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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evidently I Don't Seem Like Much of a Hugger

This post is part of a Q&A series. Check it out here.

asked, "Hugs or kisses?"

I think I was Scarred for Life by my kissing cousins. And yes, they were kissing cousins who just so happened to kiss their cousins. All. The. Time. If you northerners aren't too sure of the definition of "kissing cousins," they are basically people related to you, only you might be able to get away with marrying one.

But only if you live in West Virginia the sticks.

Kissing cousins usually love to pinch cheeks. And squeeze the breath out of young children. And kiss kin while wearing bottles and bottles of cheap perfume. Therefore, I prefer hugging. Instead of kissing. Except for when it comes to the Husband, but only because he's my Mr. Wonderful.

Plus, he doesn't wear bottles and bottles of cheap perfume.

The Happy Geek
asked, "what do you think about hugging?"

Not a big fan of the hugging. I do it, but all-too-often unwillingly. I love to hug the Tongginator. And the husband. And some of my other relatives. But I'm not much of a hugging friend unless I know you really well. UnFortunately, my small group friends (like Blue) have a hugging culture. They helped me overcome my hugging phobias... they also quickly learned that I do much better when initiating rather than receiving a hug, so they avoid sneak attacks. And hopefully I adapted well enough.

But if not, at least I don't wear bottles and bottles of cheap perfume.

Michelle wrote, "You have said that you and T are polar opposites on the spectrum of SPD. I would love to learn more about this, such as examples and how you were able to cope and adapt."

I grouped these questions together because many people affected with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) aren't big fans of all that touchy-feely stuff. If you are right now asking yourself, "what the heck is SPD?," check out this post for a rambling whine of my various and quirky "issues" an informative description.

Michelle knows from previous posts that the Tongginator and I are polar opposites on the sensory spectrum. Experts deem me an over-sensitive, which means that most everything in my world feels too loud, too bright, too fast and too tight. The Tongginator is a sensory-seeker in life, which cause her to crave all of the things I avoid. This means...

She is a roller-coaster girl. I am the momma throwing up in the rear of an airplane.
She loves crowds and busyness all around her. I become a neurotic mess while shopping at the grocery store on a Saturday morning.
She could swing, slide and climb for hours every day. I find it nerve-wracking to climb unfamiliar stairs.
She loves to plunge her hands in goo. I dislike even the feel of lotion.
She focuses better amid noise. I like quiet unless I'm the one talking.
She craves strong and unusual food flavors. My diet primarily resembles food served at a nursing home: bland and boring, although definitely NOT mushy.

I know many parents are opposites of their children, but most are not quite as extreme as me and the Tongginator. It's not just that the Tongginator likes to swing at the playground... she NEEDS it on a regular basis or she struggles to focus, obey, remain calm and interact with others appropriately. And I realize that lots of parents prefer to avoid standing in the hot sun, pushing a child on a swing... but not many of those parents actually flinch when they see the swing heading in their direction.

So how did we deal?

I asked the husband and he mentioned that there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I have no idea what he's talking about.

First off, I gradually accepted that God has a tremendous sense of humor. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Can't you just hear the laughter in my voice?) Seriously though... while I don't believe that God ever wanted the Tongginator to leave her first family, I do believe that - once the separation from her first family occurred - God worked to bring the Tongginator into our family specifically. He knew that our family had the personal experience to deal with the Tongginator's severe sensory challenges.

For those who aren't aware of our transition story, know that I don't often speak of those years, but you can hear what our social worker had to say about it.

My personal experiences with SPD influenced everything. I empathized with the Tongginator greatly. I also tackled the therapies head-on, without ceasing, no matter her resistance, because I knew - I knew - what her life would be like if we didn't strive to overcome as many of her sensory challenges as possible. I didn't want for her to share in my sensory struggles.

And... as the husband said... there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Again, I have no idea what he's talking about.

This transition time also taught me more about my tremendous level of selfishness than at any other time in my life. I struggled through it all. The Tongginator needed to touch me constantly. We played music all the time. I mucked around in goo. I dodged the swings at the playground. And I poured over books, always looking for new ways to help us. My first few years as a parent, I planned our days in much the same way that I previously created classroom lesson plans. Before, during my years as a teacher, I only needed to be "on" with my class for about three hours a day. Then I came home to Peace and Quiet. Once the Tongginator arrived in our lives, there was No Quiet. I worked my tail off. And I felt constantly exhausted. And overwhelmed.

I was not a very good friend during this time. Nor a good wife. Unfortunately, there really WAS much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But I gradually discovered coping strategies. For example, I took the Tongginator to the mall almost every morning. I know! The self-sacrifice! (For those of you new around here, that's actually not sarcasm. I loathe shopping. And malls. And crowds.) We'd arrive at Starbucks at around 9:15, 45 minutes before the mall opened. I'd grab coffee, then we'd head for the indoor play place. The Tongginator played there, usually with just one or two other children, for about 90 minutes before we'd head out. We left as soon as the crowds began arriving. We'd hit our local outdoor playground most afternoons, just before school let out.

I learned to pay attention to her cues. I watched her carefully. Whenever she grew inconsolable, I'd hang her upside down by her ankles. She loved it and - each time - would quickly transition from a child who looked autistic to a child filled with glee, giggling and clapping her hands. And to do this, I had to let go of my self-consciousness and pride. Yes, I did this at the grocery store. In a parking lot. At the doctor's office. And yes, oh-my-goodness did other people judge me for doing it and a myriad of other things related to the Tongginator's sensory issues. But you know what? I learned that it didn't matter what they thought.

What mattered was my daughter.

Despite my wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It took the Tongginator and me much longer than average to attach to one another. I think this was, in large part, due to our extreme sensory differences. But oh-my-lands do I adore my little gal. She is A Star. Truly, truly A Star.

But - alas - I will never be a Stage Momma.


Heather of the EO said...

I love how you say things. It brings an understanding of things that could fly right over my head if you weren't the one saying them. With humor and insight and wisdom. You're an amazing mom, and just the right mom for the Tongginator, that is FOR SURE.

The Byrd's Nest said...

This is such a wonderful post for waiting parents. As I have said before I am a HUGE hugger...I cross personal boundaries with everyone all the time...even strangers.

With Emma Jane I hung all over her and forced myself on her for two years...not really the greatest plan she was not ready and honestly it used to make me break down in tears because she didn't "love" me back. Now I can't get her off my lap....but I wish I wouldn't have pushed her so hard:(

Patricia/NYC said...

What a wonderful post...thank you for your honesty & sharing such personal experiences...you know you're helping MANY out there!!

P.S. YOu really have a fabulous writing style!

Aunt LoLo said...

You're so very honest - I wish I could have seen the Tongginator hanging by her ankles!

It makes me wish BBJ and Timmy had a magic little move that would transform them...but without all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I've tried hanging SJ upside down....he didn't like it. Maybe I'll try it with bbj!

mommy24treasures said...

I loved this post:)
I am not a big hugger either, except for the Treasures.

Jennifer said...

I almost gave you an award today, but(t) I know better! :)

Blue said...

I have an internal war when I'm around you, TM! I just want to squeeze you, but I know you wouldn't be comfortable with as many hugs as I want to lavish, so I keep them in. But since I'm a very picky hugger (don't bother giving me weak little insincere hug when you've only known me a week and will see me tomorrow) I can totally empathize! I'm a whole big bundle of contradictions! So maybe you'll allow me just *one* hug the next time we visit? =)

CC said...

Ah, hugs! and yes, God does have a sense of humor!

Andrea said...

Thank you for sharing about SPD - very informative.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a good mama, enduring the mall for your sweetie. I'm not being sarcastic...I can't stand the mall!

Quirky Mom said...

Well done, TM!

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

Great post TM!! Remind me not to hug you when we finally do meet....I am the hugging kind:)


Laura L. said...

This is a very interesting post. I think I will look into SPD and do some reading.

I went back to your post which had links to some websites.

I also read your post about when you gave a talk on the T's transition and what your SW had to say.
Sometimes I think we too were in the minority of very rough transitions. I hear of few who seemed to have such a hard time.

Bless you, and I'm so glad you got through it. I know you are a great mom! :)

Briana's Mom said...

I think you are an AMAZING mother. Truly I do.

discombobulated said...

You did it again. You made something complicated and painful seem beautiful. That's why I so love the Vinegar and Oil post.

Rebecca of "China, Baby!" said...

LOVED this post. But then I love all your posts. :)

Patty O. said...

You are such an awesome mom, and how lucky that you can understand where the Tonginnator is coming from. I have many of the same issues as my son, which helps quite a bit. It has to be hard to have opposite issues.

I love your hanging her upside down story! I too have done very strange things for Danny that I know people judged, but you know what? It worked. So there.

rachel said...

I didn't know anything about SPD, but after reading this amazing post, I want to read everything I can get my hands on. What an awesome relationship you have with your daughter!

Michelle said...

Thanks, TM, for taking the time to answer these questions (yes, including mine) with such honesty and depth. I have really loved getting to know more about you, and have really enjoyed learning more about SPD.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

This was really fascinating.

PIPO said...

I am still scarred by the smell of 'Youth Dew' from 'aunties' when I was a child.

a little leprechaun said...

Loving the posts and learning more about you, in a mysterious nondiscrept way! ;-)

I find the sensory issue interesting. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Please have a wonderful weekend and sweet Valentine's Day!

Ada said...

Hey ~

thanks for the SPD info!

My big girl is a huge hugger, but really sensitive about getting her hair brushed or me even looking at a loose tooth.

I must have my head in the sand...
thanks for shedding the light

Sharie said...

I'm pretty sure you and I were sisters in another life:) Although I am a little more like the Tongginator most times - I need the noise!

Special K said...

I'm a hugger! Big time. I know that surprises you, right? LOL! So it will take every bit of self control I have not to run up and throw my arms around you for a big squeeze when I see you across the hotel lobby in China. (Cuz I know what you look like and will spot you a mile away with my keen observation skills. :P)

PS. I'm glad that I've come to know you. I feel more confident in my ability to mother knowing that I have friends with experience to guide me when I may falter.

Misty said...

i'm supposedly a tree hugger, does that count? lol. i'm a weirdo. i hug my sister and my kiddos. but not the husband so much. much to his chagrin. i think i told you in your last spd post that i wonder if i have some issues, too... my identical sister and i have no sense of personal space--presumably b/cs we have been in each others' for our whole lives, but then again, we have tons of "too much" responses to things like noise, lights, and external (as in not each other) touch. interesting stuff.
i have also enjoyed your entire series of the Q&A. it's been funny and poingant and remarkable!