Sunday, January 15, 2012

You're Not Special - And That's Great

Last week I saw into the minds of the "vaccines cause autism" crowd.

I shouldn't have done this, but my daughter has been an emotional mess every afternoon all week long. Obviously this is related to going back to school, not eating her dinner and being four and a half years old. So she'll be perfectly happy all day long, then goes off to school and then when I pick her up she cries intensely and talks back about everything. Every. Single. Day. So much so that even the teacher half-thought maybe my daughter was giving the, "DON'T LET THE BAD MAN TAKE ME!" cry one day. Thankfully she passionately told the teacher that I hadn't bought the glue I said I would so she could make crafts - which makes me a lying liar who ruined the whole day.

Anyhoo - I made the huge mistake this morning of thinking, "hey I know! I'll look up online some child-development things about emotional 5 year olds and remind myself of ways to calm them down!" So I spent a brief ten minutes perusing advice books like this -:

That's good stuff that helps you see what is considered normal behavior and whatnot. Basically what you would get by talking to other adults with kids - but with data and sourcing in it. If I wasn't so lazy I might even check that out of the library. Finding that kind of dry instead I started looking up forums, blogs and questions about moodiness instead. Big mistake. Because seemingly every single person who responded did so with the confidence that they knew the problem well and that the real diagnosis was something truly nefarious and special - because it happened to them - thereby making their kid unique and special.

A scary number of them diagnosed children who have any kind of emotions as bi-polar. As in - someone generically asks why their kid is often so angry and half the responses are that they probably are bi-polar. Or at least one of the attention disorder ones. A shocking number answered, "oh it's autism" whether the original question involved anger, sadness, withdrawn behavior, loud shoutiness, or seeming slightly quieter than usual. Basically something solvable with powerful drugs. A large number of people responded that it's red food dye. Actually no - depending on the forum or place it was always one color of food dye that makes children insane with rabid anger/crippling depression. Another large body of people knew that the problem was schools. At least that one I understand the argument. But they can solve everything by answering it with home-school. Another group put it down to being too attached to Mommy and how that destroys children. A small group blamed The last bunch of people pretty much chalked it down to vaccines. Not even just saying, "oh - you're kid has autism from MMR," but it can be any problem at all and the cause was vaccines.

My daughter isn't hitting anyone. She isn't throwing stuff. She isn't setting out to destroy anything or ruin things in uncontrollable rages. She isn't socially awkward. She isn't odd. She isn't weirder than other kids. She isn't very loud or rude. She isn't unable to do things other kids can. She's just tired, hungry and often easy to tip over the edge. Like a lot of people are, actually. I get the advice columns and books about genuine problems. Some kids do have autism. Or ADHD or whatever. They need assistance. I'm still not buying the numbers though - I'm betting at least half the people with kids I meet say their kid has a disorder. There's no way that's likely. Your kid is five years old. Trust me - if your kid was bi-polar or had a solid mental illness like schizophrenia you would know. It's not slightly different from other kids - it's a real difference.I truly believe there's a gluttony of over-medicating people these days.

I remember years ago I was dating a girl in Wales who's next door neighbor's kid would come over and say hello all the time. That kid was five years old and quite advanced at reading and writing and things like that. The mother of this kid was pregnant again and had told us the five year old was having difficulty with the whole concept (not something I experienced with my daughter at all). One day that sweet little girl told us that she wants to cut the baby out of Mommy's stomach and get rid of the baby. Add in the increased testing of limits and newer tantrums as well and it seemed like a real problem. Now - say that on a forum and every single response would tell you that girl has a serious mental illness, or the parent is abusive, or schools are to blame or it's down to the poisons in soda. But the mother explained to us that from a kid's point of view that would be how to get a baby out of anything. Add the increased tantrums and whatnot was because at school the kid talked back to the teacher and that's a new problem for a parent. Now someone else is telling you your kid has been naughty while they weren't with you and that requires totally different parenting than being with them. Also the kid was just mad that she was being kicked out of her special room and being moved into a smaller room further away from the parents room. In full context the mother knew the kid was just five years old.

The one thing in common between all of these answers I found this morning was that every single four and a half/five year old is moody. So that's the answer then. That's what kids this age do evidently. I've spoken to other parents and they are gripped with schadenfreude that now my wife and I have to go through the five year old angry/sad/normal experience. The people on those forums, message boards and whatnot that really should be heard are the ones that say, "it's just a phase - it's okay." If there's a genuine problem then there's help, advice and ways to deal with it. But you don't have to diagnose behavior as a disorder.

Obviously my wife diagnosed our daughter with having PMS. She even wondered out loud whether this was like athe very early stages of a period. Like a pre-period coming on eight years early. That's part of her incessant nightmare about her daughter growing up very quickly without her being home to parent full-time - and suddenly being a teenager. I should just allow my wife to come to terms with this and help her resolve her worries. There should be strong protective hugs and long discussions where I affirm that what she's doing is good and healthy. And if she wants to change things because she genuinely believes that being a stay at home mother is more important then we will figure out how to do that.

Of course I'm not doing that. Instead I'm thinking about buying this board game below and then accidentally be caught still playing it when she gets home late from work one day.

Oh that'll help.

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