I put my kids in a pole-dancing class.
Mama’s little hustlers.
My son is receiving in-home occupational therapy for his specific cornucopia of issues. Some of his biggest issues (for me, anyway) are troubles with his proprioceptive and vestibular senses. That’s a fancy way of saying that he doesn’t have a sophisticated awareness of where his body is and what it’s doing. Those few really big words sum up what I’ve known and haven’t known about my kid since he was tiny. I remember coming out of the grocery store one day and watching him fall down yet another flight of stairs and saying, “I know all kids are clumsy, but there is something not right here.” When he lost half of his face to gravel during a riveting game of Duck, Duck, Goose, we finally called an OT. (This is after he got 20 stitches in his head, coming out of the tub, after undergoing a CT scan for falling off a bunk bed but before severing his Achilles by walking through the living room.)
Anyway, part of the treatment for these issues is to give him more (and more specific) sensory input than he’s currently getting. We are supposed to encourage him to do ‘heavy work’. Heavy work is pretty much what it sounds like–work that will put strain on his joints which will, ideally, help his body understand where it is and what he’s doing. Most kids get this stuff from everyday play. They run, jump, kick, whatever, and their bodies sort it out. Some kids don’t. My kid doesn’t. He needs more.
I’m wondering now about the fit between all of his various little issues. You know how, in the Simpsons, Montgomery Burns is said to have every single illness in the world but that they all work together in perfect harmony in order to keep him alive?
Well, I’m just thinking now about how my kid’s sensory issues play off one another to keep them all thriving. When he was little, my kid would cry when other kids came within ten feet of him. From birth, I think. I remember having to leave countless activities, because he wasn’t having it. He charmed the pants off adults, but loathed spending time with other children. (He likes kids now. Kinda.) I was thinking the other day, while watching some tiny little kids practice jumping together at the playground, that maybe my kid missed those critical experiences. Maybe because of all the crying around children stuff, he didn’t practice jumping as much as he should’ve.
It doesn’t matter. It’s not too late to catch up, and I certainly did the best I could’ve. He did too. So whatever. I enrolled him in a pole dancing class.
In his short seven years my kid has attempted and dropped out of the following sports: basketball, soccer, kung fu, rugby, and gymnastics. He’s also given surfing a go. I won’t say he dropped out of that. He’s still definitely keen to get back on the board, but we have to wait until the weather improves.
Knowing what I now know about how his body and mind work (or don’t) together, I feel a bit more compassion when I see him struggle through an activity. Today I sat through his pole dancing class (okay, it’s not actual pole dancing. It’s called aerial silks, and it’s really cool, and it’s taught by a guy with a blue mohawk) and only part of me shrivelled up and died when I saw the teacher say, “Straighten both of your legs” and my kid had no idea how to accomplish said task. The look on his face said, “Wait. I have legs?” But whatever. That’s his issue. What’s yours? We all have them. At the end of the class, I talked to the instructor (note to self: next time talk to the instructor FIRST). He interrupted my spiel by saying, “I can see there’s a disconnect between what he hears and what he can do, and that’s fine. He’ll either get it or he’ll fall. He’ll probably learn quickly.” I dunno. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t.
The point here is that knowledge really is power. A year ago, I watched my kid in basketball and was horrified by how he appeared on the court. There was all this, I’m embarrassed to say, shame with the way his body moved. And it made me incredibly sad. Here we are a year later, and his movements aren’t a whole lot better, but I get it now. We all get it. The kid is working hard. Good for him.