I walked into my house this evening weighted down with grocery bags and was pleasantly surprised to have my daughter take them into the kitchen and unpack everything – without complaint. That’s what a lingering dose of Christmas happiness gets me. As she tossed into the fridge the Gatorade we’ll be carting off with us to kung fu in the morning, I thought about how well she’d done in self-training Thursday night, following the directives of a black sash big brother she often simply refers to as “Jerk.”
I kept expecting one of her old classic blow-ups, either when he tried to get her to do one more set of front kicks, or when I told her to practice speeding up her wheel hands before we went home. None came.
Is she finally getting the hang of control? I wondered. Is she simply growing up? Could they be one in the same, despite all diagnoses?
I want to relax about her. I want to allow myself not to worry about what adulthood is going to be like for her if I’m not there running interference.
My daughter has PDD-NOS. That’s pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, which means she has issues with social interaction, and appropriate communication and behavior – but without meeting all the criteria for a diagnosis of autistic. Got all that? It took me forever to wrap my brain around it, particularly since in her pre-school years, her behavior could be so off the charts, she was thought to have Asperger’s. Her diagnosis was corrected not long after we got to Baltimore, but changing the words on the page to a milder disability had nothing to do with taking the actual behavior down a notch.
She had such a hard time at her new school when we first moved that she was flipping out on a grand scale at least once a day. She was teased constantly for her sensitivity, or being taken out of her routine, or having someone take the seat she thought was hers, or invade her personal space without permission. Anything could set her off without warning, and when she went off, you could hear that girl yell from two blocks away.
Then, everyone would look at me. I was not accustomed to everyone looking at me as if something was wrong with my parenting; so I spent an inordinate amount of mental time in defense mode. Think that played a part in me sticking with kung fu?
I have to say, though, that my PDD baby was born with traits of the woman that I would want her to become anyway. She defends herself when she feels she’s being wronged – often, loudly. She got that from me (even the loud part, when I’m really upset); so I can’t honestly have a problem with it. It’s a tendency that sometimes has us shouting at each other, but God help me, I respect it. I’m even proud of how much better she’s gotten at making her case with a lower decibel level.
My girl has kept me on my toes for a dozen years now, either by battling me or necessitating that I go to battle for her. And that’s okay. Defend her I will for as long as she needs me to. More and more, that appears to be less and less.
And that simple fact is my lingering dose of Christmas happiness.