Monday, October 11, 2010

Tipping Point

I had an absolutely lovely lunch with C.S. the other day. We talked. By this I mean, we had a true conversation, an exchange of ideas. He sat in his seat. He ate with his chop sticks — perhaps just because of the novelty, but hey, he was using utensils. And I suppose I have to give credit to a difficult evening that brought us to this wonderful place for lunch.

As I've mentioned there are times when my son's behavior suddenly surpasses quirky and takes those around him by surprise. We ran smack into one of these a few weeks ago.

I was trying to support my daughter, dear DeDe, to help start up an Odyssey of the Mind team at our school. A parent had graciously offered to have the preliminary meeting at his home, by their pool. It sounded like a great plan. The kids could enjoy one of the last warm evenings before Fall blew in and we'd be able to work out some complicated scheduling and logistics while they played. I had no other option but to bring C.S. along, but he loves the water. I felt we had a fairly high probability of this going well.

We arrived to a welcoming poolside spread of pizza, fruit, drinks and more. I wasn’t prepared for that, I hadn’t brought a substitute snack. But the kids took quickly to the floats and C.S. didn’t mind as they nibbled away at treats. The set up was working out fine. It seemed more like a party than a meeting and everything was going swimmingly. I had made it through the meeting and now it was time for last year’s leader to demonstrate what OM was all about to the kids. C.S. Stayed in the water while his sister got to focus on a task with her group. She was having tons of fun with no interruptions from her little brother. It seemed my only real concern would be how to coax him out of the pool once it was time to go.

In conversation, our host mentioned he had a dog. Both my children adore animals. If there was a pet around, I'm sure they would have found each other by now, so I asked where the dog was hiding. He explained he had him crated because he likes to jump in the pool and will try to climb on the kids when they're swimming. So when the man offered to let the dog out if my son was ready to dry off for the evening, it seemed the perfect solution to transition him had just been presented. I called out to C.S., "hey, you want to see their dog swim? Why don't you get out and let the dog have a turn? The only way he can go in is if you get out.”

C.S. eagerly obliged. Minutes after he had dried off, an energetic Wheaton Terrier came bounding across the yard, down the steps onto the patio and happily lapped legs and hands of the admiring children, but he did not jump into the pool. C.S. loves dogs and usually pets them with such amazing tenderness. But something had happened, or more precisely, had not happened. C.S. was not his usual self. He petted and greeted the dog with his typical smiles. But then, he did not caress his soft ears or lay his cheek against his fur. He tried to push the dog into the pool. The homeowner was able to stop that one. But C.S. persisted and tried to pull the now cowering animal across the patio by the whiskers. The dog snapped at him. Naturally the owner got defensive and obviously upset. As I intervened, C.S. began to cry, then wail. We were headed for a meltdown. One of the other parents grabbed his son and left in a hurry with such an expression of fear and disgust, as if behavior like this might be contagious. But C.S. was actually containing himself rather well. I was able to get him to sit on a chair. DeDe, ever patient and helpful, had already begun packing the bag for our get-away. We ended up leaving in retreat. DeDe had a chance to become friendly with the girls in the group, but I felt pretty certain after this that it would go nowhere. She would likely be invited on just as few play dates as last year.

What is a Mom to do when one child negatively impacts the other. I feel so protective of my girl too. I had to do something.

And so, we, my husband and I, considered medication for our son. A very small dose, only 2mg. The doctor said we were targeting his anxiety. Our goal was to help him become more flexible and to just take the edge off which would help him not only in school and social situations but also to access the therapy. It sounded reasonable. But we had some fears to face, such as the gaunt, vacant stare we had seen on a kid we knew on Ritalin or the unexpected opposite reaction C.S. had to cold medicine. But she reassured us, that although this would be trial and error due to his atypical neurology, we would watch him carefully.

I can’t keep my eyes off him now. Absolutely I’m watching him and marveling at how calm he is. How his eyes don’t flit around all over the place when I speak to him. He makes eye contact. Not always, but when he does now, I am just drinking him in right through those big beautiful dark brown eyes. He sits in his seat. He’s not flipping and flopping all over the bed when we watch TV. My husband is equally amazed. We are all simply enjoying him. He’s still his quirky self, he still runs around doing his quirky stuff. But now, everything about him seems so much more content and available to us.

It has only been eight days since we gave him his first dose. Its hard to say if we’ve avoided a meltdown in this time. The change is slight. But it is so full of promise.

Silver Lining: I guess this goes to show that when you hit a tipping point you can use that energy and momentum to move in a positive direction. Who knows where exactly we’re headed, but for right now, I’m really enjoying this new territory. I'm truly enjoying such seemingly simple pleasures like having a conversation with my son.


  1. Thank you for sharing your decision about meds. We've got such a decision to make ourselves, coming up very soon, and it's very encouraging to hear positive stories.

  2. Please let me know how it goes. Always wary of meds of any kind for any thing, I'm still watchful and even nervous, but I have to say, the results are amazingly positive.


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