Okay, with just the introduction and the first chapter behind me, I have to admit that I’m not going to be able to review Ron Fournier’s Love That Boy. As I said before, I can muster not an ounce of objectivity. But it’s more than that. It’s that with every page, every paragraph, hell, sometimes every sentence, I am flooded with thoughts of Gray’s (and our) story.
He mentions his son Tyler’s aversion to certain fabrics…and a million thoughts fill my head about Gray’s tactile sensory sensitivities. How he refused to be without shoes as a toddler. Even when you’d change him into those footie pajamas of baby/toddlerhood, you had to put his shoes back on over top. We’d gone to the Chattanooga mall once time, Gray must have been about 18 months old. They had this amazing fun area for the little ones, I think it was 3-years-old and younger. Gray longingly watched the kids playing there, but couldn’t join them because the kids had to take their shoes off to go in. The change of the seasons, the long-sleeves to short-sleeves and vice versa, used to be a nightmare time for him. Having to make that switch caused him agony. We’d wait until the seasons were definitely settled so he didn’t have to go back and forth from short to long sleeves on a daily or semi-daily basis. We made it so he would just go through the switch twice a year. It was that he could feel so intensely where that sleeve ended! And it would take him a week or so to get used to that sensation being in a different place. He eventually got to a place where he just wore long sleeves all year long. Though now at 15, he is finally able to tolerate changing switching back and forth. Still not tolerated: tags, zippers, buttons, anything even remotely scratchy. He makes the exception for a jacket–it can have a zipper, because it doesn’t touch his skin. But it’s to this day not easy to convince him to wear a jacket.
The author mentions how they had to let Tyler fall into an almost sleeping state to get him to eat. More thoughts flood my head. How Gray as a toddler would moan as he ate. We used to just think it was because he was enjoying it. Now I wonder if it wasn’t to block out the sounds of other people eating. As he grew older, he was able to tell us how the sounds of other people eating just overwhelmed him. He’s had many a meltdown over someone “chewing too loudly.” And these days, we just allow him to eat in his room the vast majority of the time. Why make mealtime into an another sensory overload experience for him when we don’t have to…that would just be cruel. And he so very graciously gives it his best effort on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and when we go out to eat.
But it’s not just constantly seeing Gray, both past and present, in his son that makes this book too hard for me to review. It’s the fact that I can relate too closely with some of the author’s feelings, but so much of the time I just can’t. Part One of this book is titled “What We Want” and the first chapter is titled “Normal.” Along with sharing his own/his family’s experiences, he talks to a lot of other parents who have children who were diagnosed with Aspergers at a somewhat older age than is common these days. (Tyler was diagnosed at age 12, just as Gray was.) There’s a lot of talk about disappointment at having one’s expectations crushed. There’s talk from parents feeling guilty that they didn’t pay enough attention or ignored what was going on with their kids. There’s talk about how it would be better to have kids diagnosed early. Well, you know what–I’m pretty damn accomplished in the Mommy Guilt arena. I seem to be able to find a reason to feel guilty about just about anything. BUT I’m not going to feel guilty about accepting my baby/toddler/little boy/now teen for who he was/is. I am not going to feel guilty because I didn’t/don’t see his differences as something that is “wrong” with him. And still, on the other hand, there is the fact that perhaps an earlier diagnosis could have led us to tools to help him navigate in a society that seems to want to say there is something “wrong” with him. With those tools, maybe we could have saved him from the overwhelming anxiety he suffers from.
I have every reason to believe that that is where the author is going to lead us, however. His story, I have faith, starts with crushed expectations, but through their father/son road trips, ends with acceptance and admiration. And please don’t take anything I said in the last paragraph wrong–it is 110% obvious, that the author and the other parents he talked to love their children with all their hearts! It’s not that they are judging their kids, it’s just that society leads us to believe that there is a “normal,” and they expected their kids would be so.
I can’t promise that I won’t post about this book again–after all, it seems to be making me want to pour out thoughts and memories at an alarming rate. 😛 But it is doubtful that I will ever be writing any sort of concise review of it.