I write about my 5yo son Eli here a lot.
Friends and family on my personal Facebook page get frequent updates on his antics.
And if you’re lucky enough to talk to me in person, chances are I will tell you a story – or share a frustration – about him.
Eli is a handful. An intelligent, spirited, hilarious, sometimes conniving, often all-consuming handful.
He has his quirks. He wouldn’t poop in the toilet and insisted on wearing a Pull-Up to bed until just earlier this year. He hates loud noise and wears headphones at the movie theater, covers his ears during overhead announcements at the store, and cannot stand the jarring noise of toilets flushing and hand dryers running in public bathrooms.
He doesn’t always handle transitions very well. He likes to talk, and talk and talk and talk. He’s super busy, bouncing from activity to activity, and then getting hyper-focused on things he loves (like Minecraft and LEGOs).
I’ve had many people over the past few years ask if he “has something” or if we’ve “taken him to see someone.”
As in…Does he have ADD? Asperger’s? Is he autistic? Something that requires a diagnosis?
I am never offended by these comments, because I believe they’re made with genuine concern (mixed with maybe a little bit of judgement, but that’s not my problem). I also have no personal prejudice against finding the right diagnosis for children and families who need answers and help.
But it does give me pause.
Where is the line between personality and symptoms? Quirks and syndrome? When can a child just be himself, and when does he require a professional’s attention?
I’ve spent the last five years of Eli’s life trying to get to know him, to understand him. I’ve put a lot of energy into giving him room to grow, learn, change, and become who he will become.
I love what I see in him. A huge heart, a zeal for life, a growing sense of confidence in himself.
What I don’t see is a need to intervene in his development right now.
I don’t see that he needs outside support to either understand or function in his world. Yes, we make small accommodations for him to make life comfortable (ie: the headphones at the movie theater), but who doesn’t do that in life? I know plenty of people who take the long way around to avoid a left yield light because they don’t want to wait for traffic. People with claustrophobia take the stairs. Grown-ups are often very good at making space in their lives for preferences and personality.
Do we allow the same for kids?
And yes, I see that his behavior is sometimes inconvenient for adults. He doesn’t always listen, he isn’t always quiet or still. But is he rude? Is he aggressive? Is he destructive? No, none of those things.
So many well-meaning people want to “fix” my son. But until I see that anything about him is “broken,” I’m going to continue to let him be.