My Quirky Cub
My cub had a few quirks that I can look back at now and giggle. Things that seemed odd but still cute.
Her play did raise concern for me only because I lived with my autistic nephew (who was 3 years old at the time) for a while. My brothers’ cub was not diagnosed until he was 5. He was non-verbal, made no eye contact and exhibited lots of self-rocking, arm flapping and toe walking. He presented classic autistic with stemming. I lived with them for a summer when I was 16 to help out. I noticed he loved to play in the tub and would actually look at me when he was playing in the water. There was a lot of denial in the family, so he didn’t get help until he was much older. In the mid-’80’s autism was not a diagnosis you heard about, and it was a devastating blow to any family. When he was 13 years old they had to put him in a home. He had become too big and violent with outbursts of Tourette’s to stay at home with my brother. It was a sad day when my brother brought him to my house on the way to Oregon. I still cry when I think about the heartbreak on my brother’s face.
When my cub was learning to crawl she had to have refrigerator letters in her hands, making her scoot along on her elbows. The funny thing was the letters she had to have in her hands. The left hand had to have the letter “L” and the right had to have the letter “S”. If she couldn’t find those letters it would be the number “1” and number “8”. We thought it was funny at the time. We had no idea why, or if there was even a why. But it was always one straight and one curvy.
She would line her toys up in some kind of order, either color or size. I’d have lines of ponies, tea sets, blocks, you name it, all over the house. I brought it to my husband’s attention that she’d rather line them up than to actually play with them. He brushed it off as her being an organized little girl. I swear she could feel it when I moved her toys, she’d come running from another room to fix what I undid. She’d gather all her balls and line them up by size or by color to be in a rainbow. There was one ball that would make her so upset… it would not fit in the line either by color or size. She’d set and rearrange the line trying to get it to fit. She’d get to a breaking point and toss the ball across the room. Little did she know it was a ploy of mine to show her the world wouldn’t end if the ball didn’t fit. She still lines things up when she’s stressed or feeling sick. She says it makes her feel better while she’s doing it. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get her to the kitchen or to her laundry when she feels the need to sort. haha
Man, she loved rocks… and not always pretty rocks. Grandma would provide her with old handbags to put her rocks in, it was getting out of hand. Bags and bags of street gravel, random rocks from the yard and the occasional pretty shiny rock. One day I was driving her to therapy and she dropped one of her rocks in the car. She was in her car seat and couldn’t reach it. With her crying and squirming around, I had to pull over on the freeway to keep her from undoing her buckles. I looked for the little rock on the floorboard, in the seat, all over the car and couldn’t find it. Desperate to get moving again I offered a little gravel rock from the roadway. She became more upset, shaking her head, not the one.. but was happy to add it to her collection while still demanding I find the original missing rock. It was a long painful process to get her to let the rock collection go. I had to get sneaky and slowly dwindle the collection to just a few until she no longer felt the need to hang on to them. We took trips outside to “plant” some of the rocks in the flower beds or to put them in “nature” where they belonged because they “missed being outside”.
When a child doesn’t play “properly”, or “misuses” toys, it can be puzzling to parents. I believe that is where my cub’s creative side really came from. She looks at things differently, even now. When she was non-verbal I swear she thought in pictures. The only words that stayed with her were colors, red, blue, and brown. One day I was feeding her lunch in her high chair and gave her a sippy cup, she busted into tears. I had no idea what was wrong so I started the usual process of elimination. Different bowls.. nope, different food in bowls.. nope, different juice in cup.. nope. Tears for both of us by now. I’m sitting on the kitchen floor with all the cabinet doors wide open, finally, she points and says “RED”. There was a sippy cup in the cabinet that had a teddy bear on it wearing a RED bow tie.. relief!
She has grown out of the obvious stemming issues but has a few that still comfort her when she feels upset. She is a very good artist and has a very analytical mind. It’s funny to see someone who can draw but has to take every comment literally. I am blessed to have this wonderful person in my life! She has made me stop and rethink my way of things so many times. She has worked so hard to regain her speech at such a young age. And now she continues to impress me with mature nature and open heart.