Why is everything a fight with her?
This was our daily, sometimes hourly, lament with Bean. She would fight having her teeth brushed, fight getting her face washed, fight getting in the car seat, fight getting strapped into the stroller. Fight getting dressed; fight getting undressed, fight leaving home; fight returning home. Everything. Always. It seemed that nothing was ever easy with her.
When I witnessed other kids happily going through their daily routine of getting ready and out the door, my jaw would drop to the floor. And these parents, they didn’t have to use the constant creative tactics I did. They just went about their business.
No constant singing of songs to make the tasks fun and inviting. No imaginative turning-their-child’s-mouth-into-a-dollhouse-and-cleaning-all-the-furniture-inside tooth brushing games. No turning on Dora just so they would be distracted enough that mom could quickly slip on their clothes without them even noticing. No funny noises, funny faces, crazy dances, promises of rewards. Nothing. Despite all my research, I could not figure out why Bean had such a hard time with these simple, everyday tasks.
One time when Bean was about 2 years old, we were supposed to leave for story time, which was one of her favorite activities. She couldn’t budge. She wasn’t involved in anything special at home, no TV or art project. She just didn’t want to leave.
I explained that her friends would be there, we were going to hear stories and there would be songs. She still didn’t want to go. I did my best to explain to her, in terms she could understand, that if we did not leave right away, we would miss it, and if she decides she wants to go later, we won’t be able to go because it will be over. She agreed. I tried and tried, but she would not go. I decided to I would have to let her learn this lesson, and next time, certainly, she’ll leave when it’s time.
Sure enough, later in the day, my sweet girl came up to me happily and told me, “OK, mommy. I’m ready to go to story time now! I have my coat! I’m ready to go!”
My heart broke, and I hated that she had to learn this lesson. I explained to her that we missed it, it was over; we have to wait until next week. She, of course, could not completely understand, and got very upset that I wouldn’t take her.
The next time a similar situation arose, I reminded her of the story time incident, and how we would miss this event, too, if we didn’t leave on time. And it didn’t matter. She remembered how sad she was about story time, she remembered that it was because we didn’t leave on time, but she still could not manage to leave home to go her event.
Once we would get to an event, I couldn’t get her to go home. Yes, the very same home she couldn’t bear to leave in the first place. And this was nearly all the time with nearly everything. Playgroup, Gymboree class, library, story time, you name it. It was maddening. We were often the last to arrive and the last to leave. And there was a “fight” on both ends of the trip. It was exhausting.
I continued to wonder about this phenomenon until attending a Mommy and Me class where there was a child psychologist who would conduct a parent Q&A session the last fifteen minutes of the class each week. I inquired about these constant hassles with everyday tasks, and she said, “It sounds like your daughter has trouble with transitions.”
Transitions. That was exactly it! This opened up a door in my mind, and as I mentally calculated all of the situations that were hard for her, many of them required transitions. Transitioning from being at home to going to an event. Transitioning from being at an event to going home. Transitioning from eating breakfast to washing up. Transitioning from evening activities to going to bed. The list goes on and on. Not to mention when plans changed; we would dread those times! Those unexpected transitions were the worst of all.
Now Bean is 9 ½ years old, and she still struggles with transitions. We have read the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene, and with the help of the TS Clinic program at Rutgers, spent eight months trying to implement the ideas from the book. It is a process we are continuing on our own, until we are able to resume therapy at Rutgers.
My next big “a-ha” moment was when I learned more extensively about Executive Function Disorder through a webinar offered by NJCTS. The Executive Function skills are the fundamental brain-based skills that get people through every day. They are required to execute tasks such as initiating work, planning, being organized, controlling impulses, staying on task, regulating emotions, and being adaptable and resilient.
I realized that Bean was lacking most of these skills, and the ones she had were weak. And to expect her to be able to go through her tasks as easily as other children did would be like tossing her into France with no knowledge of French and expecting her to be able to speak to the people there in their language. It would be impossible for her to do that, and for me to expect it from her would be insane. I can’t talk her into using skills she doesn’t have, there’s no incentive in the world that can accomplish that!
I’m currently reading Smart but Scattered by Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD, and it is fantastic. It is all about these skills that are lacking or lagging, and how to train your child’s brain to develop these skills.
It continues to be a source of frustration and sadness when we cannot arrive on time, when we have to excuse ourselves in the middle of an event, when we have to leave early or late. I know people don’t know, and they don’t understand. They couldn’t possibly. And, quite honestly, part of me doesn’t want them to.
I don’t want them to know what we have to go through to just get out the door in the morning. What takes place in the car while on the way to an event. What transpires between us in the corner behind the coats, while we are trying to convince her it’s time to leave. Or that she should put on her coat because it’s freezing outside. Or that it’s time to stop eating and time to get her shoes on.
I would be humiliated if people saw what we have to go through to just get through the things they don’t think twice about. But then again, maybe I wouldn’t get some many looks if they did know. Maybe if they knew how hard leaving a place is for Bean, I wouldn’t see the sideways glances and hear the offhanded remarks. They mean well, but they just don’t get it.
So, why is everything a fight? Because inside her little body, a battle is always raging. A battle of wills, a battle of senses, a battle so steep, she has no chance of prevailing without a lot of help. And a lot of love. And a LOT of patience.
And us here, battling with her, beside her, until the battle is won.