Today Paul and I had dental appointments scheduled. As I walked from the car to the door of the office, I could hear the voices in my head. “He doesn’t do well with brushing. Have you taught him how to floss? Does he have toothpaste of his own he could use? We’d like for him to try and brush after every meal.” I hear the voices. I hear the condemnation. Paul does brush (& I use the term very loosely) every day after an argument that lasts longer than the actual brushing.
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“When? The bus is going to be here in 3 minutes.”
“I said I will, ratzenfratzengobblegook.”
“what did you say?!”
“I’m talking to myself.”
“If I can hear you it’s not to yourself!”
“It was to myself stop listening.”
“Stop arguing and brush your teeth.”
He heads to the bathroom, the brush is out, the water runs…
“You need to go, the bus will be here!”
“I know, and see, I brushed my teeth.”
Really? That wet toothbrush simply touching his teeth is called “brushing?” This scenario plays itself out in about every daily activity that we try to teach Paul. At 16 he has been taught and is capable of brushing his teeth, but his special needs brain refuses to allow him to comply. It is so much more entertaining or controlling for him to refuse this daily task.
So, as a parent of a child with more letters in his diagnosis than are in his full name (which he truly can’t spell,) I often want to have a neon sign that I wear on my head that I can change to fit a plethora of situations. It would come in mighty handy when meeting with doctors, social workers, & school employees to name a few. This idea came to me when we had a meeting with our fifth Behavioral Specialist. At the intake meeting I noticed that Paul’s file had bold letters written on the first page. It said, “Do NOT suggest time out.” It made me laugh because it had been written by the previous Behavioral Specialist when he suggested Time Out. At his suggestion, I educated him on all that we had tried. Did he sincerely believe that by the time we had been assigned our 4th BSC (Behavior Specialist Consultant) that we had not tried time out?! Did he think we were idiots?! Paul is our fourth child and he wants to suggest Time Out? Like we hadn’t already tried Time Out, Time In, Positive Reinforcement, Sticker Charts & every other thing that we read about in books, magazines and even in classes we attended? I let him have it with both barrels. I told him in painstaking detail all that we had tried and failed at. By the time a BSC enters your home, it’s pretty evident that typical parenting techniques are not going to cut it. SO, the “DNSTO” got as much attention as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) would get on a medical file. I was relieved. No one was going to state the obvious to me again. Yet, they do.
Pediatrician: “He appears to be gaining weight. Have you tried limiting screen time & having well balanced meals?” (Yes, as a matter of fact, I attempt to feed my whole family well, but he steals bacon and eats it raw and chases it with a bullion cube dissolved in water.)
School: “Paul should wear a coat on cold days.” (He didn’t have time to grab it because he was busy arguing about brushing his teeth.)
Well Meaning Clueless People: “He shouldn’t be pushed so hard, Have you considered medication? You take it too easy on him, Have you thought of getting him off his medication? He seems to be tired all the time. Have you ever set a bedtime for him? He seems to do fine at my house…….BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Maybe that’s what the neon sign should read. “Blah, blah, blah.” Or maybe just “I tried, do you want to?” I sincerely believe people do mean well and think they are telling me something new. And, if there is anything new to try, I certainly would, but after 14 years on this journey to wellness, we have tried about everything (I better save that for another blog…Wilbarger Brushing & Auditory Therapy cannot be explained in a few sentences.) What we need is someone to encourage us to keep trying, to keep fighting the good fight. Someone who assumes we’ve tucked him in at night, taught him how to brush his teeth and provided him with the necessities of life.
SO, today they did. Those voices in my head were ALL wrong! Today Paul and I had dental appointments scheduled. The voices I heard were real voices. They said …..drumroll please…”Paul’s a great kid. No cavities. You’re doing a good job. That kid always has a smile on his face, does anything ever get him down? He was worried that he wasn’t doing a good job, but his teeth look fine.” He must have good genes (They’re not mine) where teeth are concerned. It certainly isn’t due to his diligent dental hygiene, that’s for sure!
Thank You Dr. Bonnett and Staff.
And, if you are parenting a non compliant, oppositional defiant, child, let me be your encourager today. I want to let you know you are doing a good job. I know you’ve tried to convince him to wear shoes that match. I know you washed her face before you left the house. I can tell for certain that his choice of dirty sweat pants was not yours. Some of us fellow parents in the trenches can see your invisible neon sign that says, “You don’t get it.” But, relax, I do.