Sunday, February 19, 2012

Six Years

Dear Benjamin,

Tomorrow, you will turn six years old!  SIX!  Sometimes, I can't remember what life was like without you--it feels like you've always been my first thought and that you've always filled my heart.  Other times, it seems impossible that it has already been six whole years since you officially entered the world and I fell completely in love with my tiny boy who spent his first 23 days in NICU.  At four pounds eleven ounces, you really were a tiny baby.  You would never know it now.  You are tall, active, busy, and run all over and climb everything, and you have definitely overcome those physical challenges you had when you began your life.

This has been a big year for you.  You are talking more and more and you say the funniest things.  You love to tease people and make us all laugh. You are learning how to better negotiate your world and deal with changes and transitions.  You have dealt with quite a few lately--new daycare, new routine, and new schedule with your daddy-- and you handled them all like a champ.  I couldn't have asked for you to do a better job.  Your fine motor skills are improving; you can do lots of things you couldn't do this time last year.  And (drum roll, please) you are potty trained!  That was a big project for you for quite a while, but you did it!  And you are being such a big boy about it!  Plus, PLUS, you got your first official haircut at a barbershop with clippers of all things!  You lost your two bottom front teeth a couple of months ago and are working on learning how to ride your bike.  We are also working on reading, and you know your letters and their sounds and are beginning to identify a few words here and there.  You are not terribly interested in it as you would prefer to have the book read to you or to run around and play, but we are working on it.  Your teacher, Mrs. S, thinks you have a photographic memory and that you are very smart.  We agree.  The problem is you don't always feel like showing us what you know, but we are working on that, too.

You still love music, musical instruments, books, and animals, but your interests have broadened some this year.  You enjoy LEGOS, firetrucks, pirates, and police cars.  You chose Cars 2 as your party theme this year, and Tow Mater is your favorite.  We had a lovely moment this summer while waiting for your therapy appointment and you decided to quote what is probably the most inappropriate line from the original Cars movie.  You loudly exclaimed, "Help! I'm in hillbilly hell!"  That wasn't a good time, but it was funny in retrospect. 

We still have some challenges.  Your fine motor skills, though much improved, are still behind.  You still get overwhelmed sometimes and just need some space or to be held in a dark, quiet place, but those episodes are getting fewer and farther between.  You need lots of help with things, but we are making sure you get the help you need and I know you are going to meet your goals.

And then there was the blue Play-Doh we had to have surgically removed from your ear.  In the hospital.  After they put you under.  That was not a good time either.

You definitely do things in your own time.  We struggle and struggle with something for what seems like forever, but eventually you just decide you are going to do it and you do it well.  That's okay, though.  We'll take as much time as you need.  You have a sweet little soul--affectionate, helpful, loving, funny--and you are my greatest joy.  I am so thankful I have had you in my life to love and learn from for the past six years.  I can't wait to see what this next one will bring.

I love you, Benjamin Bear.  Thank you for being my precious boy.

Love always from your biggest fan,

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Haircut Success!

Many posts ago, I mentioned that Ben has always been terrified of haircuts.  He is horribly scared of them, and due to his sensory issues, they overwhelm him.  Since he got his first haircut at about the age of two, we have struggled with this.  I let him go as long as possible in between cuts, but his hair is very straight and when it was long enough to hang in his eyes, I would call my sweet friend, Kim, who has an incredible amount of patience and serenity, and I would hold him down while she cut his hair and he screamed bloody murder. 

It was awful every single time.  She always assured me that, eventually, he would outgrow this and handle it better, but I was beginning to think she was wrong and that he was just going to have hair down to his toes if she ever quit cutting it for us.  We tried a social story, a wonderful book called "Bippity Bop Barbershop" by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, and bribery.  NOTHING worked.

This morning, however, a small miracle occurred.  My dad and brother (Poppy and Uncle Nathan) have been talking up their barber and going to the barbershop with them like a big boy for a few weeks now.  The thought was to take him and let him watch them get their haircut and then see if he would get one.  I put the haircut on his picture schedule, packed "Bippity Bop Barbershop" and the Ipad for distraction, and they went on their way.

I was pretty sure it would be a big disaster but was hopeful at the same time, and GUESS WHAT?  Ben got a haircut!  He wore the cape, sat in the chair, held still, and let the barber even use clippers, which in itself is HUGE!  He did not scream and no one had to hold him down! 

I am so proud of him and relieved, I can't even explain it.  One of my biggest jobs is to help him navigate the world, which is very different from helping a kid who is not on the spectrum navigate the world.  Unless you have done it, you don't understand.  All those things other parents take for granted are issues for us.  That's just how it is.  When he has a success like this, though, there is light at the end of that tunnel.  There is hope that eventually he will be able to handle other things better too, and that he will grow up and be able to take care of himself. 

The doctors tell parents of children with Asperger's that we are the lucky ones because our children will "probably" grow up to go to college, get married, and have a job like everybody else but will just need extra help along the way.  Sometimes, it's impossible to see that.  When your child can't function or handle a normal part of everyday life like a haircut, you don't believe them or agree with them and you worry like you would not believe.  This little event of my almost six-year-old boy getting a haircut at the barbershop means so much more than it does for other kids his age.  So much more.


And that does not even show how long it was.  I tried to get a "before" pic with it in a ponytail on top of his head, but he wouldn't go for that.