I received a text from Bridget’s teacher the other day. She was asking if something happened at home she should be aware. Bridget had been crying off and on all morning. They had never experienced this behavior before.
My first instinct was to respond welcome to my life.
This is how we spent 30 minutes at the YMCA before swim class. For no apparent reason, Bridget had cried all the way to the Y. All the way into the Y. The entire time I changed her into her unicorn swim suit. All told she cried for an hour and I hadn’t a clue. She loves the Y. She asks every day if she gets to go to swim at the Y. Yet she cried like I had told her she could never swim again. I was at a loss. Until finally she sobbed, “I want to wear my hair down”.
Sixty-freaking minutes she cried and could not tell me what was wrong, only to find out it was over her hair.
The teacher and ESP, who hearts were probably breaking, had never seen this behavior before. Or as her teacher put it, once but she was mad at you! Which is also true. It’s difficult to see Bridget upset. We are used to seeing her with eyes full of mirth and evil plans.
I called extended daycare, did something happen this morning? Nope, she was her perfect self. I hoped that whatever was going on in her little mind had passed. A few hours later the teacher called me. Bridget was still on and off crying hysterically. She could not determine why, but maybe if I talked to Bridget she could tell us. Willing to try anything, we put Bridget on the phone. Her response was not helpful. I could feel the how upset the teacher was over the phone line. Also her determination to take Bridget back to class and find some way to reach her.
I hope she does and this is not a reflection of her skill but Bridget’s stubbornness. We may never know what prompted the day of tears. All we can do is hope.
- Hope that someone didn’t hurt her feelings
- Hope that someone didn’t hurt her person
- Hope that there isn’t something medically wrong that she cannot describe
- Hope that she is not in physical pain
- Hope, hope, hope a parent whose child cannot defend themselves was not harmed in the way you cannot take innocence back
I don’t think any of the above happened, to my core I know that Bridget is safe at school and at extended day. Yet every parent who has a child who cannot tell you if they had gym or art today, fears this moment when they are crying and cannot tell you why.
When we had Bridget’s neuro-psysch eval done this winter, the doctor shocked me when she commented that Bridget couldn’t communicate. What do you mean? She has words! She speaks! We worked really hard and she talks now! Yes, the doctor replied but she cannot communicate. She cannot have a conversation. If you ask her what she had for lunch, she says “apple”. A typical 3 year-old will say, I had pizza and an apple. They will give details on their day. They will expand and tell stories. If you ask what she did at recess, a typical 3-4 year-old will tell you about the swings, who they played with and how high they were. They will tell you about the fun they had when “Sally” chased “Billy” through a puddle.
Bridget cannot do this, she cannot tell us why she is crying. She cannot tell us what makes her happy. Now, she can in actions.
But not in words.
To keep her safe, to keep her happy words have to become my number one priority. Not just words but the intent and content. She needs to be able to have a back and forth. When a teacher (or anyone) says what is wrong she has to understand what we are asking and be able to fully answer the question.
When she was younger, we worked so hard for her to roll over. I never imagined at that moment in time that rolling over was going to be the easiest moment of her life. She is only 9-years old but puberty is coming whether we like it or not. That means explaining to us that her stomach is cramping, it means hormones, it means tears for truly no reason. As Bridget ages there will be bullies in her life. There will be people who mistreat her and who try to harm her because they can, because she will be defenseless. There are moments, like today at school or last week in the Y, where I realize I have a pretty hefty to-do list with Bridget. It includes special education, speech therapy, occupational and physical therapies. It also includes so many things that did not occur to me when she as an infant struggling to roll over.
I need to teach her how to talk, how to scream and how to kick someone in the balls.
I’ve got this.
Now and for always
Thank goodness you wrote this for all of us out there in your 👠 shoes. My son, Matthew, age 11 has the same problem. He even avoids me when I try to ask him questions. Sometimes it seems like they don’t hear, but the do hear. They hear every word but have no words to express their overwhelming idea and emotions. They expect us to read their mind because nothing comes out of their month. Not even an attempt to talk. It’s so hard but one day at a time. We need each other to lean on. You’re doing an amazing job.
It’s one of those things you don’t want to think about, but have to. It’s one of those things you don’t want your child’s caregiver insulted that they think you don’t trust them. But it’s that you do trust them, you have to trust them. You also have to want them to be aware that this is a huge issue. That they need to work with you to make sure your child is safe. And when they’re not safe that they have to tools to let us know. Hugs my friend. The more we talk about the hard stuff the easier the fear comes to deal with.
Yeah, it’s definitely one of the biggest fears we all have. Especially when it comes to bullies. That’s why it’s so huge to me that Bridget has her tribe of typical friends. Her typical friends rock!
You’ve got this, but also, I get it. Tucker “communicates” but can never tell us what’s wrong and I so feel you with all of this. Huge hugs, mama. Huge bit ones.