Toddlers with OCD haven’t learned about “germs” yet.
Soooo… they don’t know the “right” way to have OCD (the hand-washing symptom that most people expect), but they know stuff around them just isn’t right and the people around them don’t seem to “get” what it takes to “fix” things. The frustration builds in them as they can’t articulate what they need to have done, which of course manifests to people that don’t know what’s going on as behavior issues and manipulating the entire family. Of course, this is kind of the case, since they are too young to carry out their own rituals and their care is in the hands of their family. We HAVE to enable their OCD rituals when they are so small, for their sanity. That is my momma “take” on it.
At least in our case, in the beginning it was really trial and error in figuring out what was necessary to get, or keep things settled down. As I’ve mentioned before, our entire day was filled with rituals already. At the risk of repeating myself from previous posts, I’ll go ahead and give you an example of one of the earliest ones that appeared when our daughter was still in her crib and young enough to require a hand to hold when toddling through an open space. Keep in mind that we had no reason to suspect that there was anything out of the ordinary going on in her little head. She was smart as a whip, bright-eyed, and right on schedule with all her cognitive and physical development. We’d already had one child under our belt (more on him in posts to come–a true angel) ten years prior, so felt we had a pretty good point of reference on relative “normal” kid behaviors. — BTW, our daughter was then and continues to be an angel as well. If only we could lift these clouds from our children.
Anyway, our day began with our little one waking up in her crib calling for Mommy. Now, Daddy or her brother could go in to greet her and “pluck” her happily from her crib, and bring her down the stairs, she’d be laughing and sweet and happy…UNTIL…(drum roll)…she saw MOMMY. Woops…you’d think she’d be happy to see Mommy, since Mommy is pretty much “where it’s at”. Instead, (and we’d all try our best to encourage happy feelings) her eyes would lock onto mine and the expression on her face would change to one of complete devastation. The tears would flow, the screams of actual “pain” would fill the room, and she would DEMAND whoever brought her down, to take her back up to her crib where she would lay back down and cover herself back up with her blankie, complete with a binkie in her mouth. She’d want the door closed so she could start the entire process over again with Mommy coming in to pick her up. Of course, when I heard her calling for me, I would run in to get her. I would hold her tight and rock her right there in her room. By then, I’d be choking back the tears (not doing so great), and her little face was red and tear-stained, but so sweet and happy, and looking up at me as if all was right with the world and there was no memory of the horrors that had happened moments ago.
Enable? You bet’cha! Whatever it takes to give them some peace. We had no clue what was happening, but we knew there was some sort of trouble brewing. When it’s you and your baby, you do anything you have to do.