My middle boy is about to turn 3. He can’t decide between a spider cake (?) and a butterfly cake (??). He wants a watch for his birthday. A Dora watch. He asks me the time about 5 million times a day so hopefully, the watch might take a bit of the pressure of the situation.
He is a delight. It has been amazing to see him develop, taking on language so easily, singing songs at the top of his voice, enjoying having stories read to him, having meaningful but circular discussions about motorbikes and doing so many things that my oldest boy has struggled with or is yet to achieve.
Although some things have come easily to him, emotionally he faces many challenges. For many kids in care, this is their kryptonite. It makes them vulnerable. It makes them act out. It makes them seem immature for their age. It holds them back. It’s scary stuff.
I recently read an hilarious list from Jason Good about 46 Reasons My 3 Year Old Might Be Freaking Out. It made me feel a bit better to see that some regular kid is freaking out because the inside of his nose smells bad or his hair is too heavy. But when a child experiences trauma, the freaking out comes from a very deep place. So deep, it has a Latin name – the amygdala.
This little corner of our grey matter is like an obsessive gatekeeper with an incredible memory for detail. It processes our experiences, emotions and memories and tells them where to go in no uncertain terms. When our experiences generate a fearful response our amygdala is telling us to freeze, fight or fly, based on the things we have learned about life.
We do all this from the get go. Little babies learn very quickly how to minimize themselves in a fearful situation. Some internalise their feelings, and will even go to sleep as a form of protection. Others may scream and scream and scream – fighting their fears.
We’ve got a few changes going on at home with the demolition of the old kitchen and the construction of the new, autism friendly kitchen. It has been difficult for my sweet, almost 3 year old.
‘Put the old kitchen BACK’
‘Are the guys here? Are they going to use their tools?’
‘STOP!! Don’t move that fridge, put it back NOW!
Of course, we’ve done a lot of things outside in the back yard and we’ve been doing a lot of pretend play with his own personal set of tools (excellent Christmas present Aunty S!) and a LOT of talking about things that are scary.
They say (yes ‘they’ do) that the experience based blueprint we create during the first 12 months of life takes many more years of unlearning when there is trauma involved. It can be done. Kryptonite’s power can be overcome and rendered neutral. We are working on it Superman.