I don’t like labels for children. At all. I firmly believe that children are born knowing they can do anything, and that by telling them they can’t we put up huge roadblocks for them. Obviously I’m not talking about safety issues here. When we got Sam’s referral we were told that he might never walk, run or jump; that he would have multiple issues with speech and would never be *normal*. Today he is completely *normal* 2 year old who runs, climbs and jumps off everything. He chatters like a magpie too 🙂
But I digress….
Foster children in NJ are automatically flagged by Early Intervention and are eligible to be evaluated at the foster parent’s discretion. We asked for EI to come in and evaluate Baby I because we had a few concerns and we want to be as through as we can in his care.
Since Baby I is our 9th placement I was feeling pretty cocky with the whole parenting thing. We’ve been through colic, eye surgery, foot surgery, projectile reflux and a host of other issues – I honestly thought that I’d seen it all.
I was wrong.
I’ve never had a child like Baby I. He is an adorable baby who giggles and smiles and dimples his way through life…and then with the flip of a switch will scream for hours. HOURS. Nothing will pacify him, he just screams and screams. There were days when I was at my wits ends with trying to homeschool the girls, handle my on-the-go-all-the time toddler and soothe a baby who couldn’t be soothed.
It was bad.
When the EI team got here we chatted about his basic medical background and his case, and then they got right to the evaluation. They saw the same medical issues that I had noted and a few more issues that they feel need to be addressed starting now. For privacy reasons I’m not prepared to share his medical issues here.
But they validated me. They told me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, that I was doing what I could well. That it wasn’t my fault when I couldn’t soothe him. That it was okay to put him down and walk away after hours of crying. They showed me why he was responding like he was.
After weeks of feeling like a failure, I had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t that we were bad parents, or not bonded, or that we couldn’t handle homeschooling and foster care. It’s simply the way that Baby I is wired.
They gave us two labels for him, and for the first time in my life I grabbed onto those labels and wanted to weep. I had answers! I had knowledge and could learn how to help him. I can’t describe how wonderful it was, not that he was *labeled* but that now I knew what was going on AND I can learn how to make things smoother for him.
Today, I’m very, very thankful for labels – not because they DEFINE my child, but because they will help me UNDERSTAND my child.