Parenting is such a role where the heart plays a bigger part than the brain. When my Neev was born, I was prepared to find my house filled with his innocent crimes and shrill laughter; at times even melodramatic tears. But I was not prepared to hear that my beautiful child was facing some kind of behavioural stagnation and needed to be taken to task immediately.
The last nine months had been a strange journey for me and my family, as Neev was detected with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified). He very distinctly showed withdrawal symptoms, lack of eye contact, impaired speech, attention deficit and some repetitive behaviour. Doctors said that it might lead to autism if not dealt with immediately. Since then it had been a war, both for me and my husband, personally reaching our lowest lows at times and yet trying to put up a brave face professionally.
So as my husband, Tuhin worked almost round the clock with days when he rested for barely two hours, I started very early in the morning and stopped working at 4 to devote rest of the time unconditionally to the kid! The boy needed exposure. He needed to spend time with more people and we had to inspire him to react more positively. Speech and occupational therapy was prescribed for him.
The biggest horror though had struck me when I took the boy for his first therapy sessions. It was not just about Neev but also other beautiful children who came with more severe complains. Their mothers had formed a group, exchanged notes and books and advices, tried to comfort each other, became each other’s confidantes, and most importantly, they were committed to stay positive.
I saw 5/6 years old kids with lots of visible and invisible issues, tried to talk to them and their mothers, and knew how unfair life can be for you at times!
One particular case I remember about a boy, who couldn’t speak and made strange sounds through his throat. Most of the times you wouldn’t understand what he meant. One day he was unwilling to follow instructions and ran outside; his mom was away (probably that’s the only time when the lady tries to declutter), and girls in the reception were trying to pull him inside holding his hands. The boy protested violently. After a while I couldn’t take it any further and asked the girls if I could try. Very tenderly I touched him and asked if he would like to come with me. He fell into tears and sobbed holding me.
That’s their story. When you don’t understand them and when you get harsh because you are frustrated!
Another day I found a lady making strange faces at a small boy who was trying to play with the end of her dupatta. She asked the attendants, “Hope he would not harm me” and she really looked scared. Unable to hold myself back, I had yelled out at her asking what could a five years old possibly do to her! He was just differently abled; not an animal.
So I knew what was it that I certainly didn’t want for my child.
With these experiences, my own patience with Neev obviously increased and I was more receptive towards the unimaginable things I had to battle at times. The biggest challenge was to understand that thin line between pushing and pressurising! We had to help Neev in taking interest in activities and people, but we couldn’t pile them up over him with instructions. We had to take it slow but firm, and adjust the pace keeping in mind his comfort while he received our inputs.
Whatever frustrations we accumulated, I and Tuhin at times poured out on each other because there was no other dumping ground. And we believed that things will be fine.
I am not writing this to tell the world about our personalities extraordinaire. But it felt, that people should know. The doctor said, “Most of such cases go unrecognised or ignored at a smaller age as parents feel the kids will be fine with time. But when a parent approaches us at 5 or 6 years of age, it is already quite late!” As much as I made fun of Tuhin for the “information overload” all through my pregnancy months, I today agree that at least one of the two parents should be extremely well read and informed so that minor blocks do strike the brain. Of course there’s no harm in seeking professional help. It was Tuhin who suspected that Neev might be having an issue which needed attention, and he went for it ignoring the assurances of the rest of the family.
Each time I felt really depressed, I would put up Neev’s photographs on social media. With many people loving him and showering him with blessings, I felt renewed strength within me and said to myself, these wishes won’t go vain. Letting go of potential work hours had its frustration, but to impair myself from the temptation of getting back to work, I had done away with the maid who looked after the child. He needed me at this moment; not a maid who wouldn’t take added initiatives. Had the maid been there, I was afraid that I would steal time and sit back for work, leaving the baby with her. Moreover, the maids were rather keen to shut off the baby and broker peace. Their tendency would be to either switch on the television for endless duration or occupy the kid with something equally dumb, so that they didn’t have to invest their energies in running around them. That wasn’t helping. I put him to a day-care instead, where he spent time more meaningfully with physical engagements and some learning exercises. Television, trust me, is one of the most basic causes of mental stagnation.
It was impossible explaining to friends and relatives, why the child was talking gibberish for so long; why he didn’t respond well to people; why I was suddenly a freelancer when I have always openly said that a job works for me and entrepreneurship doesn’t; why I suddenly called off the baby’s maid; and others! We depended massively on the compassionate teachers of his school and the guides who conducted his therapy, takin regular feedbacks and seeking advices. We confided only in them and not to anyone else.
Finally, two months ago, the doctors certified that Neev was finally out of the spell. Now he is trying to catch up fast with the other kids of his age. He was lagging behind by almost 8 months, when he started. With the therapy and some trained attention at home, he had not only covered those 8th months but has also been rushing forward to be at par with others. His vocabulary and language has increased massively. He is picking up fast on English, Hindi and also Bengali, communicating equally well on all three languages.
In all these months I have learnt immensely as a mother, not all of which I can express in words. But as I breathe relief, it made sense for me to send out this elaborate and informative piece simply because there might be more kids innocently playing somewhere whose parents are not as lucky. Hence, I chose to start my parenting columns with The Sunday Guardian with an experience which jolted us inside out!
Wishing happy parenting and healthy children to all of us.