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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Emotions

"Mommy, I am SO PROUD of you!" I heard from behind me. It was not a very good moment. I was in the stink hole that is my husband's bathroom after carrying a poopy four-year-old older son to the nearest toilet. We'd left a trail of runny BM along our way, and I was saying, "In the POTTY! You are supposed to go IN THE POTTY!!"

I was sweaty and felt like I was covered in feces. With our older son finally placed on the toilet, I took a little breather. And then, from behind, the voice of my then-two-year-old was telling me he was proud of me.

I turned my head around to be met squarely in the eye with his naked penis.
He was getting ready to take a bath.

"I am so PROUD of what you said my brother," he said. "NICE working!!" he finished as he turned around and trotted out the door. He was repeating a therapy praise he had grown up with inside our home when his brother was performing well within his therapy sessions. Forget that he had actually caught me in an act of frustration with his brother. Ugh. Mommy guilt was working overtime after that.

Still, I also couldn't ignore the amazing show of emotion and support this very young boy had just extended to me. And, as he has grown, I know him to be a sensitive child who is full of life and wears his heart on his sleeve.

He is FULL of emotion. And, yet, we now know him to have autism. This definitely isn't Rain Man.

In our house, we celebrate sunsets, are upset when Daddy mows the dandelions (that kills the flower, you see) and project feelings onto any and every inanimate object we can. Our younger son is eight, and he blows kisses to me and tells me that he loves me countless times a day. He's more emotional than I am, and I don't carry a diagnosis--well, not a diagnosis of autism, anyway. lol.

Our older sons facial expressions are most often flat. Motor planning is difficult for him. So, while he can show emotion on his face, he often doesn't. This doesn't mean that he doesn't feel it.

He lacks the language to tell me which emotion he is feeling, but that doesn't mean that the emotion isn't there.

"Holy Smokes is my brother really MAD!" our younger son said one day.

"How can you tell?" I asked

"Because he's kicking out his feet in a sort-of mad dance while he's crying," he said. "It's like he's walking on lava and it's REALLY FUNNY!"

Okay, I thought he was being pretty intuitive until that last part. There are obvious times when our older son cries a mad cry or a sad cry, but what about the emotions that lead up to the crying? What about when he's just kind of mad or kind of sad, nervous or scared?

Those emotions are in there, and how sad it must be to know that society has given up on your ability to feel them. I haven't given up.

I find myself (figuratively) wearing my son's shoes an awful lot, looking at the events of his day through the eyes of a nonverbal child. I narrate the events and what feelings they might produce. Often, I'm just talking away to myself. My hope is that it offers a bridge from now until a time when he is able to stand on his own two feet.

If not, well, then, I guess it is good practice for senility.

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