Hate Routine & Ritual, but Need to Live That Way for Your Kid?
When DS was about 4, my partner decided a real pine christmas tree would be a fantastic idea. I personally love them too, and thought a trip to the christmas tree farm with little man would be a great thing to do. He started wigging out not long before we got there. I had no idea about special needs back then. I knew he was quirky, and I just got frustrated a lot and danced around his idiosynchracies. He wasn’t diagnosed but we started seeing “shrinks” when he was about 5, or stretches as my mum calls them.
Cutting down the tree seemed to be a semi fun activity although DS complained most of the way through. Nothing out of the ordinary. When we got home, FULL BLOWN SCREAMING SMASHING TANTRUM. “I — sob sob — want the old christmas tree — arrrrhhhhhh” “the one we always have”. I told my mum about this story, and she just says, “of course, it’s the ritual of the old plastic tree and how you decorate, set up etc.” This pattern had obviously been embedded into DSs neural pathways. It was at that point that I realised how important ritual was to him. After he was eventually diagnosed when he was 12 it made perfect sense of course, but until then I had to fumble with unknowing. I felt like a gigantic failure most of the time.
These days I understand DSs need for familiarity, it breeds security. Going away is often tricky. We will be going away for a few days soon, he only relaxed when he knew we had been there before. I am the kind of person who craves new and different experiences. Can’t really sit still and have a natural urge to constantly move and travel to places far away and exotic as possible. When recently going out to a cafe (amazing that the teenager agreed to be seen with me in public), DS said to me “it must be hard to have me as a kid, we are so different”. My heart sank but he was right. I said to him “wouldn’t it be boring if I had a girl who did all the same things as me? Besides you have been my greatest teacher, I have learnt so much from you”. He puffed his chest out and relaxed completely as we got into a game of newspaper trivia at our local with the beach view. I think this could be a new ritual :)
I had to come to a place of acceptance about this trait of his that was so unpalatable to my restless nature. Honestly it took me a very long time to get to this place. I don’t think I managed my emotions very well during the time of non-acceptance. I also had no resources or support on the subject. I was explaining this to a very wise woman recently. She simply said “you weren’t meant to at the time, it was part of both of your destinies to experience this”. This gave me great comfort as the sense of guilt has been enormous.
The picture up top is of DS and I going out for chinese. I had to beg him to step into the restaurant at first. I told him there was not a a soul inside before he agreed to come inside. Now we eat there once a week at exactly the same time :) He orders exactly the same thing. It offers him security and comfort. The staff are getting to love us. I’ve put my wanderlust aside for the peace of mind these rituals give to my amazing young man.
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