Letting Him Be

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.

Eli with hose

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.

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  • HeatherN

    You are an AMAZING mom!!!

  • That is the wisest decision- to do what you feel is the right thing for your child. If you don’t feel there is something there that needs to be addressed, then go with your gut. I had the opposite experience, where I was told not to worry about anything, but I KNEW there was something off.

    • THANK YOU for this comment! This is exactly what I was thinking, but took an entire post to say. 🙂 Yes, you know your child. Others’ comments – however well-meaning – are not always helpful or the right answer. Thank you for sharing!

  • Julie Pippert

    As someone who does have kids “with something” and who spent the first years of their lives doing the same, I wholeheartedly endorse supporting and accommodating the kid as long as he (or she) is growing and developing and progressing and doing well. We know our kids and what they need. I love your Eli stories. He’s lucky to have parents who accept him for himself. if the day comes he needs more than acceptance, I’m sure you’ll provide that too. He sounds like one of the people who will always wake us up from our torpor and yea to that. I do think it’s CRUCIAL that people broaden their parameters for “normal” or “acceptable” and appreciate a broader spectrum of people. Because even though sometimes some kids will need support to manage in the world as it is and to meet its demands, they still are not broken and are not being fixed. Thank you for the great post. FWIW, I think there is so much YOU in him. 🙂

    • I wanted to make sure readers understood (and it seems like you do, so thank you!) – through the tone of my post – that I am not at all opposed to getting him assistance when/if he ever needs it. I was just telling another friend, I’ve been in a kind of “honeymoon” period with him because he hasn’t started school yet. Kindergarten in the Fall may reveal a whole lot more about Eli that I didn’t know or understand yet, and then might be the time for some intervention. But I want to send him in with no expectations and let HIM show ME how it’s going to be. And yes, yes to the wish that people wouldn’t broaden their parameters. I think that’s the biggest thing for me – what is “normal?” Something that is convenient for the greatest amount of people? That doesn’t fly with me. As always, I truly appreciate your comments and perspective!

  • am

    !!!! my son is similar in many ways…. thank you for the reminder to breathe… =)

  • Jennifer Sikora

    Amen momma!!! You keep on letting him be. I can guarantee you that when the time is right, he will grow into a fine young man. I have one just like that myself and everyone tells me what an amazing young man of God he is (he is 18 now). Everyone tried to “fix” him when he was in school which is why we started homeschooling and since that time he has just blossomed and grown into a fine young adult.

    • My 12yo son was similar in many ways to how my 5yo is now, and my 12yo – like your son – has grown into a wonderful boy. It gives me perspective, I think, and definitely some reassurance & hope. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer! I always appreciate them so much!

  • Melanie Glave Goodman

    This is my son almost to a T. And yes, Kindy revealed a whole lot more than I was aware of. We’ve been doing therapy for awhile (my son has a lot of social issues) People often ask me if he has Aspergers. He’s been extensively tested twice – nope. Just extremely quirky, very, very ADHD and a highly anxious kid. What I love the most, though? I have so many funny stories about him. I post them on FB constantly, and my friends tell me often they come to my page because they know they’ll read a story about one of my children that will put a smile on my face. Heck, I even downloaded my archives and made photo books with all the funny statuses and mobile upload pics I’ve taken of my children. They never cease to amaze me and make me laugh, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Are they perfect? No. Do I wish my son had an easier time socially? Yes. But would I change him? Not for any amount of money in the world.

    • These sons of ours definitely keep life interesting, don’t they? 🙂 Glad to meet another mama who understands!

  • Suzanne

    Trust your intuition. Mother’s really do know best. And if an alarm goes off, then YOU not the Internet will know what to do for you son.

    • Very true, Suzanne. Although the “internet” (or at least all the smart moms on it), are pretty great at offering insight and support. That includes you! 🙂

  • Jenna Foote

    Love this. I feel the same way about my little boy. He’s 4 and exhibits a lot of those same traits. I love him the way he is, but others seem to think he’s too hyper or too loud or too rambunctious. It hurts. I just think he’s a little boy. His doctor doesn’t seem to mind. The only people who do are the ones who feel inconvenienced or embarrassed by him. Their opinions mean nothing to me.

    My husband was diagnosed with ADD as a small child. He said being on medication during those years was unhelpful as he didn’t get a chance to learn how to control his hyperactive impulses as a child when it is somewhat acceptable. Instead, he was THAT kid in middle and high school who couldn’t sit still, always in trouble, always being reprimanded and as a result, the laughing stock of school. It still pains him today. I’m a believer in letting kids work out their quirks. Not their serious issues — those need professional attention. But a quirk is nothing more than a personality trait that needs a little refinement. It’s not the end of the world. Honestly, to me it’s just little boys being little boys. I’m glad you’re choosing to let your little guy be!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Jenna! Like you, our son’s doctor seems to be just fine with where he’s at developmentally and behaviorally. Again, he’s just a little boy! I appreciate you sharing about your husband’s experiences, too. That kind of hindsight from people who’ve gone through life always helps. Thank you!