Sunday, December 28, 2014

Who's Really Teaching Who?

The other day, the moon, sun, and stars lined up to just be one of those days for Caden.  It was going to begin with an early morning dentist appointment and conclude with a late afternoon doctor appointment.  Either one of those things can lead to major challenges and meltdowns, particularly when there are always just so many unknowns.

Caden’s first dentist appointment was about 5 years ago, and to say it was horrific would be an understatement.  It took 4 of us to hold him down long enough for the dentist to pronounce we weren't cleaning his teeth well enough and that he felt holding him down was less trauma than the impact of not getting his teeth clean enough.  I disagreed with all my being because I knew that in time Caden could and would learn that brushing his teeth was a safe activity, but if we used the hold’em down method he would only learn fear and we’d never make progress.  So we didn’t go back to that particular dentist, and we continued to follow our gut instinct.  Although we continue to help him brush his teeth, he now brushes twice a day without argument.  Best yet, he was able to sit in the dental chair by himself and get his teeth checked and cleaned without a single argument or tear.  I on the other hand sat at the bottom of his chair with Elf and fought back proud tears of how far he had come in such a short time.  Yet, in that short time, I know how hard he has worked and continues to every day.  Honestly, he has come farther in the dental world than I have; I still struggle to the point of tears every time the dentist is mentioned due to my own dental phobia.  Even taking the kids to their dental appointments is difficult for me.  He’s truly my hero, and I am realizing how much I need to learn from him in regards to overcoming my fears.

Later that day, Caden, Elf, and I headed to the doctor to investigate some ongoing stomach pain.  I expected a quick exam and out so that’s all I had really prepared Caden for.  He was already claiming it was the worst day ever because he had to go to the dentist and the doctor, but little did either of us know that the worst was yet to come.  The doctor decided to order bloodwork and x-rays.  We weren't prepared for bloodwork so we didn't have any emla (numbing) cream with us nor any of Caden’s usual needle comforts.  He walked back to the bench though and proclaimed that he wanted the needle put in slow and that he was watching his Ipad, and that’s exactly what he did.  There wasn't a single tear shed and no one had to hold him down.  I would have been over the moon at that point, but then the phlebologist have asked Caden what grade he was in.  He replied 2nd, and again I was doing a mental happy dance because he was appropriately responding while getting his blood drawn with no tears and no one holding him down.  The tech, however, decided to state over and over again that 2nd grade didn’t make sense for an 8 year old; she proclaimed rather forcefully that he should be in 3rd grade.  I was fighting back tears and an overwhelming desire to punch her because I didn't want to have to remind Caden that he stayed in Kindergarten a second year because it was such an emotional experience for him.  Caden however never missed a beat and replied I stayed in Kindergarten an extra year because my teacher Miss J needed a special helper with the little kids.  Never ever take for granted what a lasting impact teachers can have on your child. I've never been more grateful for Miss J and all of the teachers out there who work so hard to remind our kids how special they truly are.

The day kind of spiraled for me from that point.  First the x-ray technician refused to believe that service dogs were for anything but the blind.  I had had enough by that point, and rather calmly but forcefully recited the ADA law to her and gave her a quick and dirty education on autism service dogs.  Needless to say, she let us stay in the room for the x-ray although we stepped behind the shield to protect Elf from exposure.  Once again, Caden amazed me by laying still, not freaking out when the technician had to position him, and handled it all without a single tear.

Before we were able to exit the hospital, we had one more incident.  Elf and I walked out the regular doors, but Caden wanted to take the roundabout door.  He got stuck and scared and neither of us knew what to do.  The volunteers and security guards just stood there and watched; thankfully, a kind woman walked into the next section of the roundabout and got the door moving again so that Caden could exit.  Afterwards, though, all he said was well that was an adventure.

Don’t get me wrong we still have our challenges every-single-day.  The countdown to Christmas was almost more than he could handle as positive anxiety is just as hard as negative anxiety for him in many regards.  We are back to starting out on the living room floor (a place he has always felt safe sleeping) and then moving him to either our bedroom floor or his own bedroom later in the evening.  He’s struggling with a few things in school like how to expand on descriptions (a process that he says makes his brain hurt) when he’d rather have a literal straight forward short but sweet description, and the re-introduction of cursive isn’t any more successful than when we first tried it.  And I’m sure there are dozens of other things I could list here.  But the thing is that he continues to face his challenges with the smile and giggle that only my giggle monster could do.  He finds the funny in the day, and he finds a way to have fun every day.  Sometimes he has to ask to go to his room to “find his emotions” and other times he asks us for help.  Sometimes he spins for a while, and other times he dances until he feels better.  You know though, I've realized that sometimes sitting in my chair at work and spinning does relieve some of the stress and that dancing does make you smile so maybe he is onto something here.  I think once again he has proven that I have as much, if not more, to learn from him than I will ever be able to teach him and I’m good with that.  I can't imagine a better teacher to open my eyes to the world than my blue-eyed giggle monster.