Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fiery, and small

In all the hullabaloo in our home surrounding Conor, his 9 year-old typical brother often gets left in the shadows.  It’s been terribly hard to give Aidan the level of attention he deserves, that any child deserves, really.  I don’t know how parents with more children do it.

This past weekend, I spent some time looking in Conor’s baby names book, 100,000 Baby Names.  He peruses it to look for new and interesting names for the Miis on the Wii at the unit. I know, don't ask.

Aidan Paul means fiery and small.  That, in essence, is my typical son.  He’s got a certain je ne sais quoi, this little spark that can catch your eye. (Or maybe it’s just the mop of red hair flying by.)

His teachers describe him as eager, energetic, curious, and having an inquiring mind. (Translation: raises his hand even if he doesn’t know the answer, can’t sit still in his chair, and talks a lot. A lot.)

Other moms at school come up to me and say, “Oh!  You’re Aidan’s mom.  My darling so-and-so is always talking about Aidan this and Aidan that.”  Uh-oh. That can’t be good.

And yes, he’s small in stature.  I call him my little peanut, 10th percentile in height and 25th percentile in weight.  And that’s wearing heels and a weighted vest. What can I say? I’m 5’ 2” myself.  (Without heels.  And I’m not telling you my weight.)

But what Aidan lacks in height, he makes up for in his zest for life and learning.  He also happens to have developed a very big, huge, whopping case of anxiety.

Every night now, it’s a battle to get Aidan to fall asleep before midnight, without tears.  I’ve got to get a handle on this before Conor comes home.  Trying to manage the two of them at bedtime will be impossible if we don’t.

Aidan and I have our different theories on the trigger of the bedtime anxiety.  I suggest to him that it’s related to his brother’s challenging behavior.  After all, the bedtime angst started around the time that Conor’s behavior started getting really crazy. 

Aidan vigorously denies that it has anything at all to do with his brother. He maintains it’s because I sent him to spend the weekend at my sister’s while Jim and I went to an autism conference.  (He would usually go to Mom and Dad’s, but at that point, Conor really targeted Aidan with aggression and I didn’t feel it was safe for him to share the guest bedroom there.)

Sure, Aidan.  Spending a weekend in a quiet, sane place with a big backyard, a Wii, three older cousins, 9 holes of golf on Saturday, and a practice putting green on the deck would really make a person nervous.  Uh huh, sure, honey, it’s not the crazy chaos of a house with a pre-teen with autism and some really alarming behaviors that’s tying your stomach up in knots.

In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter.  For all I know, he would have developed anxiety even if he didn’t have a brother with autism.  Maybe it’s just chemical. 

What does matter is that the anxiety is starting to bleed into other parts of his life. And I’m afraid that it might take away that spark that makes Aidan, well, so Aidan.

In the meantime, I sit outside his room, listening to him toss and turn and sigh, read books about helping your child to overcome anxiety, and silently recite (line by line) the popular parenting book, Go the Fuck to Sleep.

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