When I was young, I had asked my father how he knew so much. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know all the answers to everything when I grew up. His reply escapes me, but my question is still pretty fresh in my mind.
Periodically, I think of that question, especially when dealing with my own children. How will I know the answers when I grow up? Apparently, I’m a grown up, but I still don’t know all the answers. Not just to the questions Luke poses, such as, “Daddy, if the world fell into nothing, what would happen?” but also to the behavior Luke displays. My disposition is not calibrated to Luke’s settings; therefore, I’ve had to reset my attitudes to be more in line with Luke.
For instance, ever since I was three years old, I’ve played sports. At first, it wasn’t my choice: my father told my older brothers that professional ballplayers are made at a very early age, so they played with me constantly. Needless to say, I never became a pro ballplayer, but, through them, I developed a love for sports, especially baseball. I spent many days with my father playing catch, and those memories will be with me always. I had hoped that one day I would play catch with my son and share my love of sports. Although he is still young, Luke doesn’t appear to have any interest in sports.
Case in point: While visiting my father, I was playing basketball in his driveway. My daughter came over to me and wanted to try. I handed the ball to her and she gave it her all. She would throw the ball up and close her eyes, and I would help it along. (With her eyes closed, she couldn’t see me assisting her.) I asked Luke if he wanted to try. He took the ball and threw it into the trees . . . and into the flowerbed. . .and up against a garage window. Finally, he tossed it into wind chimes before he threw himself onto the ground, clutching the ball in the fetal position. In Luke’s hands, the ball went everywhere but within thirty feet of the hoop.
Like I said, no interest.
Before you judge me as being too shallow, please understand, I am not disappointed in my son, and I have absolutely no problem with him having no interest in sports. In fact, in some ways, I’m glad he doesn’t. His interests have become my interests, which have opened up different worlds for me. For example, who knew there were 307 species of dragonflies in North America? Not I! But, because of Luke, I’m becoming an expert, especially with the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) species. (See Mommy’s post about Luke at Training Happy Hearts for more on this and Luke’s other interests.)
With regards to Luke’s behavior, I am less inclined to be casual and more perplexed about how to handle it. You see, at times, he can be “difficult” and non-cooperative. For the past couple of years, I had no idea what to do. Was it better to be a rigid disciplinarian, like my father-in-law, which is against my nature, or should I take on a more flexible approach? Although flexible was more my style, there were times that I wanted to be more strict with him. His obstinacy and disobedience pushed me to my limits. I couldn’t understand why he appeared to ignore and defy me. I had run out of answers.
Some family members and friends suggested that we should test Luke for autism. At first, I thought this was unnecessary. Luke didn’t appear to have autism, at least no obvious signs of it. Martianne did some researching, and convinced me to take a closer look at related disorders like Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). We sought advice from our family physician. He didn’t think that Luke had any apparent manifestations of autism, but thought that there might be just enough there to seek expert counsel. He gave us a referral for a neurologist.
To make a long blog entry shorter, I will sum it up like this: the neurologist saw some things which led us to an occupational therapist. After answering questionnaires and attending a few OT sessions, it was determined that Luke has a mild form of SPD. Without getting too detailed, basically, children with SPD have trouble processing certain sensations and may react erratically or irrationally to certain situations and stimuli. In many ways, we were relieved, but his condition created a new group of challenges that we had to face, especially me. My biggest one: How do I connect with my son?
As mentioned earlier, my relationship with my father is important to me. I always felt that we were close. I wanted that same type of relationship with Luke. Before his diagnosis, I wasn’t sure why it was so difficult; afterward, I wondered if it were even possible.
So, here I am, each day trying to connect with my little boy. I think that we are doing better. Scenarios that used to set me off are handled differently. I ask him for his mindset when he does things. Many times, he gives a logical (at least in his mind) explanation for why he has committed an unruly act. Other times, he reacts out of pure frustration with not being able to process what is going on. I understand that, now. Does it mean that I handle everything picture perfect? No way. I am human, after all. Probably more so than most. But, I am trying. I am trying because I want to be the best Daddy I can to Luke. I want him to have a great relationship with me, like I do with my dad. Most importantly, I want him to feel safe and loved in our house, so that he can grow up to be a kind, loving individual who makes the world a better place through his compassion and his works.
Both Mommy and I are thankful for our very unique little boy.
To share what you are thankful for today, please link up to Thankful Thursday at Spiritually Unequal Marriage and to read about other SPD dads, check out the SPD Blog Carnival at Hartley’s Life with 3 Boys.