What it feels like

Here’s an interesting one:

Jonah, G and I took a hike after school yesterday. John’s presenting at a conference Michigan, and my motto, when he’s gone, is “Work ’em hard, Wear ’em out!” Doesn’t always work, but in the last two nights I’ve only been woken up twice, so I’ll stick with the game plan.

The trail we take is pretty simple. It runs in a series of loops—some larger, some smaller, with names like Coniferous and Deciduous—so you can gauge how far to go. I was surprised how much physical energy both the boys had, so we took the slightly longer Coniferous loop.

Jonah especially loves the woods. It’s the adventure, yes, but it’s the woods themselves. He and his babysitter, Tessa, would take tree-hugging walks around our neighborhood in Miss-our-i. He was probably two. Being an avid tree hugger myself (I mean this quite literally), people assumed I had coached J. Nope. He comes by it honestly. Trees calm him.

As we walked, Jonah narrated each place along the trail where something of consequence had happened on previous hikes, down to the identification of a very small hole (he’s currently a little obsessed with holes): “That’s the hole I tripped on last time and hurt my head!” J talks and talks. We have the best conversation. Not just about things that happened in his day, but about what’s going on inside of him. He will be talking and then stop and say, “Did you understand my words?” He wants me to know. He needs me to understand.

Pain, death, dying, and emergency situations are still some of J’s favorite topics. He fell off our backyard climber a few days ago. It’s about a four foot drop, but he landed on his hip and couldn’t shake it off like he usually does (we have to be careful assessing his injuries because his pain tolerance is so high). He was offering quite a monologue about the experience. But here’s the line that really got me:

“I really felt it in my brain.”

Which leads me to wonder about the connect, or maybe the disconnect, between what’s happening in his body and brain. It seems to take an incredibly intense experience (which would include intense pain) for his brain to fully register what’s going on in his body. That makes a whole lot of sense, especially when I see him sometimes searching almost desperately (in his Dr. Goofenshmirtz kind of way) for sensory input. The rolling, the head-slapping, the high swinging jump-and-land-with-a-thud thing he’s been doing of late. Even feeling that pain must do something for him. Does it make him feel more connected in his body? As a human being?

The tricky thing is, this intensity borders on a loss of control. Is it truly helpful for him? I don’t want to be constantly telling him to reign in his body. He needs ways to physically express himself, but as his pediatrician reiterated at his last check-up (granted, he was standing/hopping on top of the exam table before I could stop him—even a mom’s anticipatory skills aren’t always operating on the highest frequency): “Safe choices Jonah. We need to make safe choices.”

Self-awareness comes slow. But it is coming. His classroom aide wrote me a few days ago with a wonderful development:

I have to tell you I saw him recognize his body today. We were trying to finish his journal and I could tell he was ready to go exercise. However, out of the blue he said Mrs. Cynthia I need to sit back for a minute. He did just that……he took a few deep breaths and then scooted forward. 🙂 It was pretty exciting!

Jonah having the wherewithal to stop himself and breathe deserves celebration. There’ve been times I thought the day would never come. Well, he showed me.


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