Spoiled Baby or “Budding” Rituals?

As I mentioned, we’d already had a son with all of what we’d considered to be the “usual” high-energy”, “creative”,  “do it myself”, squeal in a restaurant, and won’t go to bed stuff and felt like he was turning out wonderfully.  So, naturally, we thought we were prepared to start over when our baby daughter arrived on the scene, ten years later, with the help of an excited big brother!

This was a good-natured, sweet little baby that loved to play and cuddle!  I can’t say exactly when we started noticing “differences”, but it was definitely within her first year.  (Please forgive my overlapping previous posts from time to time) We started noticing that some of the regular daily routines were taking on more importance to our little daughter.  She seemed to REALLY like/need them to take place in the exact sequence, and when they didn’t, for instance if the phone rang or you just forgot to have something laid out in the exact spot you were supposed to lay it in, she would begin the red-faced, “my arm is stuck in the car door” (as if), kind of scream.  It was the “I’m REALLY in pain, here!” cry.  She’d be throwing herself the direction of where the sequence started.  The first few times it happened, we looked all over her to find what was hurting her before we finally put together that something broke the sequence.

I’ll never forget the first time we figured it out.  We were relieved and horrified all at the same time when she was instantly pacified by our starting over right at the beginning. It was pretty much up to us to figure out which “irritants” in her day, were building into more than regular “fussy baby” things.  Turns out these rituals escalated till they took over meal time, bath time (and on into bedtime), car seat (in and out), comforting after getting hurt, reading a book, and so on.  To say we shouldn’t have all jumped through her hoops is just (excuse me for being blunt here…) ignorant.  “Until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes”…you know what I mean… You are, after all, playing a complete guessing game.  You’re trying to teach basic manors to a baby (not some diabolical, master manipulator-oh wait,…a baby:D ), while at the same time keeping peace in the household and being fair to your other child.  You’re trying to discern which things are just “spoiled baby” things and which things are these “mystery ritual” things. It also seemed fair to attempt to balance some quality of life for the family as a whole in there somewhere.  She had to learn to respect all of our rights as well.  She was just SO young and had all the basics of life to learn in addition to negotiating around these “worries” popping up everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of sweet times.  We had/have a very loving family.  We just tried to be cautious and really didn’t have a clue what we were dealing with at this point.

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4 Responses to Spoiled Baby or “Budding” Rituals?

  1. whollan1 says:

    Thank you for writing this blog!!! My son who is 3 1/2 was just diagnosed with OCD at the end of Dec and it is really difficult to find anyone who knows or has experience with OCD at this young age. I just happened to stumble upon your blog. I’m considering starting my own. My son is taking 8cc’s of liquid Celexa daily. I really think he had OCD from the day he was born. He was such a difficult baby. He first noticed something was terribly wrong when he started rejecting all meats, fruits, and vegetable around 12 to 15 months of age. He would only eat crunchy foods like puffs, crackers, cheerios. We went to an intensive feeding therapy program and received a little help. Most resources that have been available to us in the Memphis area proved to be unhelpful. All anyone could tell us was that he did not have Autism but they couldn’t tell us what was causing his problems. As he got older we saw lots of patterns and predictable behaviors but it wasn’t until right before his 3rd birthday that it got so bad that our whole day revolved around walking on eggs shells making sure we were anticipating his needs correctly. It was more stressful then I can say but I’m sure you know. We finally stumbled upon a neurologist about 3 hours away from us who has seen multiple children like mine who have severe OCD. He said my son is about an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10:-(. But since we started the medicine he is functioning just like a normal 3 yr old boy with the exception of his eating-still only crunchy starches. We were so thankful to finally get some help. But we have definitely dealt with the run of the mill judgements from others who want to tell us what they think is wrong with our child or how we should deal with his OCD as well as the usual advice you get from people regarding eating difficulties–just don’t give him what he wants–he won’t starve. If they knew our son, then they would know he would certainly starve himself before he would eat foods outside of his “safe” foods. So glad to find someone on here who understands. Could you tell me more about any struggles you had with your daughter as she got older? Any medication problems? Have you found anything to be particularly helpful that you would pass along? What area are you in? Do you have plenty of resources and support available where you live? Sorry I know I have tons of questions but you are the first person I have found who is writing about something we have been experiencing everyday. Thank you for your time!!

  2. Mom says:

    I’m so glad our experiences can be a help to you, but also so sad to hear that you’re going through through this with your little son. I know the pain and frustration of trying to convince doctors (and friends and family) that there’s more at play than a your son being “picky eater” or behavior/discipline problems. We withstood countless “suggestions” on both fronts for a number of years from lots of people that really didn’t “get it”. The problem is, if you’re not immediate family, you won’t “get it”.

    I found it interesting that your son was formally diagnosed at almost the exact age as our daughter, and was showing symptoms really early, as well. We came at it from a different angle (pediatrician-child psychologist-child psychiatrist), but ultimately came to the same conclusion. There is no mistaking the symptoms. The food thing is sure a hard one, huh? Uh, yeah…he would starve himself! It would actually be worth it to hold out for the crunchy bites! I totally get it. Our daughter was more into the layout and exact shapes of her foods. She also had a VERY limited diet, and it mattered who made it, served it, and in what order. I always found it tough to find proteins she’d eat.

    I’m so glad your son responded well to Celexa. We landed on Zoloft after trying three others. Since it wasn’t available or approved for her age (at that time), we had to crush the pills and add it to juice each morning. She’s still on Zoloft and responds to it. She’s never missed a day (at 16 yrs old). We see her psychiatrist every three months (insurance requirement), which is a good thing, I believe, for him to keep checking with her on dosage. She also takes Focalin for ADHD, which she started about 3 or 4 yrs ago due to severe concentration issues. Homework was taking many hours/night and the Focalin made a HUGE difference for her. She has few to no side effects from her meds.

    I’ll try to re-read my previous posts from the early years and think of more things that might be a help to you. The one thing I CAN say is, hang in there! These are exceptionally smart kids, and they have so much going on in their heads (as if you didn’t know), that pretty much no one acknowledges but us. It must be horrible to have to depend so completely on others (ie: us) to establish and carry out the very rituals that will hopefully “scratch the itch” that’s driving you crazy. Such is the life of the baby/toddler with OCD, I figure. My husband, my son (the big brother), and I totally know what you’re going through (albeit somewhat different symptoms). I wish my daughter could go back in time and articulate what she was thinking back then. Maybe she could help you. She listens to stories of those days and just marvels.

    We live in the Seattle area and do have lots of resources. The problem with the really young kids is that it’s you that needs the “tools” till they are old enough to benefit from the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. We saw the child psychologist about 5 times and he taught us a lot (just prior to medication), then that was it till she was much older. Mostly her appointments consisted of medication management when she was little.

    Let me know if you can think of any specific questions. I’m so happy to help if I can. Like I said, I’ll try to read over my posts. Bless your hearts. All the best to your family… Stay in touch…

  3. whollan1 says:

    This is what a typical day would look like for us prior to our son being diagnosed and put on medicine. Our son wakes up and comes into our room looking for me. If my husband talked to him first he fell out on the floor kicking and screaming. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with his dad. He would scream at him, not let him touch him, told him he didn’t love him, etc. etc. So I would get up with him and take him to his bathroom so he could use the potty. His potty stool had to have it’s sticker facing out or otherwise he would move it. He had to be the one to flush the toilet. If I accidentally flushed it without thinking it was absolutely the end of the world and I would regret it for the rest of the day. So then I help him put on his clothes and he only wants red clothing items. And they better not have tags on them or else I had to cut them out or he wasn’t wearing them. We would leave the bathroom and he would walk thru one hallway and I would have to walk thru the other or else he would tantrum. He had to get to the den first or else he would tantrum. If he takes a shower he only wanted a red towel. Had to have a washcloth for his face if water got on it. And our shower has double doors and you could only get him out of one specific door everyday. His breakfast food had to be arranged on his plate in a certain fashion and if his cracker was broken or missing a corner he would not eat it and demand a new one or tantrum. Then he would play with his trains and if the train wheels had hair on them then I would have to wash them off before he would play with them. If the train wheels got off the track or the train didn’t operate just the way he wanted he would tantrum. I had to give him plenty of notice before we left for school so it didn’t happen unexpectedly. He had to have certain things in the car with him or else he would tantrum (chapstick, sunglasses, black gloves). One day we left his navy blue coat at school and all we had was a brown one at home and I thought I was going to have to break into that school and get it. That is how bad the tantrum was. I would panic everytime we would get in the car worried that I would forget something or do something wrong. I was on eggshells. Only I could take him to school during this period and only I could pick him up or else he got extremely upset. We had to walk a certain way into the school (up the stairs instead of the ramp) and he had to always be allowed to use the key to get in. If someone tried to hold the door open for us or open it first-he would tantrum. So all of this would be the same on the way home from school. Same scenario once we were home. Then at bedtime he would only sleep under a small baby blanket and it had to be the same one. If you tried to cover him up with anything different even after he was asleep he would wake up and realize it and get very angry and kick it off. This is just what a typical day would look like for us. There were lots of other things that would happen between or happen on days that weren’t so planned but all in all this is to show how severe it was. Christmas day we were all in tears because everything was upsetting him and causing him to tantrum. Thank God for finally getting him diagnosed and on medicines. All of these things besides his food preferences have changed. I’m so thankful for finally finding someone who knew what to do with our situation. Thank you so much again for writing this blog and if I think of other specific questions I will certainly message you. Oh I do have one question-has your daughter been effected socially due to the disorder. Did kids make fun of her? Do her peers have trouble understanding? What about teachers? Were they helpful or judgemental? We are about to start private school pre-k in the fall and the kids are just getting to the age where they recognize that what Cooper eats is very different from what they eat. I’m curious as to whether or not this will translate into teasing.

  4. Mom says:

    I’m so sorry I’ve taken so long to respond to your comment. It’s certainly not due to lack of interest, I assure you…never! Your story is like reading our own. Our bath-time rituals were some of the hardest to overcome, as they ran right into our bed-time rituals. Our evening started around 7:00 (after the whole meal thing), then ran right through to around 11:00 most nights. –The fixating on one parent thing is very familiar to us as you can see by several of my posts. I’m happy to report that it eased up a great deal over the years here in our house. Unfortunately, it makes life for both of you while it’s happening, really difficult. Even with the meds, it can still be really hard and take so much patience and so many tears to get through each day. –Our daughter was in public school from K-3rd grade after being in church pre-K. I always made a point of meeting with the teachers prior to school starting and making sure that she got to see the room, meet the teacher herself, sit in her desk, and ask any questions she had. I’d take a picture of her with the teacher by her desk, etc. Also, we’d go and look at the lunchroom, etc. and meet the music teacher, check out the gym, meet the PE teacher, the principal, and anything else that could come up. Before school starts, meet with the school and take in a letter from your doctor stating that Cooper qualifies for special accommodations under a “Section 504″, which will guarantee that the school will do whatever necessary to insure that his educational needs be met, whatever they may turn out to be, as they come up. You will need to set up a meeting with the principal, the Special Ed. teacher, Cooper’s teacher, and the school counselor probably. They will ask you a few questions just to validate his needs and ask what you think they can do to accommodate him. Then, when you have all this on file, you’re good to go for the public school system. We had a fairly positive experience for the first year and a moderate experience for the balance of her years there at our neighborhood school. –At the 4th grade, we chose to move our daughter (and our son, 10 years earlier) to our church school, 20 miles away, near my husband’s work, and to the more gentle environment with so many fewer kids. Since it’s a church school and not federally funded, they didn’t require a Section 504 to accommodate her needs. The teachers always let me bring her up to get acquainted with the classroom and visit wherever she needed to before the school year. The beauty of the church/private school with the smaller class sizes is you have much better handle on (however crude this may sound) the quality of your son’s day and how it goes, with fewer variables. The staff has fewer restrictions as far as working with you to accommodate various “symptoms” and “rituals” that he simply MUST carry out privately, but would rather not have any classmates know about. The likelihood of teasing is far less likely as well. We found that as our daughter got a little older, she chose which really close friend or two to confide in, that she believed would stick by her no matter what. I did share with several parents on a strictly need to know basis. I felt like this helped on several field trips, etc. where I needed extra “coverage”. –I need to wind up for tonight, but wanted to let you know I’m still here! I’ll finish up my post tomorrow evening if I can!… You’re not alone.

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