Learning Along the Way

They say you never stop learning. It’s true. It seems new things happen all the time and they require learning. How do I build the bookcase that comes in a cardboard box? What about my friend’s favorite recipe? What goes into the dish that makes it taste so good? In my case lately, what goes into a sensory bag? I didn’t know there was such a thing as a sensory bag, but I am finding out.

In case you are joining me for the first time, I started over at 54. What do I mean? In April of 2020, my grand nephew, then 17 months, came to live with us. He is still living with us and just turned three. Parenting a toddler at 54, now 55, is a unique experience in many ways.

What have I learned so far?

The most important thing – I am not alone on this unexpected journey. I am surrounded by supportive friends and family who have all in some way supported me, whether financially, emotionally, physically, prayerfully, or materially. I credit the Lord for working and moving among each one of them in my life. The Lord knew I needed help, and he sent the best.

When a toddler comes to live with you at 54, you learn a few things right away.

First of all, you are not in the same physical shape. I had more strength and stamina when my daughter was a baby, and I am slowly getting there – keyword – slowly. Put it this way; I don’t have a choice. He runs into the street – I run after him. I can hardly breathe after dashing into the road, but he is safe. He falls to the ground and has a tantrum. I fall to the ground to regain my breath.

Second, your house is not ready. I kid-proofed my home 20 plus years ago when my child was getting into everything. The days of making my house kid-proof have returned. Sure, the grandbabies will come for visits someday, but they will stay a short while and go home. So, put away those lovely knick-knacks you collected from friends and family over the years. Toss a blow-up mattress in the middle of your small living room. Make room for toys everywhere, and whatever you do, watch out for those wicked legos and other small toys that cause you to cry out to the Lord when you unknowingly step on one with your bare feet.

Third, each child is different. Yes, and there is no manual for your model. What worked for my daughter does not work for Jaxon. Boys are so different than girls. Throw in a precious child who appears to be developmentally delayed, and you have a different set of challenges. Talk about a learning curve, and there’s no time to waste.

Each day is a new opportunity to learn about Jaxon – how he thinks, why he does what he does, and how to manage and get him help.

Last month, the court awarded me custodial custody of Jaxon so I could get Jaxon the help he needs.

Years ago, a caretaker could bring a child to the doctor with no problem. The doctor provided the necessary treatment. The authority over a child wasn’t a big concern. That is not the case today.

Once it was determined Jaxon needed more care than his regular pediatrician could give, the search began for specialists who could help Jaxon. It was then I learned times have changed.

The doctors specializing in the kind of care Jaxon needs no longer feel comfortable seeing a child who is being cared for by someone other than the parent. They now require proof of custody, a legal document from the court.

When I asked why they told me it’s because they have found themselves in the middle of too many disputes between the missing parent who suddenly appears and the caretaker. The two parties do not agree on the care the child needs, and doctors find themselves in the middle. One would think both parties would agree on what’s best for the child, but how would the missing parent know what the caretaker lives each day? They would not, so the two disagree, which leads to all kinds of issues and ultimately hurts the child.

Thankfully in Jaxon’s case, his mom is on board and agrees that he needs help and is open to him getting whatever he needs.

I have started making the much-needed doctor’s appointments for Jaxon. Hopefully, we can get some answers. My goal is to rule everything out and narrow down what is causing the speech delays and the behavior issues that involve headbanging beyond what I consider normal temper tantrums.

It is heartbreaking to watch this little boy injure himself. I have never seen behavior like this before and I have been around hundreds of children over the years. Jaxon hits himself, pulls on his head, runs into things, headbangs, sometimes bites his arm, and vocalizes his frustrations.

So, while we wait for his appointments, I am trying to learn everything I can to help in the meantime. Much of it has to do with the function of the behavior. What is he trying to accomplish? How do I respond to these behaviors? It requires you to think beyond what you are used to or have been taught in the past.

The learning never stops and here lately what I am learning is more involved than the random instructions for putting together a piece of furniture or a delicious recipe. What I am learning hopefully helps Jaxon become all he can be and more.

With the Lord’s help and guidance, the road ahead is filled with wonderful opportunities to learn more about what makes Jaxon tick and what other parents, grandparents, and caretakers go through each day as they give everything they have to help children in need.

There are thousands of children just like Jaxon, and these folks are doing all they can to get them the care they so desperately need. It’s not easy, can be expensive, can be frustrating, frightening, and time-consuming, but the investment is worth it when you finally hear or see that child do something new. We celebrate the small wins!

So many people have told me how lucky Jaxon is to have me. In my eyes, it’s not luck but a blessing – for both of us. The Lord brought us together for a reason. I believe the Lord is teaching me many things through Jaxon and one day I pray I will see the fruit of the lessons I have learned. I am blessed with the opportunity to be entrusted with this little guy and so thankful for all those who have come up alongside us on this journey.

Learning along the way,

The Teaching Lady

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