Here’s a spectrum for you: a Sneaky Spectrum.
On one end we have G, who does stuff like shouting “Don’t look! I’m changing!” when doing a changing-inside-towel thinger at the beach. As you might imagine, he’s not much of a sneaker. His sneaking is always cartoonish and ridiculous – stomping down the stairs on his tiptoes with a sheepish expression on his face as he tries to sneak a granola bar after bedtime, spitting his greens into the toilet then forgetting to flush…
My father told me when I was very young that I was a bad liar and I’ve pretty much not lied since. That was a pretty good teaching. He also tried to teach me to be subtle and ladylike. Which did not work. Both of which – not lying, not being subtle (subtlety usually reads to me as manipulative) – now totally make sense in my corner of the spectrum.
At the other end of the Sneaky Spectrum, we have Z, who is a Master Sneak. And it scares me because I have no idea how to deal with it.
Here’s an example: WADS. One of Z’s special habits is making little balls of chewed up paper with water and spit. She likes to take them in and out of her mouth, and store them for long periods of time. This results in a reeking, festering mess; and, in her mother here, a mixture of exasperation, disgust and compassion. Obviously, wads fulfill a deep need in my daughter, whether for oral sensory seeking or something more emo-, and orphanage-related. But…I need to help her fulfill that particular need in a healthier way.
So I tried Solution 1: No Water in the Bedroom. This did not work, as Z is worlds above me in the Sneak Department. She found a myriad of ways to sneak water into her room and create wads. Stashing water in the containers of “beauty products” I gave her so she wouldn’t eat mine…a tiny doll’s mug under the bed with murky, saliva-y water…wads hidden wrapped in non-masticated tissues next to her bed “in case she needed to blow her nose”…
Over years, we’d have the talk – “Please don’t chew up paper and leave it in your room. It’s not healthy because the wads get full of germs and smell bad too. If you need food or a drink I will give them to you…” OR “You may NOT have water in your room!” – and a few days (or weeks) later I would find a glass (or another vessel) of water and an (increasingly tiny) container full of paper/water/spit wads.
The mildly unsanitary aspect of the wads gets to me less than the sneaking. The worst part is feeling that I am somehow helping her to become a Master Sneak.
Telling Z not to do something just doesn’t work. (Lest you forget that this is a Full Spectrum we are working with, telling G not to do something doesn’t always work either. But he’s – I was going to say more sanitary, but no – less potentially dangerous in his efforts.)
Like many children with attachment disorders, Z has a deep underlying need for control. I can wear myself out supervising her every moment, but we are already almost there. And I need to help her learn healthy habits and heal her attachment disordered behavior, rather than training her to stay one step ahead of The Law.
I’ve long known I need to do something indirect, something subtle in this, the Matter of the Wads. Unfortunately, my brain just does not work that way!
Meanwhile, over the years, my early bird G spends his mornings reading; early bird Z seems to spend them making wads.
Solution 2: After years of worrying about the implications of Z alone in her room with needles and scissors, I finally gave her a whole bunch of sewing and weaving stuff to play with at her own discretion.
I noticed a few weeks after the crafty gifts that these activities seem to have worked to channel/redirect her wad-making energy, indirectly and subtly!
This was so indirect and subtle I didn’t even know I was doing it.
Fingers crossed on the sharps.
Full Spectrum Mama