Tuesday, May 17, 2011

79 Months

It's well known that Lucas has spent many hours with his thumb in his mouth. From the time he was a wee one and just like his old man before him, who also was a notorious thumb-sucker, Lucas has found sweet comfort from the delicate solace of newborn remembrances. But at his age it has become a crutch and we've had many conversations with him about it, had many arguments about it and have tried many different remedies that haven't taken hold. We've gone over the subject more than enough and he still relied on his thumb to help relieve the stress.

I haven't wanted to become an ogre about the issue because I remember my parents and their hideous methods when they tried to remove the digit from my mouth. Their attempts at torture didn't help me to overcome my debilitating situation, actually causing the opposite reaction, one where I shrank further down into myself and pushed them farther away from the small island I chose to inhabit. I needed to discover a different way to deal with my stress and demands or taunting or shouting simply don't create the proper environment where I can thrive.

Lucas is the same way. When we are hard on him or demanding or even loud, he shuts down, always pushing us away. He wants to find a lonely dark corner where he can hide with his shame and anger and suffering. It's something that has become more and more apparent the older he gets because he is more and more expressive. The hurt and terror flash across his face in an instant and we can't escape the reality of what we are doing to him. But it's not easy learning to evolve our parenting techniques as he evolves right in front of us. We're so used to the lessons we've learned over the years and every day that we get older we find new ways to fall back on rutted habits that have developed in our daily routines. There are days where the last thing I want to deal with is a sullen six-year-old who doesn't know how to express his emotions in a coherent way. It can be infuriating and I have often come to realize that there are times now when I commiserate with my own parents and some of their methods that I always hoped to never repeat if I had children of my own.

But ultimately I know in my heart that my gruff, lazy response will get me nowhere with Lucas because he's a lot like me and it's taken many years to redevelop my relationship with my parents and it still isn't where I would like it to be. I don't want that to happen with my children. So that means that we needed to find a better outcome to the thumb situation. Lucas needed us to help him push his boundaries and find some peace in his heart when the storm clouds appear so menacing.

It's psychological but it's physical too. He is responding to stress in a obvious physical way that hearkens back to a time when it was the only answer for him. Well, a friend of ours, Dr. January West said that she would be willing to help. She practices Network Spinal Analysis (NSA), which is a chiropractic procedure that is not aggressive or invasive but focuses on the exact type of stressful energy that your body has difficulty releasing. NSA helps your body get back in tune by coordinated trigger points that help release all that negative energy that your body has locked inside. It seemed reasonable and she said she was willing to try and help Lucas out a little bit with his ordeal, so why not? It was better than fighting with him every night in order to tape up his thumb so it didn't end up stuck right back in his mouth.

Since Lucas started his treatments, it's been an interesting ride. He seemed to actually get worse for awhile but January said that it could take a little time, changing years of behavior doesn't happen overnight, and Lucas seemed to enjoy the sessions so we kept on keeping on. There even came a point where I was sure that it was useless and I even reverted back to taping his thumb up at night but then he simply stopped pretty quickly. You could see him catching himself when he reached his hand up out of habit and he even became proud of the fact that he was no longer sucking his thumb, bragging about it to me all of the time. It was very cute and sweet to see a change in him, even if he did have a setback or two over the next couple of weeks.

His evolution was pretty definitive though, in many ways more than just with his thumb. His bad attitude about school began to change, as well. We had fewer crazy tear-stained fights that had come up more recently. He also became more loving in gesture and deed, even kissing us on the lips again just because that was what he wanted. It's been a beautiful transition and I've become so convinced of January's NSA treatments that I've actually tried a few myself.

But through it all the thing I may be most happy about is that Lucas has started chanting with us. As we conducted our Buddhist practice over the years, Lucas has always been right here with us, occasionally sitting down for a minute or two but then bouncing up and out of our laps to terrorize the house like a hurricane. Though he's never really taken to it, he's always known what we are doing and we've tried to help him to understand why we feel it is so important to us. Now he spends much more time actually chanting with us and he seems to enjoy it! It's wonderful to see him taking this step on his own because we've always been very clear that his spiritual practice must be about him, for his own growth as a human being and that means taking responsibility for it when he was ready. It's ultimately his own decision but we have always encouraged him to join us when we chant, hoping that it would help bring him some solace.

Lucas is a very observant little guy and there have been deep, precious moments when it's been very clear that he is listening to us with all of his heart. Oh, to look into your child's eyes and really see that he is listening is such a gift and a moment of enlightenment all on its own. I think we try to be honest with him, most of all, and I hope that he truly appreciates that about us. I simply want him to understand that the greatest gift that we could ever give to him is the realization that whatever he wishes to accomplish in life, all that he desires, must come from within himself. He isn't ever going to stop sucking his thumb or biting his nails or beating himself up in some manner without challenging himself, without finding a way to reach down and grab that powerful potential that embodies who he is, that is only Lucas. If he can discover a way to touch that, he will find it much easier to overcome any idiosyncratic tendency that might arise in his life.

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