Chip off the old block.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
and my personal favorite, taught to me by a friend:
Cats don’t have dogs.
Because really, they don’t.
All these expressions mean the same thing – our kids are a lot like us.
I’ve written a lot about all the sensory challenges that my son Howie has. But my other two have their sensory “things” too.
As do I.
I’m a clear sensory avoider. I don’t like hugs or being too close to people I don’t know. I’ll be the one to sit across the room on the chair rather than share a comfy couch. I can’t stand it when someone sits right next to me in a movie theater, especially when there are still plenty of open seats. And at a party or gathering, I’ll be the one holding up the wall in the corner, nursing the same drink all night so I don’t lose my spot. That’s just me. And really? Never touch my neck. Or feet. Off limits. I haven’t worn a turtleneck or scarf since I was in grade school, and if I can avoid socks and boots, I’m a happy person.
I have my food issues too. If something doesn’t smell or look right, I can’t eat it. While I am a big fan of food in general, I have some serious texture issues. Like tomatoes. And olives. And a banana that is more than a day ripe. I’m shuddering as I write.
And of course, my fear of failure paralyzes me. I quit softball because I didn’t want to try out. I worked my butt off in school because the thought of a bad grade terrified me. I retreat and read to escape.
My oldest is a lot like that. He likes his personal space, and he likes it quiet. He can’t stand it if his shirt is too tight on his neck. If the house gets too noisy or if someone in his class is clicking their pen, he’s upset. His food needs to look just right or he won’t eat it, and forget about mixing any food together. He’ll play baseball but gets frustrated quickly with team competitive sports. He prefers to play the piano and read. He gets really good grades, but wants more from school than just rote work. He wants it to mean something.
My youngest needs his socks to fit just right and his pajamas to be loose. I used to think that his meltdowns over spilled food were a sensory thing, but we discovered quickly that it was because he was missing out on food.
And my husband…well, this is my post not his. Let’s just say that our two sensory avoiding/perfection seeking trees created some apples that didn’t fall far from us. Or something like that.
It’s clear that somehow our kids got this from us.
Somewhere in the mix, Howie came along as the lone sensory avoider and seeker. He’s the only one with an actual sensory processing disorder diagnosis. And with that also came the autism spectrum diagnosis.
So it was great interest and a knowing smile that I read the essay “Like Mother, Like Son” by Amanda in the book Wit and Wisdom from the Parents of Special Needs Kids (yes, that’s the book I’m in too!). I’ve been a reader of Amanda’s great blog Confessions From HouseholdSix for a while, and was so glad when she agreed to write a post for the SPD Blogger Network on her son’s sensory issues. They received their second autism diagnosis in the their family about a month before we got our second one.
In her essay, she writes:
When I dreamed of what my children would be like, I dreamed they would be like me. They would get good grades in school. They would like to play sports. They would be involved in other academic activities after school as they got older. I never dreamed of the word autism.
Autism has been a funny little word in our house. My oldest son was diagnosed later at age eight and a half. By this point I had realized that this child is me, only more intense. But he is me. Does that put me on the spectrum too? This is a question that my son’s diagnosis has made me ponder often.
She goes on to talk about all the sensory issues that she shares with her son, and they were so familiar. Clothing troubles? Check. Food issues? Check. Desire for perfection? Check.
Her last paragraph sums it up nicely:
Are these all traits of autism? It’s hard to say. Does this mean I’m on the spectrum too? I don’t know. I do know that autism or not, I did get a child like mine.
And this is, of course, what swirls around in my head all the time. Is my oldest on the spectrum too, like his brothers? Are we?
It’s a question that I’m not sure has an answer, nor perhaps does there need to be one. We all know that the spectrum is broad and wide, and that everyone – EVERYONE – has some sensory issues. It’s about how you cope with them. For Howie, he can’t cope with them right now. So we’re teaching him. And in that process, we’re teaching his brothers – and the rest of us – how to cope as well.
I do know that seeing pieces of me in my kids gives me a better understanding of what they are going through, and gives me more patience and tolerance in helping them through the tough moments.
That’s what Amanda’s essay did for me. Seeing myself in her words helped me be a better parent. Just another way that I feel a little less alone in this world.
“As we go down life’s lonesome highway,
Seems the hardest thing to do,
Is to find a friend or two.
That helping hand, someone who understands.
And when you feel you’ve lost your way,
You’ve got someone there to say, “I’ll show you.”
Say you, say me, say it for always,
Aw, that’s the way it should be.
Say you, say me, say it together, naturally” – Say You, Say Me by Lionel Richie