Friday, November 11, 2011

The Post in Post-Traumatic

I haven't been writing much lately, I've just been in the mood.  I have started a couple of posts, written a few sentences and then stopped, preferring to watch tv or Facebook where I can sound off usually in 25 words or less without having to make a commitment to it.  

Actually I think my lack of blogging has something to do with my recent trip to the US.  I always get wistful after being back home, although usually I refer to it as crashing.  I do pretty well living abroad, I am hooked in and do well with dealing with the whole being far away from home thing, sure there are things and people I miss but I manage to keep it in check, but after a trip home, after getting that fix of family and friends, the convenience, the shopping, the knowing-of-the-language and time I save not having to translate things in my head usually gets to me when I get back and I get about a month or so of feeling slightly blue.

This time I thought it might be different, because I didn't take Leo and Maya with me and that my joy at being with them again would stave off my sad pangs.  And it's true, on the way back home I anticipated seeing them again and didn't spend most of the flight back in a teary state but was rather excited to land, get home and be with them again.  I am glad to be home, this is where I belong, with Leo and Maya but still, together with the joy and relief, the sadness is there too.

And the number one way I know?  The not writing.  I have thought about a lot of topics but once I get my fingers flying across the keyboard, I read what I wrote and think, ughhh, who wants this?  Now I usually think this when I read my first draft of a blog post but I usually like the message I am trying to put across and after some tweaking, linking, and rewording I am usually happy to hit that publish button.  But these last two weeks?  Nothing.

It's definitely post-traumatic US disorder.

But the good news is it isn't fatal.  So, here I am pushing myself to jump start my engine and finish a whole blog post.  One thing I have learned now while suffering from this affliction is sometimes you have to stop pushing to get something to happen.

Case in point - Maya.

Brushing teeth has always been somewhat of a struggle for her.  Like many autistic kids she has some sensory issues and let's face it, hygiene has always been a battle with her, I like to blame it on her European roots since one of my go-to jokes is always that Europeans need to be introduced to soap (it is so true in France, trust me.  Every croissant-surrender-loving one of them walks around with greasy hair).

Maya likes bathing well enough (well after we got through that year period where she was petrified of the bath and she screamed bloody murder when I turned the water on) but she was for years a kid who didn't mind having a dirty face, unbrushed hair and sticky hands.  Brushing teeth has always just been a battle of epic proportions.  Even now my girl often has a disheveled look about her, it rocks me to my core, particularly when I see these other kids whose hair looks neat and whose clothes are perfectly tucked in most of the time and then here comes Maya, her half a plumbers crack exposed, her hair flying half out of her ponytail, all knotted and mangled and her socks half-tucked into her leggings.  Over the years though I have learned to choose my battles and not to freak out so much about it, because after all what is a little dirt and what does it really matter as long as she is happy?  And microscopically it has improved.  She now washes her hands and face when she is done eating each day and about half the time she even uses soap.  You have no idea what a victory that is.

But brushing teeth has always been difficult.  She hated it, I think it has something to do with the toothpaste and her sensory issues.  And it takes 
F O R E V E R, 20 minutes just to get her to stay in the bathroom and 8 to get her to open her mouth and let me quickly brush her teeth.  For a long time I used to do it in bed with her, where I would drag 2 small containers with me, one with water and one for her to spit in and that was the only way I could manage it with her.  Slowly though she's gotten used to it although she still complains when I used the more minty Dutch toothpaste over the non-minty one (which they don't sell for kids her age in the Netherlands but thankfully when I was in the US I stocked up).  

I have tried to teach her to brush her own teeth but it has never been very successful, she's haphazard with it and not very thorough and more than half the time she has a cow about it, so I have always done it.  Often I brush her teeth at the same time I give her a bath before I put the water in the tub although now that the days are short, she often takes her bath before dinner so after dinner I drag her upstairs to do it.  In the last months it has become much less of a battle, she accepts that it is something that has to be done.  Like Nixon and China, Maya and brushing teeth have entered an era of detente.   I think having all that dental work in the summer somehow made her turn a corner, although who really knows?   I don't press her about brushing her teeth in the morning (insert your judgement about my lousy parenting and virtual lectures on dental hygiene here), On weekends there is a morning brush, but before school there is so much pressure to get her ready for school and have her eat her breakfast all before the bus comes to pick her up at 7.20 that I cannot afford to get her up 15 minutes earlier to brush her teeth and introducing it would cause a battle which would stress out everyone's mornings.   At school, after they have their snack in the morning they brush their teeth.  I know it is not the best thing for her dental health, but with autism you really have to make choices.  So, I let well enough alone in the mornings.  So goes the toothbrushing in our house.  

But this past Sunday evening, the most amazing thing happened.  I still in my bluish state was feeling particularly lazy (and anyone who knows me knows I can bring laziness to an art form, this past weekend I came home from work on Friday and didn't leave the house until I had to go back to work on Tuesday, which to me is perfection).  I came upstairs as soon as dinner was over and Maya and Leo were playing downstairs and watching TV.  I did my usual prodding before I headed up the stairs, "when Tom and Jerry is over, time to come upstairs and brush your teeth."  I came up and got her toothbrush ready and laid it on the sink with toothpaste on it and sauntered over to my lap top to play around.  I heard Maya come upstairs but I was distracted with some ultra important Facebook post and didn't channel her immediately into the bathroom.  After a few minutes I figured I better get her going, so I went over to her room, but no Maya.  I walked around the upstairs and all of a sudden I saw her in the bathroom brushing her teeth.  

All. By. Herself.  

No begging, pleading, cajooling or bribing.  Just there brushing her teeth, Maya doing her best to brush them the way I do, to get every tooth front and back!  I wanted to jump up and down but was afraid my excitement would scare her so I quickly came back to my room before she saw me.  When she came to find me I told her I saw her brushing her teeth all by herself and she said, "yes, I can do it mommy, and tomorrow I can put my own toothpaste on the brush too." 

And every evening since Sunday, she has come upstairs and brushed her own teeth.  And she comes over to breathe on me when she is done to show me she put the toothpaste on all by herself.  Last night I told her that we really should start brushing her teeth before school and braced myself for the inevitable protest and wheeling and dealing which usually comes when I make new requirements of her (her currency, usually an iPad/iPhone app).  But she simply asked me if she could pick out another toothbrush at the store this weekend to keep in the downstairs bathroom for after breakfast.  

Snap.  Post traumatic US disorder?  Over.  

Truth be told, if I wasn't in my slightly melancholic state, this never would have happened.  I would have remained a Sargeant of sorts, leading my troops into battle, preparing for the onslaught and strategizing - oh, the strategizing.   

Sometimes all that is required to make stuff happen is to leave things on their own.  

I must remember that.  

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