When I was a kid, I made my mother’s life a living hell. I swear, looking back I really do not know how she did it. I must have screwed up every single morning of my first three school years. She would get me dressed, I would rip my clothes off. Nothing felt right on my skin, my underpants had to rise above my belly button, I absolutely abhorred the button down uniform shirts, even my shoes felt wrong. There were other times when I would find a shirt and want to wear it exclusively. It was usually a texture that I found comforting. Back then, there was no spectrum, the doctors did not know what the heck was wrong with me. Was I stubborn, was it a milk allergy, was I crazy?
I firmly believe that if I were a child today, I would be diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD.) The fact that my oldest son was diagnosed at age three makes me certain. As as adult, I am no different. I never outgrew the unbearable, claustrophobic, skin crawling sensations that plagued me as a child.
Personal experience with this has made it easier to understand children with similar issues. Son 1 has always been a sensory seeker, drawn by sensations of temperature or texture or weight and pressure and prefers to have bare feet. Son 2 will refuse six pair of pants before he finds one he will wear. He will only wear a certain cut of underwear, a certain brand of socks and you will never, ever, catch him in a pair of jeans or anything with buttons, and he must wear socks. Don’t even get me started on his food issues!
Understanding as I do, I am very sensitive to their needs. I try to always have each kid’s particularities addressed. I am careful about whose clothes are whose, and not giving Son 2 the wrong pants,(they are virtually the same size.) I stockpile frozen fruit pops and made a weighted blanket for Son 1. I no longer flip when I see his naked feet running around the house on cold days. I am a mom. I get it.
Here is the question, in doing all of these things am I enabling them or am I simply making life bearable for them, and for us, since failing to meet these needs leads to meltdowns of massive proportion. Their Dad says I coddle them. I feed their behavior. I make them worse. This is an ongoing, years long argument. He has come around a bit over the years, but still, I know he thinks they walk all over me. He claims he doesn’t get it, (although the man spent years wearing his army issued t-shirts backwards because he hated the feel of the neckline, and religiously rolls the waistband of his underwear.) Is it mind over matter? He seems to think so. I do agree that sensory desensitization therapy can be successful for some things. We have gone to Occupational Therapy and done different exercises, but stuff like this doesn’t just go away.
So where is the line? How do you determine where accommodating ends and spoiling begins? I honestly do not know, and I doubt I’ll ever figure it out.