When a new, strange behavior surfaces in Rhema – or one we thought we’d moved past comes back with a vengeance – we are left scratching our heads, wondering why, and only the good Lord knows. These behaviors in the past have included head-banging, screaming, flopping, pica (eating non-food items like, say, lead-painted window sills), stripping, bolting, paper shredding, hand-biting, hair-eating, obsessive compulsive patterns, fecal smearing, aggressions, meltdowns.
Yes, this is our autism.
We’ve made up our own names for some behaviors.
- Blind Girl routine – when she refused to open her eyes and walked around crashing into things. (This one, quite troublesome, lasted on and off for months.)
- Autism Bumper Bandit phase in which she would rip magnets off cars and break them into tiny pieces.
- Mommy Be Quiet! – A (thankfully) short period in which she screamed/tantrummed if I spoke. At all.
- The Squat Walk – a phase in which she would take a few steps, drop and squat, take a few steps, drop and squat, etc. We spent a lot of time in parking lots, and fortunately this did not occur simultaneously with the Autism Bumper Bandit phase!
The latest behavior du jour? Shirt sucking/chewing/eating.
I’ve been saying to her what my mom used to say to me when I inhaled my food, “Girl, you make it look like I don’t feed you!”
When I discovered she’d lost a tooth the other day, the light bulb came on. Oooohhhhh. The sensation (or even pain) of the loose tooth caused her to gnaw her clothing! This theory was confirmed by her teachers who track many of her behaviors: the chart for mouthing showed a significant increase over the past few weeks… and then a sharp drop to zero as of two days ago.
Mystery solved! And with that, (sniff), we turn the page on the Eat the Shirt Off Your Back chapter.
So we lost our shirts this go round (ha!), not a big deal. But there are times when certain behaviors send us into crisis mode. These are the days when every little thing is hard – sleeping, eating, dressing, leaving the house, transitioning from one thing to the next. These are the days that break my heart, bring me to my knees.
And no matter what the behavior looks like, one thing remains. I wish I knew. How I wish I knew what goes on in her beautiful mind. I long with all my heart to have a real conversation with her. I have so many questions, so many things I want to know. What is your favorite color, really? What are you saying when you hum? What do you love and why? Why do you weep at night sometimes? What do you need from me? Sweet baby, does anything hurt?
“I want to trip inside your head,
spend the day there…
to hear the things you haven’t said
and see what you might see…”
It’s in a mother’s wiring to give her child what she needs. What do you do when you don’t know what that is??
“…For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matt. 6:8
He knows. And knowing that He knows is a comfort somehow. The One who has the count of her every thick curl, collects tears in a bottle, painted her like sweet chai, named her and loved her before I knew her, knows. She is not a mystery to Him.
(So Lord, I need you. Teach me how to take care of my girls, and my husband, too. Give me better understanding, deeper love.)
“…For your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”