When Ethan was born, I wish I realized then how lucky I was. He was SUCH an easy baby. He was born 5 weeks premature and right from the get-go he was a good eater, good sleeper, and when he was awake, he was so content! Such an easy baby.
Right around maybe 6 months, he started doing something that now I realize may be unusual, but back then I thought nothing of it. He would ONLY sleep in his crib at night. Sure, he'd doze off in his car seat, but other than that, it was his crib or nothing. We'd take him up north to Jay's parents house and he would go from being a great sleeper at home to a nightmare up north. I vividly recall nights sitting up with him in the recliner because he absolutely would not sleep in his pack and play or anywhere else.
Thinking back, I also realized that while most babies love the swing, he hated it. I mean HATED it. It wasn't that he got bored with it fast, I mean as soon as you put him in it and started swinging, he was a basket case. It was a huge waste of space because we never used it with him.
Around the age of 2 is when I got more concerned. One memory I always think of is when we were at a birthday party. It was summer and there were lots of kids and kid activities. MY kid, though, wanted to play with the ice in the cooler. Granted, most 2 year olds would be fascinated with ice cubes in a cooler, especially on a hot day, but this wasn't my house and wasn't my cooler. I distracted him with various other activities but his heart was set on that cooler and nothing more. NOTHING I did could convince him otherwise, so he threw the biggest temper tantrum ever. SO big, I had to remove him from the party to hopefully calm him down. SO big that another dad at the party (Jay was not there with me) came out to try to help me to no avail. It was strange, embarrassing, and resulted in me leaving the party with him without saying bye to anyone.
There were other instances that I can recall such as how if he decided he didn't want to do something, he didn't just sulk like a "normal" kid might. He would, as we call it, shut down. And nothing would bring him out of it. Shutting down usually meant that he would refuse to walk or talk. He'd keep his head down, shoulders slumped. You could try to bribe him with toys and treats in exchange for good, cooperative behavior but nothing would work. He was done and that was that. The STRANGE part is the places and events that he'd shut down at: zoos, birthday parties, etc. Places most kids had a blast at and eagerly looked forward to. My kid? Dreaded it. HATED it. Wanted to leave and wanted to leave fast.
I'd hear other parents say how their kids were nightmares at home but they were "so thankful" they were good in public. My child was the opposite. A dream child at home: he would entertain himself for hours and was just generally very pleasant. In public was a whole different story and I hated that most people rarely saw the Ethan I knew so well.
I knew something wasn't right I just didn't know what it was. I decided he was "quirky" and I would just always have to be extra sensitive to his needs and make excuses when he'd shut down.
When Allison was born, it really made me see how different he was. Now she is by no means perfect, but she just had a different outlook. Birthday parties were FUN! The zoo? She had a blast! She loved to be out and about and she equally loved being at home. If she didn't get her way with something and it upset her, she could easily be redirected to something else and she would soon forget what it was she was upset about.
Right around when Ethan turned 7 and even more so at the age of 8 is when I really started getting stressed by his behavior. He was at the age where society expected more out of him. To see an 8 year old sulk all the time, I heard a lot of, "what he needs is a good spanking!" or people staring at him as he pouted in a corner while others were having fun. It was embarrassing and made me so sad for him. I will admit, it was also HORRIBLY frustrating and I frequently would want to grab him and shout, "WHY ARE YOU ACTING THIS WAY?" ...but of course, I didn't.
Just a few months ago, he stopped sleeping well at night. Instead he spent his time in bed when he should be sleeping, stressing about things. Things most 8 year olds don't even think about. Things like where he will go to college and how he will decide where to go. Or about having to leave home or Jay or I dying and leaving him alone. It drove him to tears and he would frequently be up until after midnight tossing and turning.
I finally took action. He saw a doctor who specializes in children with behavior issues. He is medicated now on an antidepressant, which made me hesitant but the way the doctor put it is: If he was diabetic, would I deny him insulin, because it's a medication, too. Of course not! I worried he would become a zombie and walk around in a daze. She assured me she would never allow that. So we took the plunge and started the medication. She also approved melatonin at night to help him sleep. The first huge change we saw was the melatonin. The first night he took it, he was sound asleep by 9 PM. The next morning he woke up happy instead of grumpy. He was friendly with his little sister, who he normally would snap at. It was amazing and a complete 180 of what he normally dealt with.
Gradually we started to see small effects from the antidepressant as well. He still prefers to be home and in a quiet environment, but today REALLY proved to me how far he has come. For one, I had to wake him up to leave the house. Before, this would be near impossible. Before, he would likely refuse to even move and I would physically be unable to force him as he is over 60 pounds and like a stubborn mule when he chooses not to do something. Today, while he was tired, he got up and got dressed, and even helped me get things together. We then spent the entire day outside the house. The first was a play date with mostly children he had never met before, and most were younger than him. He played the entire time, and had a great time. At one point he got hurt on a swing set, which again, in the past would have resulted in him insisting on going home and the day would be done, but instead today, he shed a small tear, asked for an ice pack, sat down for a little bit while he "recovered", then went back to playing. He was a little sad to leave, but only because he wanted to swim and we didn't have time. We then went to another play date and he was bouncy and happy, and had a great time. He was social with everyone and very cooperative. Again, when it was time to leave, he was sad, but only because he was having fun and wanted to stay longer.
I am so proud of my boy. He is different and still quirky, but he has made such amazing changes. He still has his times where he is challenging, especially if he is hungry, but he is mostly your normal 8 year old boy. It's like he has a new chance at life and I am so thankful for that. I am so thankful that people can see him for who he truly is: smart, funny, so loving, and sometimes obnoxious (as 8 year old boys tend to be). I have always felt him and I had a deep connection, different than what I have with my other kids and it's likely because I have the same issues with depression and anxiety. I "get" him. I understand how hard it is and how it's not something you can just change. You can WANT to change, but your mind just won't let you. I never wanted my baby to be on antidepressants, but looking back, it has made such an amazing, profound difference in his life. He is happy now, and is no longer missing out on experiences that every child should.
I love you, Ethan. To the moon and back.