January 16, 2013

When my second son was born, I thought there was something wrong with him.

I remember going out to dinner with my parents one night when he was about 8 or 9 months old.  I was sitting there with him perched upon my lap, his healthy rolls of babyhood peeking out of his Osh Kosh overalls.

"Mom, I think he's, I think he's...simple.  I mean look at him.  He just sits here.  He's actually letting me eat my dinner."

My mom laughed and assured me that he wasn't simple.  He was just a happy baby.  She told me he was fine, but I wasn't so sure.

All I had to compare him to was his four and a half year old brother, who, at that dinner outing, was playing "try to touch everything on the table".  Even though we'd brought a bag filled with books, action figures, crayons and coloring books, he insisted on the stimulation of new exciting silverware and glasses, salt and pepper shakers, napkins and ketchup bottles.  My husband and I ended that evening as we usually did when out at a restaurant...one of us took him out for a walk, while the other got to finish the meal.

My older son's babyhood seemed normal enough, or at least we thought it was at the time. We knew he was coordinated since he was running, not walking, by the time he was 9 1/2 months old.  He could throw a ball with dead aim at your face (his preferred target) at a little over one year old, and by two he was hitting a ball off of a T like a pro.  And he spoke clearly, articulately, thoughtfully very early on.  Developmentally, he was on the money.  In fact, with most developmental stages, he was ahead according to the baby books.

Basically, we thought he was brilliant.

Hindsight is what it is.  Looking back I see his early years were not typical.

Like the fact that to fall asleep, most nights we had to take him in the car for a ride. But taking him out of the car seat risked waking him and doing it all over again.  This lasted until he was almost three years old.

Like the fact that he didn't sleep through the night until he was nearly four.

Like the fact that he didn't sit still long enough for us to read him a book until he was in pre-school.

Like the fact that his temper tantrums would last so long that he would physically exhaust us.  These remained routine well into his school-age years.

Like the fact that we had to hide scissors from him because he cut every fabric item we had in our house:  curtains, clothes, bedding, you name it, he cut it.  Scissors were just fascinating to him.  This was at about age six or seven.  An age he should have known better.

But he exhibited many signs of intelligence as well as an amazing athletic aptitude.  Despite the fact that to be read a book he had to be moving around in his room and listening, looking at pictures on the run, he learned to read at five years old.    His hand eye coordination as well as his large motor skills were very well developed.  He began to swim competitively at age five and at age six he won the State Championship for his age group!

So, in comparison, the new baby seemed, well, simple.  He wasn't as active.  He didn't roll over as soon or walk as soon or talk as soon as his older brother.  He had little interest in athletics and hated to swim.  By comparison, he seemed less gifted, less talented, less extreme.

As it turns out, both boys are very intelligent, though the older one didn't excel academically like his younger brother does.  The older boy swam competitively and played basketball until he tore his ACL in high school and developed a psychological aversion to competitive sports.  The younger one, never much of an athlete, became an actor on stage and screen at the age of eleven.  He's appeared in television and film, though he prefers to perform in local theater productions.  He is what they call a triple threat:  a singer, actor, and dancer.

Both boys have AD/HD.  The younger one has never needed school acommodations, but the older one needed them from age six through high school.  He never finished a semester of college, though he tried twice.

Oh, and the older one.  He's got Bipolar Disorder.

Looking back on things now, it makes sense.  The temper tantrums, the impulsivity, the irritability, the destructive behaviors.  The extremes.  Looking back, I think he showed symptoms of bipolar as an infant.  Of course, hindsight is what it is.

And what I thought was a simple baby, was really just a baby without the raging waters of bipolar disorder swimming through his veins.

If I had only known what we were dealing with, maybe I could have altered what ultimately happened with my older boy.  But how could I have known?

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