fiona understands. She is going to do a full assessment and give us a ‘Sensory Diet’. From my limited knowledge this is basically a set of tools to use with Hunter to support his needs, but also to complete day to day tasks more easily.
Now, I realise I haven’t gone into a lot of detail about actually what our problems are specifically, I haven’t given many examples. I want to protect some of my son’s privacy. Along our journey I know stories will come up, and I will use my judgement on whether to share these. Mainly using a barometer of, “Can this help others?” Because the more we talk, the more normalisation and acceptance will take place. I am keen to share a small win we have had already though:
From day one, teeth brushing has been a battle. Fiona suggested plain unflavoured toothpaste & a vibrating toothbrush. HALLELUJAH! No battle, no screaming, no kicking, no spitting, no crying! If this is a sign of what’s to come I can’t wait to start our diet! Not words often muttered by me that’s for sure.
My patience and compassion has grown and been reignited by understanding. I was not a bad mother, ill-equipped to parent. He was not a bad child, purposely indignant and moody with me.
No. We were both looking for some answers and a little help to steer us in the right direction.
That afternoon, I picked Hunter up from daycare and we had a big, deep hug; the first of many that afternoon.
At the playground, with my boy on my lap, swinging together, I cried. Because of happiness and relief, and with a large tinge of sadness that I had not pushed for this sooner.
“What’s wrong Mummy?” Hunter asked, as once again a few tears slipped out. I’m not one to be speechless, but I really didn’t know what to say. “I’ll tell you one day”, seemed like the only appropriate response.
At bedtime, after reading his two chosen books he asked for another, “That one over there mum” and he pointed, “The rabbit one.” I picked up the book, it was titled ‘I Love My Mummy.’