Let me give you a little back story on Big J.
He was born 15 weeks early (25 weeks gestation). I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned he was a preemie? Otherwise referred to as an undercooked chicken?
You might also recall that Big J is a twin to spunky little L. And this is important to the story, for the purposes of scientific observation, because I have had a side-by-side comparison for these two, as it relates to their general development.
I will also tell you, that when babies are born and require a NICU, it is generally acknowledged that WHITE MALE babies do the WORST. As far as handling the stress of the NICU, and the speed with which they tend to heal and mature and develop. Almost from Day 1, we were made aware of the fact that Big J would probably be slower to thrive than his Asian, female, counterpart.
Oh my god, this turned out to be SO TRUE. This kid was completely content to let the ventilator breathe for him. Like, forever. As preemies grow, their lungs eventually take on some of the work of breathing (which is still inadequate to sustain life), and the ventilator then compensates and picks up the slack. Big J, however, decided it was more fun to pop some horse tranquilizers, while "riding his ventilator" and making it do ALL the work. Turkey.
After nine weeks of these shenanigans, I began to catch on. And just for comparison, L had some pretty major complications early on (including heart surgery) and had STILL managed to lose her ventilator 2 weeks earlier. Also important to note: Big J wasn't getting worse. He just wasn't progressing. We were at a standstill.
And so I BEGGED our doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, clergy staff, janitors, candy strippers, random hospital visitors, you name it, to pull that damn tube out of his throat and let him try it on his own. This tactic took weeks (mostly because I have no medical training beside the internet), but everyone was hesitant because he didn't appear ready. They eventually put him on an i.v. caffeine drip, to wake him the hell up and force him to get on with it already. And I'm fairly confident that if one of those doctors hadn't taken a risk, Big J would currently be the largest preemie on record in St. John's NICU.
We were ALL PREPPED for the rather high odds that Big J would be put back on a ventilator within 24 hours. And on a Saturday in February, almost exactly 6 years ago, I heard my baby cry (barely, he was quite hoarse) for the first time.
And he has remained free of a breathing machine ever since.
Enter potty training. Or the time Big J thought I was trying to ruin his life by making him pee in a toilet. The horror.
Very similar to our ventilator experience, Big J would have been more than content to wear a diaper and have someone else change him. Hourly, for the rest of his life.
It didn't go well, for a long, LONG time.
The pediatrician asked about it at a check-up (probably 3 years) and said not to force it, but to let it happen in it's own time. To which I replied that I have had to force this kid to do EVERYTHING. And then she laughed and probably made note to call the Division of Family Services.
Enter learning to dress ourselves. Wait. We're still there, actually.
Big J pretty much gives up before he even tries.
Are you beginning to see a pattern? He's a few years away from posting a need for a harem on Craigs list, that would do such things as diaper and dress him.
To Big J's future wife: I know you are reading this, and I would like to put on record that his tendencies have been well-documented for his whole life. But if he still requires wiping and shirt buttoning, then I am deeply, deeply sorry because somewhere along the line I steamrolled right past what would be considered normal parenting failure and straight into WTF-why-didn't-you-just-let-him-have-a-pacifier-for-22-years-while-you-were-busy-ruining-his-life.
And finally. Handwriting.
Big J's biggest struggle is in the fine-motor department--handwriting, for those of you who haven't received thousands of hours of therapy (for fine-motor related activities, not for mental health issues....but I could use a little of that, no?). Though as I say this, I have a pretty strong suspicion that Big J could be dyslexic, and if I am right, then that will undoubtedly be his largest hurdle. Well, besides being compared to an undercooked chicken at birth.
I air these thoughts about my boy not to harp on what he doesn't do, or to broadcast the battles he will fight. But because there is NOTHING WRONG with being dyslexic or having learning issues. Nothing. Trust me, when I say that I know how hard it is to fight against the *ideals* of what having kids should be like--but I think most of you would agree that those perfect child dreams run screaming out the door the once your little sweetheart keeps you up every night for 2 years straight AND manages to accessorize all of your clothing with vomit and/or snot at least once a day. Even moms who wear stilettos get shat on every now and again. Motherhood ain't pretty, kids ain't clean. And I'm talking physically, emotionally, spiritually. All of it. Poop stained and tiring.
They struggle. Big J struggles with school and writing and reading. And it is going to be a looooooooooong battle, because he gives up before he even tries (hence, the life-long pattern). We do sight word flash cards everyday, and he begins to whimper if he gets one wrong. From there he begins to guess at words he knows, and panic, and then generally snot his body weight into a kleenex. It is bru-tal.
But as it turns out, with a little reward incentive and some confidence boosting, Big J's handwriting is pretty good. He has a great memory for his strokes. It used to take a lot of reminding to get him to apply good pressure with his pencil, but that isn't so much a struggle for us here at home anymore. Now I am working on his speed and his level of distraction. When I can get him past his confidence issues, he actually OWNS his work. Takes pride in it.
I will also let it be known that there is very little coddling in my methods. You can blame this on the core of my very being--I am not a patient, emotionally nurturing person by nature. I'm a git-'er-done kind of gal. Which is, honestly, FLABBERGASTING, because I get very little actually done. Crap, I am failing miserably at being me.
Anyway. I am learning Big J. Because I *almost* fell for the snot bomb tactic, and my instinct was to back off and let the professionals deal with it. There are a million different things I would rather do than watch my kid struggle to write a word. It is messy. Emotionally uncomfortable. Snotty. But I have also been handed an opportunity to build him up and PUSH him past his comfort zone.
Which, would still be a teeny-tiny incubator and a painful breathing machine, if he had his way. But I'm just not content with letting him settle for that.