Friday, September 22, 2006

When is different just different?

There is nothing developmentally wrong with my son, per se. He has met all of his developmental milestones, and the doctor was completely satisfied with him at his 3-year appointment. But I recognize that there are many ways in which he is different from his peers. I recognize a lot of this and am fiercely protective of it because I recognize myself in his 'oddities.'

From a very young age, my son has been introspective. His favorite things at just a few weeks old were the pattern of triangles on our quilt and the ceiling fan above our bed. He would look at them, truly examine them from a young age. And that too is a way in which he was different. He could focus eyes very soon after birth and immediately took to inspecting his world and trying to figure them out.

My son has an amazing memory. We have never been able to use the distraction method. He was enamored of the remote control at a few months old, before he was even crawling, and would throw himself around trying to get it. We would hide it behind a pillow, under a blanket, and he would seem to forget about it. But the second we moved a finger in the direction of the remote, he would perk up and wait for it to make an appearance.

At eighteen months, he began learning his letters and numbers. By the time he was two, he could count to 12--and truly understood the concept of counting. He also knew nearly all of his letters (U, V, and W gave him some trouble) and could pick them out on the page.

He has a vivid imagination, re-enacting and building on stories from books and DVDs. When we saw a car that had a motorcycle on a trailer, he told me a story about how it was going to the airport where it would be put in a box and would then go on an airplane.

But here's where the flip side of the differences start to come up.

He could hold up his head very soon after birth and was also early on rolling over and sitting up. But after that he was on the late end for many of his physical milestones. He didn't crawl until he was nine-months-old. He wouldn't walk unsupported until he was 16 months. And then waited until after 18 months before he would walk without prompting. (Though he started climbing at the same time as he crawled.)

Language is another mixed bag. It has been acquired very much according to his own desires. He has always had a larger vocabulary than would be expected for his age, but doesn't always follow the proscribed path for putting words together. At the point he was 'supposed' to know body parts, he knew one or two, but he did know about twenty different animals with their respective sounds. His sentences generally have the correct number of words, but he doesn't have the sorts of conversations I hear other kids having. I recently realized that he is very good in a conversation of his own choosing, but not as good at small talk. He never answers "How are you?" appropriately and doesn't tell people how old he is. When I ask him who he played with, he often replies with what toys (though I suppose that given his imagination, the trains very well could be his good friends). We're not always sure if he truly understands us--is he being willful, lying, what?

Potty training is taking forever. He seems to understand the process and now gets it right more often than not. But sometimes he just doesn't use the potty. No particular reason. He just doesn't.

He has frequent meltdowns. These are not quite tantrums, not the kick and scream on the floor sort of thing (though that happens on occasion). Rather, something will go wrong; his face will crumple and he will dissolve into tears. This happens more often than with his classmates. And once he gets started, it takes him a long time to calm back down.

He doesn't like to be touched by his classmates unexpectedly and will yell "ouch" when they do. This is not an all-around thing. He always wants my wife or me to hold him, and I've never seen him react negatively when a teacher or another adult touches him.

Truthfully, if I didn't have him in daycare, if I weren't planning to send him to junior kindergarten next year, very little of this would concern me. At home, one-on-one, he's generally delightful and sweet. Even when he digs his heels in (and boy is he stubborn too), it tends to be more amusing than frustrating (potty training aside). And I see the potential for him to use his qualities to his advantage when he gets older. But because we have to deal with classmates, both older and younger, I worry about helping him negotiate the larger world and fit in to the degree he needs to without quashing who he is.

For tomorrow, I hope to talk about how I see myself reflected in his personality.


Lisa b said...

Its interesting how much of a childs personality is visible so early on. I'll check back to find out which of these traits you share.
I know what you mean about wanting him to fit in enough to be happy yet at the same time retaining his individuality.

bubandpie said...

Wow he reminds me of the Bub. I've always had a sense that our two boys had a lot in common, but this post really brings out the similarities (Bub was also interested in learning animal sounds, numbers, letters - but not so much in conversations).

I can't wait to read more.

Mouse said...

B&P--I've been meaning to write this stuff for a while and, in fact, your recent post ("Hep") was a bit of a catalyst to finally start it.