Every father wants to protect his children. You teach them not to run into the street. You warn them about strangers. You deny their request for a blowtorch. (Ok, maybe that was just Calvin’s dad.) The one thing you don’t expect to have to protect them against is yourself.
NHL is, in many ways, a mini-me. This can be wonderful when my love of computers, superheroes, etc are mirrored in him. It is fantastic to see the things I love through the eyes of a “young me.”
However, he also has inherited a lot of problems that I’ve had. Many of these are things that weren’t diagnosed/treated when I was a kid. You were just considered physically slow or socially awkward. A formal diagnosis and treatment were the exception, not the rule. Nowadays, though, these things are diagnosed.
When NHL wasn’t walking at nearly 2, we found out that he is hyperflexible and has low muscle tone. His limbs are too flexible and he does not have good core strength. Too much flexibility means that he needs to fight gravity more than your average kid. As a consequence, he runs slower than other kids and gets tired easier.
As we got this diagnosis, I began pinpointing things from my own past that sounded similar. I didn’t ride a bike until much later than my younger (by 2 years) sister because I couldn’t get the balance right. I was never a fast runner and wasn’t good at sports. At the time, I wrote it off to being overweight, but was my weight problem a vicious cycle? Low muscle tone made me bad at sports & made me tired quickly from them. Therefore, I shied away from them to more sedentary hobbies (computers, action figures, etc). Therefore, I gained weight. Therefore, sports became less attractive of an activity. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Recently, we’ve looked into some of NHL’s behaviors. He seems overly flustered by certain things. No, flustered isn’t the right word. He has out-and-out anxiety attacks over the littlest of things. Being told to cross the street when he was previously told not to triggers angry screams and crying.
B and NHL saw a doctor and we think we have a diagnosis. While I’m not sure I want to go public with it yet, many of the things the doctor pointed out could have been plucked from my own childhood. For example, insistence on keeping to the rules. When I was about NHL’s age, I wasn’t allowed to cross the street. The bus would drop me off in front of my house and everything was fine.
One day, the bus came down the street the opposite way and I would have needed to cross the street to get home. (This was a very quiet residential street.) I did the “logical thing” and stayed on the bus. After all, my mom said I wasn’t allowed to cross the street! The kids who got off at my stop ran to my house and alerted my mother. She had to chase down the bus to get me off.
I have been mentally preparing myself since I first became a father to defend my son from outside threats. I went through the whole “stranger danger” and “come to us if someone bullies you” stuff. It has taken me from surprise that the very genes that I passed onto him could so harm him socially. How do I protect him from myself?