While I write relatively openly about Eli and our lives, I try to keep some things private. You will never see his naked butt on any of my social media (though it is truly the cutest butt ever), you’ll not hear about potty training in great detail, nor will you ever see a picture of him sitting on a toilet. I have firm boundaries that are important to me. And this is one of those areas where if I didn’t feel like I needed some guidance, I would probably not share. But I do. Because I’ve never had a child before.
Eli has some…quirks. He’s always been a quirky kid, from infancy on. He had weird sleep patterns and weird eating patterns, but they worked for us and we rolled with them. He hated his crib with a passion of a thousand suns, and we rolled with it. But for the past 3-4 months, we’ve had a hard time rolling with things. All of this pre-dates our move, and though we have discussed the baby with him, I can say with great confidence that he has no idea what’s happening there.
A lot of it is normal toddler stuff, I know that, but other parts aren’t, and we’re struggling to figure out how to best support him right now, because frankly, we have no idea what we’re doing.
The first thing we noticed was the lining up. I know, I know. Lining things up is NORMAL. It’s a normal stage, it’s a good thing, it demonstrates good spatial awareness, as does the sorting. These are all true and I know it. And if he was just lining things up, I wouldn’t even mention it. But it’s not just lining things up. It’s spending hours lining things up and freaking out when they don’t stay, or when the space isn’t quite right, or when it’s time to clean up, or if, God help you, someone touches the line. When it was just cars, I was not terribly worried, but now it’s everything. It’s balls, it’s chalk. Last week at soccer, he lined up all the extra cones and screamed when someone dared touch one.
And I was less worried when he was playing with cars typically in addition to the lining up, but I have scarcely seen Eli drive a car on the ground or do anything with them other than line them up lately. I just have this weird prickly feeling about it and as much as I want to dismiss it, instead of the behavior fading, it just seems to keep escalating.
At the same time, he’s social. I mean, unbelievably, undeniably, loves to be the center of attention social. He’s his dad. He smiles, he hugs, he gives kisses, he makes eye contact, he talks in multi-word sentences that are mostly intelligible. He does all kinds of cool stuff. Our pediatrician gave us an autism screening tool and we had several concerning areas but the doctor said that Eli’s social skills are so astoundingly appropriate, that he didn’t even want to refer him for anything. Which was like 10% comforting and 90% confusing as all hell.
The big thing is that he’s struggling with is play. He has these rigid rules about things. Today he was playing with play dough with his cousin and I spotted the problem from a mile away, well before it began. My sister was rolling play dough into small balls and putting them on the tops of the play dough containers and Addie was taking the balls and squishing them. You know, playing. Eli came in and I knew the instant he saw the play dough that he was going to freak out because he could not deal with Addie taking a ball. Not like, he wanted it and was being possessive and she took it, but because then one container didn’t have a ball on top. And he screamed and cried. Not like cried because something had been taken away, cried like he couldn’t function. Couldn’t stop crying, was beside himself and unable to be redirected in any fashion. Just an absolute mess (this after a 3.5 hour nap).
And it’s not the first time it has happened, it’s not the 10th time it’s happened. All I want for my child is for him to be successful at what he chooses. I want his life to be easy in the sense that he can achieve what he wants without any unnecessary struggles. I want him to have friends and enjoy school and activities, but the way he interacts with his peers makes that a huge challenge.
And again, he’s a toddler. They’re rigid, I know that, it’s just, he seems to always be noticeably more rigid than his peers.
The last thing that has given me the greatest pause is his sensitivity and what seems to be coming out as anxiety. He has always struggled with loud noises, literally for as long as I can remember. We can’t run a blender, vacuum, dust buster or anything of that nature without him hiding or running and crying. The tape we used to close boxes scared him every time. Motorcycles that are a huge distance away terrify him. Public bathrooms (toilet flushing and hand driers) are an absolute nightmare. And okay, fine, he’s sensitive, we’ve known that for some time. For a few months now, when something scares him, he’ll say “you’re okay! you’re okay!” in a quiet high pitched voice, just to himself, as if to calm himself down (the wording he got from us). And for a while, it made perfect sense.
It doesn’t anymore. There are times where there is no stimulus we can spot that is making him uncomfortable, but he’ll start sort of panicking and then we’ll hear “you’re okay! you’re okay!” several times. It will happen when he’s otherwise happily at play, in the car, in his bed, basically anytime. Like he’s constantly reassuring himself that he’s okay. And it breaks my heart because no 2 year old should need to comfort themselves 20 times a day when they’re playing safely at home.
And I’m just…I don’t even know. It’s something I don’t know how to deal with. I don’t know how to help him. I don’t know what he needs. We could have him evaluated by the Regional Center, but our local one is terrible and he doesn’t have delays in other areas and likely won’t qualify for anything. We could go to a developmental pediatrician or a psychologist, but I don’t know if that’s unnecessary and if it’ll just freak him out more. I just don’t know.
I don’t know the difference between normal toddler rigidity and all of this, if there is one. I don’t know the difference between being a sensitive kid and this, again, if there is one. I just don’t know. And I feel like in doing nothing, I’m potentially failing my child, but I feel frozen and unsure of what to do for him. It’s not denial by any means, I know some of this stuff is probably not typical, I just don’t know how to go about managing it.
I love this boy more than anything in the universe. He is the most lovable incredible boy, he does so many great things and he is my favorite person on the earth. All I want is for him to be happy and successful. I just feel like I have no idea anymore how to provide that for him with the things that are happening.
So, this is sort of a half-hearted request for suggestions or experiences or reassurances. Please know that it’s sort of a tender situation for me, so handle with care.