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Friday, November 03, 2006

Just this side of Holland

Zack didn't have a bedtime ritual, get tucked into bed every night, until he was four. I would tuck Lexi in, make a trip to the bathroom and head to the couch where I held Zack until he fell asleep, sometime after 10. This was not good parenting; this was a habit formed around having a son born with 'special needs'.

Lexi's years as a toddler were pretty straightforward--she was prone to tantrums, but learned to talk naturally. She asked about the world around her, and I played Adam and named the beasts of the earth. I would say it, she would repeat it. Done and done. I also taught her early that when it's time for bed, she was expected to stay in bed and sleep there all night. And she pretty much ate what was put in front of her. Except tomatoes. She doesn't like tomatoes.

But I soon learned that raising Zack would be different. That he would speak only with the help of professionals and good health insurance. That he had sensory issues and motor skill problems that made eating unpleasant and difficult for him. And that chronic diarrhea, day or night, would make enforcing hard rules about staying in bed difficult. I am ashamed to admit that I once let him cry in his bed for a mighty long time-- trying to teach him or ferberize or grab at normalcy, I'm not sure what--only to give in and find him covered in his own feces. It was gross and heart breaking. The poor guy couldn't tell me what was wrong. I gave up that night on sleeping well for 2 more years, when he gained some bowel control. When the time came, it took weeks for him to adjust to the new ritual. I read quietly in his room until he grew accustomed to sleeping alone. These days, he camps with his grandparents and asks to go to bed when he's tuckered out. He sleeps well.

Except for this week. He had a sinus infection, which was bad enough. He was glued to me for two days. But then he broke out in hives from the antibiotic and the constant trips to the bathroom returned. He's older now, and embarrassed by his need to visit the potty so often. He didn't want to return to school. I tried to reassure him that when he finishes his medicine, he will feel better and the 'poopy' problems will go away. I pray I am right.

But we are both mindful of the path we have been on. I would be lying if I didn't admit that this common side effect of antibiotics scares me. It's hard for me to put down my guard, to relax. He gave me the thumbs up yesterday as the bus pulled away. It helps.

Zack had a great day at school. His teacher reported he was back to being his normal, happy self. This side of 'special', things are looking up.

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