(You can read part 1 here )

Today I just finished an application for a special education program for when AJ turns 3.  I felt like I was applying for college for him–showing proof of identification, proof of income, proof of vaccinations, etc.  All that was missing was my three letters of reference!

It can be hard at this stage.  I read online of the cutsie things other kids say to their moms.  Other children AJ’s age are giving their mommies kisses and hugs and saying “I love you.”  Other children are talking up a storm about dinosaurs or Thomas the Tank Engine.  Other children AJ’s age are saying complete sentences with cute verb or pronoun confusion.

Today as I emptied the dishwasher I put a plate, a bowl, a spoon and a fork on the floor to try to teach him those words.  He just twirled the spoon and fork back and forth, back and forth in his hands.  He is interested; he is intrigued by these objects, but he has no use for their names.   Instead, he will say “A clue! A clue!” and repeat full lines from Blue’s Clues.

AJ is different, but not that different.  Yet at times it can be hard for me as I read what other kids are doing on Facebook or watch other kids interact with their parents in the park.  AJ is definitely his own person.  If he has no use for learning a word, he will not use it.   We are working on basic words like “hungry” and “eat” to try to get over the meltdowns that occur when he is hungry or needing food.  He is good now about saying “drink” or “cup” or “juice” when he needs to drink (he used to say “milk” a lot, too, but he hasn’t liked milk as much lately so he doesn’t use it).

I’ve gone in to observe classrooms lately to see how AJ will fit in and it’s really hard to see AJ in a “normal” classroom.  He doesn’t like to sit still.  In circle time at Sunshine School (our church’s school that he currently attends and where I teach one of the 3-year-old classes) he rarely will sit down or even be near the group when we are singing or listening to a story being read.  He wants nothing to do with that.  During group time in his classroom, when I’ve had the chance to observe, he will not stay still.  He doesn’t like to do the art projects or sing or listen to stories–he just wants to play, and play with toys his way, which is often twirling objects in his hand back and forth, or lining them up.  However, he is getting better at some things–he is now into stacking blocks like other kids do.  He will sit near other kids and play with the same toys they are playing with, in his own way.  He does get into some trouble at times if he wants to line up blocks that other kids are playing with, or he wants to line up the plastic food from the kitchen rather than put it on a plate and pretend play.  At times, though, we do catch glimpses of him hugging a stuffed animal, pretending to feed his toy dinosaur, etc.  At times there is a breakthrough where he wants to play in the ways other kids do.

My Mom Ego keeps coming in to play.  I want AJ to be liked by other kids, so I want him to play like other kids.  But he doesn’t.  AJ is AJ.  He has his own way of doing things.  He is not going to learn unless it is something he wants to learn.  Otherwise he has no use for it.

Something I hinted at in my previous post is that at times I need to remember it’s ok to grieve the childhood that I thought AJ would have.  It’s ok to cry and recognize that he is not going to have it easy in the way other kids naturally play with toys and each other.  It’s ok to recognize that it is going to be hard at times and there will be decisions about his health and his education along the way, more decisions than “normal.”  But he has so many other gifts and talents that make him who he is.  It’s hard to let go of those other expectations and hopes and dreams for him.  At the same time, when he wants to learn something he really learns it well.   He knows so much already.

What I’ve learned is that ALL moms go through this.  We all lose the child we thought we were going to have because our child is their own person.  They have their own personality, attitude, learning styles, and dreams.  We can’t live our lives through them, even if we think we just want the best for them–they are going to make their own way.   In many ways, AJ is no different from any other child and I’m no different from any other mother.  I may have to do some work earlier on than other moms, and AJ may have a few more doctor’s appointments and meetings with professionals than other children, but in all other aspects, we’re just like any other mom and child, and we can’t place our expectations, our wants and desires on our children.

AJ doesn’t give eye contact very often.  He is getting better about it but it is something he has to learn to do when people are talking to him.  But when he does give eye contact, he has the biggest smile you have ever seen.  And one thing I have learned: most “normal” people aren’t going to get his undivided attention.  Those that do get eye contact almost immediately are babies, dogs, and the elderly.  Whenever I am shopping with him, he always smiles at the “grandmas” in the store.  They always smile back and tell me what a wonderfully behaved and beautiful child I have.  He always looks at babies and lets babies crawl on him and take his toys and he doesn’t mind at all.  He might give a gentle push if they are crying too near him, but often he smiles at them and looks them right in the eye.  And doggies–how he loves doggies.  Couldn’t care less about cats, but he will even give dogs hugs and kisses when he won’t his parents.  Lucky dogs.  And lucky him.  What a blessing he can be.

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