Half a year after we shared his FASD diagnosis with T, it has clicked with him.
On a recent morning, T wanted to play with one of our two cats, which is often a hit or miss event.
T stayed gentle and our cat finally went up to T to smell his hand then let T pet him.
T was thrilled. We praised him for being calm and gentle. Then T said, “I’m never calm and gentle, because my mom drank alcohol when I was a baby.”
That comment blew my mind, because it came out of nowhere.
We had told T about his FASD diagnosis last December and this was the first time he has brought it up with me. The hubby later told me T had brought it up with him a few days prior.
I was thrilled by this, because it’s a huge step in helping T piece together why things in his days happen the way that they do.
I reminded T his mother stopped drinking when she learned she was pregnant, because she would not do anything to harm him.
The hubby and I reminded T that while his disability is a reason for why he behaves the way he does, it’s not an excuse he can fall back on and that we have to work together to turn it into a superpower – and reminded him of the many gains he made by the end of Grade 2.
In the last year, T has embodied Dennis the Menace for better or for worse.
Dennis the Menace is a famous cartoon character created in the 1950s by Hank Ketchum, inspired by his son Dennis.
I remember watching this cartoon – see above – and amused by this boy who was mischievous, driving his parents and neighbours crazy, yet a good soul at his core.
So it was a pleasant surprise when I learned at an adoption workshop, prior to when T entered our lives, that Dennis was inspired by a real life boy who had an invisible disability, likely FASD.
I mused about this connection in a March 2020 post and it continues to be one of my most-read posts; it’s the first result when you search for “FASD Dennis the Menace” as I bet other caregivers are as intrigued by this story as I am.
I often use Dennis the Menace to explain to those unfamiliar with raising a child with FASD, because it succinctly paints a picture of a child who is endlessly energetic, inadvertently getting into mischief, and has a gift of driving his parents up the wall but still endears himself into their hearts.
I’ve never watched the 1993 live action film but my goodness does this kid ever remind me of T.
Like Dennis the Menace, there are many moments when T can be so challenging – like having a full blown meltdown at the park yesterday, because I refused to play with him after he kept speaking quite rudely to me.
But like Dennis the Menace, which my mom has referred to him on occasion as over the years, there is something about T that is inherently lovable that you want to root for him, no matter how much he’s pissing you off.
I remind myself it’s a disability – his behaviours are symptoms of a brain injury – and while it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason to try our best to stay patient and that T is good at his core.
Last Friday night, T and I went for a bike ride after dinner. T stopped his bike and hopped off when he came across a beautiful neighbourhood cat.
They were instantly smitten with each other and I let T enjoy this bonding moment with the cat, while three neighbours watched over them.
“I think you’re gonna need to get him another cat,” one of the neighbors said.
“And I think you’re out of your damn mind,” I wanted to say. But I didn’t. I just smiled and enjoyed this calm and gentle moment.