Parker’s struggles became apparent to me, very early on. He had a lot of melt-downs (even for a toddler.) It also took him a long time to recover. He had extreme anxiety, if everything didn’t go exactly as he thought it should, (which was always.) His dad and I decided to send him to two years of preschool. We were hopeful that it would give him the extra help he needed, before starting kindergarten. One preschool we tried for 3 days. In his teacher’s words, “He’s a lot.” While, this teacher was not telling me any new information, it was the worried look in her eyes, that prompted me to move Parker to a different preschool. While he was still “a lot,” his lovely teacher had the kindness and patience that he needed.

Between preschool and 1st grade, we had brought Parker to counseling. A lot of his behavior was written off as an age thing. We did a summer of occupational therapy. Nothing seemed to help. I was starting to get very discouraged. I was following my gut, and advocating for help. We’re constantly told, as parents, about the importance of early intervention. I was getting nowhere.

Having a child who has high anxiety and sensory issues, is like constantly being ready to put a fire out. You’re ready, with fire extinguisher in hand, just hoping you put out the small fires, before they turn into big fires.

Parker had an amazingly helpful 2nd grade teacher. This was the first year, I felt like my concerns were validated, “I’m not crazy!!” I also felt a strong sense of urgency. He’s 8 now. 8 year old melt downs are a lot harder to handle than 4 year old melt downs. The thought of Parker as a teenager, was terrifying. We started bi-weekly counseling and Parker started taking CBD oil. For the first time, I feel like we’re actually getting somewhere. It doesn’t feel like we’re barely keeping our head above water. I wish Parker would understand, “There’s nothing wrong with you. Your brain just works differently. You’re a square peg in a circular world.”

This summer we went on vacation and stayed with friends of mine. I was super proud of Parker. That was a big deal for him. He had a few outbursts, but nothing catastrophic. The surprise was, my friends. 1. Had zero idea of what I dealt with on a daily basis. I assumed no one would understand, so I hardly ever talked about it. 2. Instead of understanding and compassion, I was met with judgement, a lot of judgement. You see, you can’t really tell, from the naked eye, that Parker has these struggles. So he’s labeled as the “bad kid.” He just needs “more discipline.” He started 3rd grade this year. He told me his teacher was mean and had favorites. Do I think his teacher was a big bully and picked on Parker? No. Do I think that Parker was labeled as the bad kid and Parker picked up on the fact that the teacher probably didn’t care for him? Yep.

“He’s a lot.” I’ve heard this from teachers, babysitters, family members, etc etc. That comment always makes me feel the same way. I’m sad. They clearly didn’t get through the first layer enough to see how sensitive, kind, caring and funny he is. He may be lashing out because he doesn’t know how to express his emotions, but he’s hiding under his bed crying, at home.

As a self-proclaimed, “Go-getter,” the hardest part for me is it’s hard to gauge progress. There’s still a lot of bad days. It’s like 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. I’ve started having to measure his progress by the little things. We has 2 rough mornings, this week, instead of 5. He calmed down after 10 minutes, instead of an hour. He can identify many more emotions now. Not just anger.

We moved Parker to a new school, that we feel has more resources for him. Yesterday was his first day, riding the bus home. I get a call, from the school. They are so sorry, but he was put on the wrong bus. They are headed back to the school now, and I can get him from there. I pack everyone up, and jump in the car. I was panicking. I can only imagine how scared he is. I’m anticipating a melt down. I pull up and his body language tells me he is more relaxed, than I thought he would be. I let out the breath, I didn’t realize I was holding. I walked towards him and crack a joke, “What? You didn’t wanna come home today?” He giggles and says “Mom….”  and gets in the car….Progress.