There are crucial conversations in life that stick out vividly long after they’ve happened.
Coming out when I was 14; telling my parents I was moving out; our wedding vows; the adoption worker telling us we were matched with T.
Over the Christmas break, I had two more: one that was planned and another that was unexpected.
A few days before New Years, I drove to my mom’s to deliver the news my sister had suddenly passed away that morning.
That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
In comparison, sharing T’s diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) two afternoons before seemed like a walk in the park.
The anticipation was daunting.
We had wanted to tell him in the summer vacation before the new school year started but we decided to keep summer light.
We were then going to tell him in the fall, but my sister’s cancer took a turn for the worse and she moved in with us.
We decided Christmas break was going to be it – no more delays.
My sister was admitted to the hospital on Christmas Day, so it created some privacy in our home to share the news with T two days later.
It was the late afternoon, after a very relaxed day at home of play, play and more play.
I was resting in our room, when the hubby came in to lie down too – and not soon after, T came in and sandwiched himself right between us.
So much for my nap, I thought.
Then without a heads up to me, the hubby just went right into it.
He asked T if he knew what alcohol was. And T said he did not.
He briefly explained what it was and said that his mom had drank while he was in her tummy.
Then he asked T if he remembered being taken to Surrey Place a year ago to meet with the doctor (psychologist) to play games and answer questions.
T said he did and the hubby explained it was a series of tests that helped us learn that T had FASD.
I then said that a lot of people and kids have FASD – and it’s what happens when the baby’s brain is exposed to alcohol while they’re in the tummy.
We said that for him, FASD means he is hyperactive and has a hard time sitting still.
As I said this, he was squirming and doing his “fish worm dance” on the bed.
I explained that it also means he has a hard time with controlling his impulses.
As I said this, he was kicking me gently on my leg.
I also said that he has big emotions and FASD means that he has a hard time controlling those big emotions at times.
Lastly, I said FASD also means he has a hard time focusing at times – like doing his work in the noisy and busy classroom.
Funnily, he then went down to get a banana as I was in the middle of explaining this.
We told T that FASD is very common and that lots of people have it.
He then asked if we had it.
After we said no, he then asked if his cousin A has it and if that’s why she jumps around uncontrollably (stims) sometimes.
We explained that she has autism and that while it is different from FASD, there are a lot of similar things to think about.
He asked if that’s why he digs his hands and we said, yes, it’s probably related to him stimming, in the same way his cousin jumps around.
We told him FASD is nothing to be embarrassed about and he immediately responded that he’s not embarrassed.
I love how he said that so quickly and with such conviction.
We told him he has so many strengths – he’s bright, caring, funny, curious – and that these strengths will help him overcome the challenging parts of FASD.
We said that FASD is what makes him him and we are so lucky to be a family.
We ended off by saying that it’s a lot of info we just shared with him and that we will unpack it together because we’re a team and that he can ask us questions or share his thoughts anytime he wants.
To be honest, it was not quite how I imagined it going. I had it so planned and scripted it my head and this just felt so spontaneous and sloppy.
On the one hand, I kinda wished the hubby gave me a heads up he was going to launch into it.
On the other hand, it felt so cathartic to finally get it out there.
There is so much to unpack over the next few weeks, months and years for T and with T – but the seed has been planted.
I genuinely believe this will benefit him in the long run and help him understand his day to day and his interactions with the world.
During the latter half of our conversation, he came to give us both a big hug and told us he loved us.
When I asked for another hug, he told me to go away because “your breath stinks!”
Yup, T is T and we wouldn’t have him any other way.