April is a 35 year old, stay at home mom of three children. One of which is an adopted, special needs child.
What Strangers Don't Know About "That Kid"
Because I’m “that kid's” mom...
It is without a doubt that I am the mother of “that kid” at my son's school and in our community. When people (adult and student alike) speak of my son, it’s usually “you know that kid who does weird stuff,” or “you know, that kid who has a special aide with him all the time.” He's the kid who yells, swears, eats things that aren’t food, spits on people, licks things, arranges EVERYTHING into an order that only he understands, and will go ape shit on anyone who messes with it—then asks every stranger for not one but two hugs and is a flight risk.
It’s not always a bad thing. These are just truths that describe my son. Sometimes it’s more hurtful. Like when a father at the ice cream shop said, “next time, I’ll check if they’re here before I pull in.” We were the only family there, and my son was having an episode of pure mania because his ice cream wasn’t shaped just right. To that father at the ice cream shop...I heard you...and you’re an asshole. You sir, failed your child that day. You had an opportunity to teach empathy and chose to teach intolerance. I won’t apologize for my sons OCD because it’s real and uncontrollable at age four.
His name is just one thing they don’t know. They also don’t know that he wants to be like them. He wants to walk the halls without constant supervision, to eat at the lunch table without running in circles, and to sit in class and listen like the other kids and to control every single impulse he has—but he can’t.
They don’t know that he has a weekly home behavioralist, applied behavior analysis, an occupational therapist, physical therapist, psychologist, speech pathologist, a special education team and that “special aide” is actually contracted from the mental health clinic to be with him at all times. That he can’t travel because it’s too stimulating and it causes him to shut down. That his mom has weekly meetings with most of his care team that add up to eight to twelve hours per week, and while it all helps, he still shows negative behaviors 95% of each day and it will most likely never change and NO! “a good spanking” won’t cure him.
When he hugs his mom she holds on a little longer than he’d like because she doesn’t know when the next one is coming. They are given to everyone else in abundance but not his mom. Most of her hugs are actually in the form of physical restraint to control the violent outbursts (no worries people she’s been taught handle with care holds) so she hangs onto the few good moments he gives her to get through the most grueling episodes of mania. Like when he smashes windows with his bare hands in a fit of rage or turns into the Incredible Hulk flipping dressers and tables in his path.
They don’t know he loves his family though he doesn’t know how to show it. That he’s the middle child (attach stigma here,) the only adopted child (again...stigma) and the only boy of the three children (oh man, all that attention seeking is making sense now.) That his little sister is his best friend, his older sister his worst enemy (who secretly loves him.) Or that his sisters often have to sacrifice things like family vacations and outings and while they understand and tolerate it, they still give up more than they should at three and nine years old, to accommodate their brother’s needs. (Respite you say? Ha! Many have tried, many have failed).
They don’t know that absolutely no one can make you laugh a whole belly, from deep within your soul, makeup running, snorting, feel those endorphins kind of laugh like this kid. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally. For example, he’s told to get his clean clothes on. He comes downstairs wearing those clean clothes....over his pajamas. Or when he asks you to button and zip his pants then turns around revealing his undone button and zipper...on his butt, over his backwards underwear. Saying things very literally ALL the time takes some practice. His mom is now level ninja.
They don’t know that this is mainly due to the fact that he was poisoned inside the womb. His brain was deprived of oxygen, his veins constricted. Heroine, crack cocaine, alcohol, ecstasy and methadone were given to him every day his first five months in utero. That he spent his first days of life with a stranger and his first few months between strangers. Until he found us...
Ask that kid his name. Give him a high five when you pass him in the hallway. Compliment his shirt or shoes (he loves that), make him feel like a part of his community...because he is.
Don’t roll your eyes when “that kid” has thrown himself on the floor of the store and assume he’s “undisciplined” because you just don’t know their day to day. Or how incredibly burnt out his mom is though she’s read every book and accessed every outlet for special services and they make minimal difference.
She’s the mom with her head held high, smile always in place, appearing unscathed. She won’t let you see how exhausted she is. Or sometimes broken.
She’s always told “I don’t know how you do this everyday” the truth is, she doesn’t know either.
He is my child, they are my children. They (some more than others as it changes daily) are trying, frustrating, hilarious, loving and loud. But they are mine.
The craziness of our life is actually quite normal to me now. I idle at tired, drink four cups of coffee daily and scream into a pillow at least weekly but...I have to keep going or I will sink and I have no time for drowning. These small humans need me. I may not be something special to most but I’m something important to a few and they are my heart, soul and universe. Their need for me is the reason I exist.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.