Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

17 Jan

Before I go into the story of what happened last night, I should set a bit of context.  When Gerard’s Dad died almost eight years ago, we moved in with Gerard’s Mom, who at the time did not want to be alone. We live downstairs, she lives upstairs, and each of us has own own fully equipped kitchen and whatnot, so we can live completely independently of one another and yet still be in the same house.  For a while, things were kind of tumultuous, but now they have settled down and we are all getting along famously.

My mother-in-law – or future mother-in-law, if you want to get technical about it – is making my wedding dress.  The woman is a phenomenon with a sewing machine, and she is going to create something spectacular – far better than anything I would find in a store.  I am not even intimidated by the fact that my wedding is the day after the British Royal Wedding.  My dress is going to be much prettier than Kate’s.

Last night’s drama started because my mother-in-law and I needed a mirror. A full-length mirror that we could prop up against the wall in her sewing room, that would allow me to see the dress in all its full-length glory during fittings.

Gerard and I just happen to have a spare mirror.  I think it was originally part of some long-gone piece of furniture, and for the last three years or so it’s been propping up the wall in an impractical spot in George’s room.  No-one ever uses the thing, so last night Gerard took the mirror upstairs to the sewing room (after the work-in-progress that is the dress had been securely hidden away, of course).

To say that George got upset would be like saying Donald Trump has a little bit of spare cash.

The kid exploded.  This small change to his immediate environment made him go into utter meltdown.  He was frantically running around in circles, screaming, “Put the mirror back!  Put the mirror back!”  It wasn’t angry, tantrummy screaming.  It was the kind of screaming borne of frustration and anxiety.

You see, George doesn’t cope with change.  When the slightest thing changes – a lightbulb burning out, the laundry hamper in the wrong place, the cordless telephone not in its docking station – he gets really stressed.  A few weeks ago we thought our dishwasher was leaking, so we pulled it out to take a look, and this sent George into such a flurry that it was days before he would set foot in the kitchen again.

The mirror being taken away sent him right over the top, in a way that nothing else has before.  I’m guessing it’s because the mirror was in his room; that it was his own space being violated.  It’s not that he looks in the mirror, it’s just that he’s used to it being there.  And when something he is used to is taken away, it represents a wrinkle, an interruption of stability.

At some point during this wild, frenzied activity, George ran up to his Dad sobbing, and beseechingly wailed, “Put the mirror back, please!”  He turned and looked at me, and in his eyes I saw utter desperation and fear bordering on panic.

Some people might argue that we should have stood our ground, that “giving in” to George would set a bad precedent.  They might say that the only way to get George to cope with change would be to desensitize him to it, to expose him to change and weather the storm, no matter what.

But you know something?  Sometimes, it just ain’t worth it.  Nothing is worth seeing your child in that much pain and anguish. Gerard and I agreed that we would just pay twenty bucks for a new mirror, and he went back upstairs, retrieved the mirror and put it back in its place.  When the mirror had been restored, we picked George up from where he had been cowering on the couch, and took him into his room.  He refused steadfastly to look at the wall, but he must have seen the mirror in his peripheral vision, because that heartbreaking wailing came to an end.

At that point, the stress of what he had just been through must have caught up with him.  All of a sudden, he jumped up off his bed, ran to the bathroom, and threw up.  A lot.

I wanted to cry.  My poor beautiful boy was in such a state of stress that he actually threw up?  That is awful. Do you know how stressed you have to be for it to make you physically ill?  No mother wants to think of her child going through that level of anxiety.

I gently cleaned my son’s face and dried his tears, and then I turned out the lights and hugged him as lay in his bed.  Right before he drifted off to sleep, I asked him how he felt.

“Happy,” he whispered, as he closed his eyes.

That’s all a parent really wants for their child.

(Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License)

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4 Responses to “Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall”

  1. transplantedx3 January 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM #

    I hate that we struggle with what we should or shouldn’t do based on others expectations. Only you know what is best for your kids – I’m glad you listened to your heart.
    Hugs~
    ~Amy

    • runningforautism January 17, 2011 at 1:48 PM #

      Isn’t it amazing how people can make parents feel guilty about their parenting choices? You wouldn’t BELIEVE the flack I took from people when I had James vaccinated (apparently I had “given” George autism, and now I was going to do the same to his brother).
      You are right – no-one knows our kids better than we do, and sometimes we just have to listen to our guts.
      Thanks for reading – I hope this day is bearable for you.

  2. Kerry January 18, 2011 at 12:42 AM #

    You are going to be more beautiful on your wedding day than any ole royal person. 🙂
    And I know you know it comes from ignorance, but try to ignore those who make negative comments about vaccines. I honestly can’t believe in this day and age of research and widely spread knowledge that someone would think you gave George autism.
    I tell this to a lot of my mom friends – something you already know – don’t ever let other people make you feel like you are less than the perfect mom for your kids. You may not be the “perfect” parent but no one is – we all make the best choices for our kids based upon our knowledge and love for them.

    • runningforautism January 18, 2011 at 2:38 PM #

      Thanks, Kerry! I think that many of these so-called “experts” don’t even have kids themselves – much less, kids with special needs. You are right – we go by our instinct, and we let our love for our kiddo’s guide us.

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