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Stories, observations, and reflections from a life of raising boys

The In-between

Jenifer DeMattia

 Copyright 2014  BugsDirty& 

Copyright 2014 BugsDirty& 

When my son was 2-years-old, we decided to begin a journey. We were having a difficult time with him. He went through an emotional change, and we were completely unaware of how to cope with it. We were unable to help our son and unable to help ourselves. He was manic at times in public and would have severe emotional outbursts that would end with him eventually falling asleep after hours of screaming and crying. He did not want to be touched, and it was difficult to figure out his triggers. Unexpectedly, we would lose him to some unknown place. It affected our marriage, our routine, and pretty much the majority of our life. Since I was home and spent most of my time with him, I lived in fear that he would have an “episode.” I was afraid to take him into the world because I suddenly felt no longer in control.

He had several evaluations done, and referrals were made. We were told there were sensory issues going on and that he displayed several “red flags” for being on the autism spectrum. One being that he played with cars and trains at eye level, as if he was watching how the wheels spin. He has always been very inquisitive. His eyes opened wide when he was born and have stayed that way ever since. He is defiant, extremely energetic, and has difficultly focusing. He is quirky. He likes things in their place, and when I take him to the grocery store he likes to touch every item in the isle as we walk by. He gets very upset when things don’t meet his expectations. He argues. He protests. He is persistent.

The latest venture has been play therapy. Basically, he plays and my husband and I get therapy. We turned down this road because although, at 4-years-old, he is no longer having the extreme emotional outbursts, he began hitting himself when frustrated or upset. That seems to be the key. Frustration. Our son does not know how to process those types of feelings or emotions. Anger, dissatisfaction, or disappointment. Things that, unfortunately, life is full of. What seems to be the most helpful is allowing my son to work through his emotions. By telling him to “use his words” and requesting that he tell me what he is feeling in the moment. He has made so many improvements that, sometimes, my husband and I question if we should continue. Sometimes, I feel guilty that we are doing all these things because he is who he is, and that’s ok. But what I have to keep telling myself is that we started this journey for a reason – that we were concerned enough to pursue assistance.

When I see my son act different now, when I see him handle disappointment well, I can’t tell you what that feels like in my heart. I literally feel like it’s going to explode, I love him so much. We have been told he may be on the autism spectrum, that he shows Asperger’s like behaviors, that he has possible sensory processing difficulty, that he possibly has ADHD, not to be surprised if, one day, medication is suggested. We have been told many things about our son. Many possibilities, predictions, and techniques to utilize. I did not start this journey to get my son diagnosed. I started the journey because I thought it was better than doing nothing, and now when I look at him navigate through the world today I am left feeling nothing but incredible joy. He is my spunky little troublemaker who is going to give me years of stress and difficulty. But, honestly, that’s what I love about him. I love that he questions me. I love that he gets so much fulfillment out of life. I love that we have focused our energy on how to help him handle his frustration and let the other stuff just fall into place. I feel like we have found the tiny key to unlocking our baby. What I’ve discovered is that, if you have a child, you just know. They all bring challenges. They all push us at some point. Some longer than others, but they push just the same. The real journey is discovering the person you have changed into because of having a child, experiencing the incredible wonderment of literally watching a piece of your heart drift off and beat still, the art of seeking balance between letting them be their own person and preparing them for the world.

My son has not been given a diagnosis, but I call him an “in-betweener.” We have speculated him to be many things, but to me he lives in-between us all with this incredible gift of being wild, sweet, curious, angry, and amusing. He has begun to fall in line with what the other children are doing, but he always puts his own stamp on things. He is the funniest person I know and the most stubborn. Wherever he is from, I will spend forever being grateful for him. I owe him everything for opening my eyes to life, and the possibilities that lie in-between.