A promise is a promise, in my eyes
Can’t say you’re gonna just to compromise
The very thing that keeps two hearts intertwined
A promise is a promise you can’t deny, there’s no way
No way, no, there ain’t no way
A man’s only as good as his word
“Promises” ~ India Arie
As we continue to wean Nik off the Lamictal, bit by tiny, bit things are changing all over the place. Nik’s been learning a couple of new signs and some animal sounds with much greater ease and speed. He’s been working on dressing himself —to a certain extent anyway; he’s much better at the undressing part these days! He’s making progress in allowing greater quantities and thicknesses of food to enter his mouth; I daresay he’s actually doing it quite willingly.
Communication in general is on the rise. Where Nik still won’t actually point to the thing he wants —and I tend to wonder how much of that is related to his cerebral palsy and to his ability to control the muscles of his hands in so fine a way just yet — he has begun to make very clear choices when they are offered. We’ve progressed from Nik simply patting his chest to indicate yes or please if he’s asked “Would you like Mary Poppins/Signing Time/Cracker/Apple” one at a time, Nik will now wait until he’s been shown the two choices. Then he will indicate please while looking at the preferred choice. Lately, he’s actually begun to reach for the preferred thing. He’s also getting quite good at indicating no by gently pushing something away.
He’s getting much better at following simple instructions —as good as any small child with a strong will can possibly be, anyway. He’s especially grasping the concept of gentle hands and is greatly improving upon his ability to regulate his strength or pressure with his hands. I discovered this in the most delightful way just a few days ago.
We were waiting to see the pediatrician on Tuesday; Nik was sitting on the exam table and I was standing in front of him. I leaned down on my elbows and Nik began to look into my eyes very intently. I was quite surprised; I don’t recall him doing that since he was about a two years old! As he gazed into my eyes, he reached out with his fingertips and began touching my eyelashes, my cheeks, my hair. I only had to tell him “gentle hands” a couple of times as he explored. It was an intimate moment I’m not likely to forget; I was nearly in tears when the doctor walked in!
With each new decrease in his Lamictal —once his body adjusts to the new sensations and signals —Nik really seems to make new cognitive leaps. He’s finally making headway recognizing colors and sorting things. He’s much more conscious of who’s around him when we are out and about; he’s willing to try new physical activities such as playing with balls and swinging —both things he really didn’t care for in the past. He’s also developing a bit of separation anxiety and is learning how to use his emotions and behaviors to manipulate people!
Since my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, Nik has been extremely adamant that I be the one to carry him up to bed or to put him in his crib; if Niksdad has carried him upstairs, Nik will dive toward me, wrapping his arms around my neck. As soon as he’s in his crib, Nik’s hands desperately reach for mine; he clings to me like a lifeline. Sometimes he will wrap his arms around my hand so it is pinned between his head and the mattress; on those nights I have little choice but to wait the few minutes it takes for him to pass out from sheer exhaustion.
If I commit the egregious sin of removing my hand too soon Nik twitches and whines and begins to cry. I’m such a sucker —though I much prefer the term soft touch —that I usually let him have his way. I know, I know. But we never got those early bonding experiences where he could nurse and drift to sleep in my arms; technology came between us for so long that I can’t help but feel selfish.
When Nik wakes in the middle of the night —thankfully, a waning occurrence with the exception of this latest ear infection and the first night or two after a decrease in his Lamictal —it is pretty much the same routine as at bedtime; I have actually fallen asleep with my head on the side of the crib on a many occasions to avoid the histrionics which ensue if I don’t. Yes, it would be simpler/better to let him cry it out. The challenge is that Nik is big enough and strong enough that he can not only hurt himself thrashing around in the crib —and has — but he can also break the slats if he kicks and pushes hard enough.
With his latest ear infection, Nik has been highly defensive of his right ear. If I so much as wad up a tissue and come near him —merely to blot the gunk running from his ear —Nik falls apart completely. Ear drops? Forget it; it takes both Niksdad and me to hold Nik down to do the deed. The result is a sobbing, kicking, screaming, flailing child —an utter joy to behold, yes —who then collapses against me with his little chest heaving and the lower lip quivering. Did I mention this now happens when I approach him to wipe his nose or to change his diaper? Yes, he is that paranoid about his ear.
So I decided to try an experiment yesterday. I simply promised Nik I wouldn’t touch his ear and then I kept my promise. Every time I had to approach him to wipe his nose or wash his hands or face, I simply repeated the phrase “No ear, I promise. Mommy won’t touch your ear. I promise.” And I didn’t touch his ear. By bedtime, he was less gun shy around tissues and baby wipes. A very good thing since those are my stock in trade around here!
I promise. Knock wood, I think it’s actually working! It’s a simple phrase to utter; people do it all the time —then often don’t honor it with their kids. I am making certain that Nik understands that I mean what I say. I have no clue at what age other kids catch on to the concept of promises but I can tell you this —Nik gets it. Completely.
How do I know this?, you might ask. Well, in a stroke of genius —inspired by exhausted desperation —I simply tried it last night. Nik had woken just after midnight with a painful bout of cramps from his latest antibiotics. Once I helped him through it and was certain he was ready to drift back to sleep, I got up to leave his room. Major upset ensued; I had visions of another night waking up to find the imprint of his crib tent pressed into my cheek and a crick in my neck. As Nik started to wind up for the full-blown tantrum, I said very sternly “No. STOP. It’s bed time and you need to lie down and sleep.” Yeah, that worked about the way you might expect.
As Nik ratcheted up his fussing, I laid my hand gently on his cheek; that usually settles him instantly. Then, quietly, I said, “I promise I will be here when you wake. Mommy will be here in the morning. I promise, baby. I PROMISE.” Nik snuffled against my hand but didn’t fuss when I removed it.
I didn’t hear from him again until morning.
I didn’t hear from him again until morning.
I give you my word.