Archive for the ‘your three year old child’ Category

My three year old is certifiable. He is the most laid back of my three boys and is now driving me absolutely crazy. The ever controversial Dr. Sears suggests that three year old are a mother’s dream come true. He seems to think that your average three year old likes to obey, remembers the rules and less egocentric than 18 month olds. Technically speaking, I suppose that last one is true. Theo is certainly more aware of others as specifically distinct from himself. I’m sure there is an upside to his new found sense of the specificity of Theo.

Theo’s new found self has given him a stronger desire to be independent. In general, this is a good thing. He potty trained quite easily. He uses his own spoon – my kids have slow fine motor stuff, so it took them all til age three to master this. It is a great relief when serving oatmeal! He also will play for even longer stretches on his own, but this was never really an area that needed improvement. At age 2 he would disappear in his room, close the door and play drums. He is a bit chattier. He has lots of thoughts and feelings on all manner of topics.

He most enjoys expressing his very strong dissent. He enjoys expressing it loudly. “No! I yelled at you, Mommy, I did!” and other charming phrases. At his three year check-up, the pediatrician praised his excellent sentence structure when Theo shouted, “No, no, doctor, don’t check my ears!”

Theo is my third three year old boy. I am, you could say, a bit of an expert on the topic. I do not find at all that his superior intellect and memory have made him more compliant. If anything, less so. He is the baby of our family and has 4 bigger people around him. Now he knows where all the buttons are and likes to push them. So, I do see that he has learned more about cause and effect relationships. When he was two, this played out as an obsession with light switches and drums. Now, he mostly uses Henry, but he likes to play the rest of the family as well.

I feel badly for Theo – when he isn’t knocking over some carefully built structure of his older brothers – because he is so clearly trying to organize his brain. He spends much of the day chatting about opposites or things that “match the same, mommy! it matches the same!” When faced with an M, he enjoys flipping it over to the hidden W. Then he repeats it with the 9 and the 6.

He came downstairs with Isaac last week. Isaac was unable to convince him that our home would not be set fire to by bad firemen. I talked about it a little with him and he decided “that the bad firemen will put fire on our house and the good firemen will take it out.” This makes sense in a crazy three year old sort of logic. Every time Theo sees a picture of firemen, there is a house in flames. He is own his way to being a criminologist, those “first on scene” are most likely to be the perpetrators of the crime. In the end, I had to let him believe it. Nothing else could make sense of those little fire mice in Richard Scarry books all the time. Two days later he got a small injury, a skinned knee, I think. He sat on my lap talking it out and informed me “The bad hospital gives me a boo-boo and the good hospital makes me better.” All these opposite and opposing forces, you’d think he understood the world of Star Wars and The Force. And someday, he will.
Right now I see him as slightly neurotic and intensely rigid as he deals with the uniqueness of a small Theo in a very big world of fire mice, ambulances and all the fears which have always accompanied age three in my household. He does have superior intellect and memory over himself at age 2. His eyes are wide open to the world around him – to all of it, its joys and treasures, but also to its emergencies and griefs. There may be no monsters under the bed, but he knows there are things to be worried about. He knocks over block tours, screams at his mother and lands himself in time outs, but all in some crazy, counter productive frenzy in which he struggles to exert control in his very small sphere of influence.

Age three, 9 more months to go. In my expert opinion, it will get a little better at 3.5, when he goes to school. Then we will hang on tight for four as the winter passes.


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A three and half year old child prays what is on his mind. He repeats his thank-yous (for mommy, dad, Thinker, Little Puppy and Little Bear). Then the mind wanders over the day -did we go the playground? Thank you Jesus for the playground. Recently, a please help prayer has been added to the repertoire. Did we have birthday cake with Auntie, want more and not get it? Please help Auntie’s birthday cake. Did daddy seem a little frustrated when we splashed over enthusiastically at bath time? Please help with daddy and the bath.

Recent evenings after dinner have been spent in a comedic version of hide and seek. Little Bear understands the counting, the chanting (ready or not hear I come!) which he humms. Mm, moo, mee, more, mi, mix, meben…He knows to run from the counter and hide, but not to stay there until found. It’s too exciting. He pops up when the seeker walks in and cheers. Thinker patiently counts slowly and pretends to look here, there and everywhere for LP who understands the counting, the chanting (mmm, must be hiding somewhere! where can he be?), the hiding and the seeking, but not the staying quiet while hiding (no, I’m not done yet! followed by persistent giggling until found.) When it is his turn to seek out Thinker, LP has to exhibit more patience than he seems to have while waiting for juice. At times, Thinker has stumped him and LB and their binoculars, flashlights and magnifying glass. Yes, we play hide and seek in our house with equipment because we are either spies or explorers or both.

All over the map developmentally, the boys still make a considerable effort to play this game together. No matter what they’d rather play together than separately almost all the time, even when they don’t know how to do it -and apparently even when they argue. Tonight’s plea for help was that of the middle child:
Dear Jesus, please help me to find Thinker and please help LB to hide. Amen.
And all mommy could say was, may it be so.

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Yesterday was our big OT evaluation at the children’s hospital. LP was feeling non-compliant. A little bit oppositional perhaps. It was, in fact, his nap time, but I wanted the opening. I took it.

Apparently, I had made some sort of unconscious choice. I noticed myself helping him less – significantly less – than I usually do in less than familiar contexts. The therapist gave me some paper work – the long sensory profile, I only had the short one from the school system – I cheerfully ignored her attempts to get LP to comply with a variety of sensory activities. Actually, I was not cheerful. I acted cheerful, preoccupied with the paper and perhaps like a less competent parent than I truly am.

I think it worked. She was not able to complete all her evaluations, but she did complete most of them. LP was finicky, hard to transition from one activity to the next. He was somewhat defiant, wanting to control each game so he would feel safer. He wanted to play catch with the therapy ball, not roll it. He wanted to stand on the platform swing, not lie on his tummy. He did not want to color. He did not want to cut. He wanted to run (in progressively smaller circles until he crashed onto the mats).

She felt pretty comfortable diagnosing sensory issues. She gave me a little speech about behavior, which I smiled politely at, because, well, I had faked it a bit. I could have made him more compliant. I could have, but I chose not too. I can translate the world for LP. I can be his sensory integration system. Except I don’t go to school with him. I won’t be on the bus to Kindergarten in 18 months. 18 months is not a very long time. So, I didn’t play that role at the evaluation. The therapist expressed surprise that he is able to participate in a class setting without an aide. I indicated I believed it was due to being in a very small class, for only 5 hours a week and having an extremely experienced teacher.

Also, accommodations are being made. They expect less of LP. I’m have mixed feelings about that. In one sense, it is very realistic. It is important not to discipline him for behaviors he is not in control of – in another sense, it is discouraging. I am afraid that he is a regressive pattern, seeing how little he can/how much he can get away with, because he senses that none of his caregivers are 100% sure of what to expect.

We’ll hear back from the therapist in a week or so. She’ll give us our “results” which, I hope very much, mean a label and insurance coverage for the therapy. Then I can take my results to school and the district and we’ll go round the gerbil wheel once again. Not that we aren’t making progress. We are. We just spend alot of time recovering old ground. Yesterday’s evaluation was new territory. She asked me questions I’d not been asked before. She asked LP to do things he’d not been asked to before. I came home tired, weepy and just worn down from the effort of it all.

The month of March brings some small reprieves: no vacation days til Easter weekend, no Sunday night class for me, a visit to my mom for the Easter holiday, more light, a few more warm days and my mother-in-law offered to babysit so that Matt and I can go to the movies – nothing like escaping the house for a few hours to reset the brain, perhaps we’ll get some yummy food out as well!

By the way, Ralph Nader is 74. I think it is time we appreciate his nearly 3/4 of century of whatevering….

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Recorded after Valentine’s Day at preschool, celebrated by a mother-child tea.

My day was hard. Seeing LP at school sort of blew my world apart. I find I don’t spend lots of time with other kids his age. We both find it exhausting. Apparently, he does very well at school. However, today was quite difficult for me. It’s hard to see how very much he stands out in a crowd – which is one of the many reasons I avoid them. It is easy to become accustomed to his ways. I’ve had nearly 4 years to become accustomed. I don’t know what normal is anymore. It is hard to separate out the differences that are there because he is one of us (those 10-15% of people who are just different) and which differences are signs of him needing intervention.

There were about 40 3 year olds, plus their teachers and mommies and cameras. The children were to stand in a circle and sing to the mommies. 99% of the children did this. A few were distracted (“hi mommy! hi!”) or just kind of spaced out. LP was spaced out for a short while. Then he laid down in the fetal position. Then he stood up, when he saw me, and tried to defend himself against all the stimulation by making a loud noise, like a roar, and saying “I’m a truck mommy, I’m a truck.” I felt so bad for him that he is just having to cope with all this. He wasn’t even particularly miserable, it was just sad. I cried the whole time. When the singing was over, he was very happy to see me. We had cookies and juice and tea. He was very well mannered, sharing with everyone in sight. I was so proud of his recovery from the over-stimulation. Then it was time to go to the classrooms to play. While I was still in round 18 of negotiation, I looked up. The whole area had cleared. All the other kids transitioned no problem. This was about 45 seconds that had passed. We had to have two time outs and two threatened trips to the car to go home. We finally made it to his classroom.

He saw all the mothers inside with kids and asked to go home and watch a show (his safety net). I coaxed him in. He made a fabulous tower of blocks twice. He asked his friends to admire it – most of the girls were making a craft. Then he cleaned it up, independently. He then played with an alphabet puzzle. His skills in this area far exceeding his peers. The other mothers looked at me with wide eyes – they are all very nice, but no one expects the least emotionally mature kid in the class to know the ABCs better than the rest. He was frustrated because one child kept trying to put M in out of order. The puzzle was a zoo train. Each animal was on a train car. It was a perfect storm of love and interest for LP. The other kids were trying to have fun with him – and he wanted them to – but he struggled to keep his temper, because M comes after L and what’s a boy gonna do?
At one point he decided to crash the whole thing, but rallied and we finished it – even taking turns with Noah (who very smartly was checking the box of the puzzle to see which animal should come next, this way they’d both always be right.)

The other children dispersed. He cleaned up completely on his own without incident or whining (not to self for at home!). We played with a few other things. When it was time to go, he (and Little Bear who had spent this time in the backpack) completely melted down. I lost my temper several times before we got to the car and cried the whole way home. I cried silently with Dan Zane going on the ipod. My disguise did not work. Connected as we are, he knew of my fears, disappointments and frustrations. He badly wanted to please me. He stood on the doormat with his coat and shoes on and sang two of the songs from the repertoire of the day. The first was Jesus Loves Me. The second I will record here:

I wish I had a big pink box to put my mommy in.
I’d put her in and tap, tap, tap and take her out again.
(repeat faster, with adorable hand motions.)

I managed not to weep uncontrollably but to clap and be proud, as he was of himself. He accomplished the task – not in the original setting, but on his own terms.It was the highs and lows of LP today. After lunch he helped me make the cake. He’s never done such a good job before. We read the recipe like a map which helped him be extra patient with the steps. At dinner he ate 4 meatballs with red pepper sauce!!! And had a piece of cake.

Upon reflection several days later:

Thursday was not pleasant. It was quite painful. However, Thursdays performance at school isn’t a very accurate measure of his success there. It was not a normal day, in any sense. I look back on that moment when he stood up from his fetal position. Where on earth did he find the strength to do that? Where did he summon the courage to defend himself with karate gestures and truck noises against the onslaught of stimulation? “I’m a truck, mommy!” He was quite proud of himself. I wish I had clapped for him then. It was raw courage, to be sure.

Tomorrow brings the task of calling the pediatrician’s office. We need a referral to the occupational therapy center at the children’s hospital. This is the upshot of Thursday. Friday’s task was we found out the OT center took our insurance and that they do not have a long waiting list. If they can see him in the next week or so, we may be able to have an evaluation in hand at our next PPT. He was deemed ineligible for OT services in the school district because his school performance doesn’t indicate that he is impaired enough be his sensory defensiveness to need them. I see that. I get it. However, home, transitions, play groups, errands, libraries and museums are awaiting attention. LP and I need just as much help there as at school, perhaps even more because school is usually predictable. Thursday was a true anomaly, but much of the rest of our life is stimulating, unpredictable and stressful – at least that is how it appears in LP’s brain. I’d love to help him get to a place where he finds is stimulating, enriching and pleasurable, at least most of the time. Wish us Godspeed.

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Motherhood, that is. I’m trying it on for size. In general, I do well rejecting random guilt – like worrying I spend too much time on the computer when my kids are clearly fine, happy and busy – or worrying I don’t volunteer enough at the Thinker’s school when I couldn’t possibly do that with his younger siblings in tow. I’m pretty good at steering clear of the guilt that leads to nowhere .

However, I do have my fair share of ventures into true misgiving. For some time now one of poor brunts of all my maternal fears has been the pacifier. Oh, passy, oh passy! Nothing surprised me more in LP’s infancy than his profound love for the pacifier. We discovered it in the first week of life in a post-partum haze of little sleep, lots of feedings, and me needing a shower. It was an instant hit. We laughed at how very much it soothed him. Our older child had rejected it consistently for 6 weeks before we shrugged it off and tossed them all in the trash. This was a brand new baby, and he liked it!

The Great Pax Passy reigned in our household until the summer LP turned two. That was my first bout of insecurity. At the time, we knew that many babies suffering from GERD were helped by pacifiers. Since he had suffered so badly, we hardly restricted his pacifier use at all. It really seemed to help him with any discomfort and it really got his saliva going, which helps digest food. We really put a premium on LP digesting food at this point. By age 2, his GERD was mostly gone and and his eating habits were only slightly poorer than your average two year old – preferred carbs over veg, would eat apples and applesauce, sometimes chicken. We started to limit the pacifier use – he started to snack more and eat less. With a new baby in the house, I simply backed off my fight against the pacifier. I caved – and felt bad about it.

One year later, we more successfully confined the pacifier to bedtime, nap time, sometimes car times. For the most part, this worked out great. Sometimes, it was an utter disaster. “Passy, Passy!” he would sob as we left church. Overall, his eating was better. We had introduced a fantastic reward system for eating fruits and vegetable – it involved clapping and occasional stickers and singing a superhero themed refrain called “tummy power!” which we made up ourselves. (It’s all very high-tech here, people).

I felt at age three that our second round of Pax Passy must be over and we should end it and move onto Pax without Passy. I was very, very wrong. Just having moved to a new house, LP was having none of it. The move to a bed meant the passy we tucked in under the covers could be accessed at any point in time. He ran around the new house all summer cozying up with a passy here, there and everywhere. Anytime he wanted it, he would say “I am tired. I need a passy for a minute.” or ” I sleep in the car with my passy.” Again, I just couldn’t fight it. I decided age 4 would be a much better time to say good bye to passy.

In my mind, that would still be ideal. As I began to have LP evaluated this fall, all the sensory integration stuff started popping up and sure enough, those kids really like them some passies too! It is, after all, about self-soothing. My current reading suggest that limited pacifier use up to age 7 may have some benefits for the sensory-coping child and will not impact baby teeth. Alternate suggestions for oral sensory comfort and for promoting oral skills are allowing kids to drink through a straw when you want them to concentrate on a task and offering different texture snacks, lollipops and encouraging goofy mouth sounds and pulling faces.

The reign of Pax Passy has been extended by at least another 6 months, possibly another 3 years, here at our house. However, I am going to make a strong effort to give up the guilt and enjoy it. Of course, in the meantime, I will have to find a way to have Little Bear, who is nearly two years younger, give his up a little sooner – see I found the angsty lining to this puffy, white cloud, because I am a mother.

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So, it’s time to share. The life of Little Puppy thus far has been a puzzle, an uphill puzzle. One piece that has just placed itself is his Sensory Profile.

The Good: What we learned by filling out a short questionnaire is that he experiences noise, motion and sound as stress. The questionnaire asked me to rate his response to a variety of stimuli. It then scored his response as “typical,” “probable difference,” and “definite difference.” Then, the occupational therapist assigned a number value to each of those headings and told us where L.P. is having issues – you know, in case we hadn’t noticed that he screamed when firetrucks passed by. In any case, it was actually more helpful than it sounds because it has a name, which means it is real and not in my head. It also means lots of our problems are not actually discipline problems they just look like it – which feels better to me, even if it doesn’t look better to strangers who see us at the store. I still have my pride – maybe.

The Bad: What we learned is that there is no magic cure for this problem. There are lots of things to try and we are trying them, but there is no one perfect solution for every kid, nor is this something that will be outgrown by a certain age. He will outgrow his panicked emotional responses to these stimuli, so our situation will improve, but he may very well continue to experience these stimuli as stress. There is a lot that is unknown.

Ironically, one of the areas of testing that LP did not score “Definite Difference” for was Tactile Sensitivity. The questions I answered indicated that LP would eat a variety of food textures and did not mind playing in the sand. His score sat him on the edge of “typical” and “probable difference.” The short questionnaire did not ask how he felt about sand in his shoes, tags in his underwear or seams on his socks. This seems odd to me, as I spend an inordinate amount of time removing sand from shoes, tags from underwear and shopping for the perfect sock.

To understand my need to find the perfect sock, you must enter into the world of LP where things he wishes to not touch are called “buzzies.” This is a word he has been using since age two and it describes any number of yucks in his world: hair in tub or on tongue, too fuzzy sweaters that mom wears, dust-bunnies that appear under baseboard heaters or the fraying edge of carpet – the small speck of dust discovered on a passy just popped into his mouth and the untrimmed strings from hems on the toes of his socks – all are “buzzies.” This word has been uttered in panic, fear, with tears, with joy of discovery (look buzzies! -when pointing out the need to dust under furniture), and, even now, somewhat matter-of-factly as he runs to rinse of his pacifier. It is a helpful word – as it clues me into what the matter might be – though not always helpful enough – too many options, you see. Here begins the sock shopping:

The Ugly: It looks like an innocent cozy sock on the outside:
But on the inside, it is BUZZIE SOCK – – perfectly formulated for the torture of sensory sensitive preschoolers everywhere – guaranteed to make them weep, moan and go barefoot at all times of year.

So, um yeah, I think he may be a bit Tactile Sensitive after all.

Look for more sensory issues each Saturday. In between, I’ll try to be funny, soulful or just posts pictures of baked goods or my kids.

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The world according to Little Puppy’s brain:

smell of oregano and thyme in the garden
“smells like pizza”

the sight of our first snowfall
“sounds like quiet”

on reporting back on preschool’s description of thanksgiving
“it’s for thanking God -sounds like Christmas and Christmas trees”

on being offered mommy’s homemade challah bread, shared with family visiting
“it’s a challah-day”


If you and your family are celebrating today, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
Enjoy the challah-day. It’s delicious.

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