As you know, my oldest son has a neurological disorder that involves mild Tourette’s, some OCD and what I would classify as pretty severe anxiety (especially for a nine-year old–I mean, it’s not like he’s in charge of the free world, or even deciding what to cook for dinner).
Lately, as in the past year or so, he’s developed a complete aversion to being touched in any way. I don’t really remember when it started. I know he was a very independent baby, but also cuddly and gregarious. I remember that; but I can’t remember exactly when everything changed.
Now…Try to pat him on the head and prepare to watch him try to pull his hair out for the next hour. Accidentally forget that he a miniature robot and try to rub his back; You will see him run far, far away. Don’t even think about a hug.
At first I was mad. In the midst of a busy day, it’s hard to remember which kid you can touch and which kid thinks you are covered in the most horrifying, deadly germs on the planet. There are many instances where touching your kid just happens. Like maybe I reach out to straighten his collar, because it’s turned up the wrong way. Or maybe I’m proud of his latest report card and I throw a congratulatory arm around his shoulder. Maybe he complains of a headache, and before I can restrain my motherly instinct, my hand is on his forehead.
Each time he reacts the same: he stiffens, winces, lets out a cry, looks at me as if I committed the ultimate betrayal, and then flees from sight. At first it hurt my feelings. Later it made me angry. After a while it’s just exhausting.
A Mom just wants to touch her kids. From the moment they are born we are programmed to rock, cuddle and comfort them. Even when they cry, or especially when they cry, we reach out to hold them. It is heartbreaking that my child who seems to need comfort the most, will no longer allow me to do what I instinctively know to do–to reach out and hug away the pain.
As heartbroken as I am over this, I try to remember that all children eventually stop wanting to be hugged by their parents; it’s called being a teenager. And I do have Henry, who’s available for hugs and kisses as many times of the day as I wish. Or Cate, who would just as soon attach herself to me like a barnacle.
And then this morning–a breakthrough. Thomas couldn’t get his hair to lay just right (he needs a haircut in a bad way, but you can imagine how that goes over with someone who won’t let you touch him!). So he came to me with his specially labeled comb that is only for his use, and he holds it out to me. “Mom,” he said, “Can you help me comb my hair?” GASP! I tried not to shout for joy, but could not contain my smile. “Just wash your hands really well first,” he added.
Oh well. I may be germ infested, but at least I got to brush my baby’s hair. It absolutely made my day! My dream is to hold his hand again someday.