Sunday, December 12, 2010

a wince, a wheeze

Oh, BlogPress, won't you let my postlets go? You've gone and eaten a picture-rich Chanuka post, written expressly for the absent grandparents, and hello? Greedy guts? Chanuka's over.

(grump, grump, grump, grump)

Oh, but who can stay grumpy when the kid's turning red and shuddering with laughter at my elbow? It is apparently beyond hilarious that, after being corralled by his domineering mother, he forgot - and crocheted ten stitches in the wrong direction. Think of a dash, written on top of a long pair of parallel lines, and then add momentum. Reaching for the next set of loops, the kid had to wrangle himself into a pause long enough to figure out what had happened. Laugh with me, he's inviting. I'm absurd, I'm contagiously ridiculous.

And now he's toppled over. And is writhing with silent, percussive laughter on the floor. I do believe that I'm being invited to pause, and admire his commitment to the role. Yes? Ah. Yes.

I'm happy to beam at him, as much for his own pleasure in his humor, as for the kid as a whole. Oh, but it's been a good few months for the boy. A year and more of things starting to fall into place...lessee. Need a narrative starting point, um - ah.

About 18-20 months ago, our car was periodically noisy. The Eldest would get in, pause, explode. Cause? bah, said the explosion. Causes are for lesser minds in search of a trigger for moments of emotional emphasis. 

Right, said the mama. And learned that one cannot duck effectively while wearing a seatbelt. Nor while keeping an eye on the road.

When the explosion was on coffee break, the car would be offered the dulcet tones of the whinge. My seatbelt's too tight, we'd be informed. Or, failing that, my shirt is too tight on me - why do you buy such things? Fists would fly in the back seat, the whinge would climb towards a shriek, and the mama towards a roar. Oh, it was a grand, grand time. And in the classroom, it was no better.

Let's talk about behavior, the teachers would say. He's definitely a class clown, but the trouble is that he doesn't - stop. I ended one parent-teacher conference with my head in my hands, and a teacher reassuring me, but we still love him! and thinking, sure. For now. And on the day when I was requested to take the kid home, after an out-of-control episode, I sat in the car, staring at the Eldest.

What happened?
The kid looked at me, his eyes clear and troubled. I don't know.
I looked back, searching, and found only that I believed the kid -  and realizing that, wavered on the edge of tears. And so did he.

When we leveled the asthma question at the doctors, at the kid, it was a wavering, wobbly one. The kid's lung capacity was 100% of the expected capacity for a child his age and size. But there it was, the tight chest, the rapid, gasping breath, the sudden snaps of irritability and nervous energy. Anxiety can make things worse, said our pediatrician, thoughtfully, and we all nodded. So can patterns, habits of emotional response, I mused. And internally, quailed. Anxiety is an old friend, and a squishy, oozing one. Hard to get a grip on the dude, but he's always lurking and at least familiar. But not, in our lad, pathological. Diagnoses carry their own burden, but they can also set you free - giving tools specific to that diagnosis, tested Things To Try, and that crucial short list of Things That Just Suck. I considered oozy, slippery ordinary kid stuff, and weighed it against the crush and weight of the diagnosis. And rather preferred the medical to the mundane. Did we get to choose?

Maybe. Maybe not.

What if it is anxiety? What if it isn't? The allergist and pediatrician urged us to try a month-long course of preventative asthma medicine. A couple of puffs of the inhaler in the morning, a pair at night. Tracking his lung capacity each time, looking to see if the big dips in capacity drop as the month goes one - and as the kid relaxes. We hesitated for a long pair of months. Steroids, even in low doses - daily? And yet, prophylactic medicine is something he knows, something that he's seen us trust to control bleeding. Can he let himself trust prophylaxis to control breathing, as well?

He could. And hugged his lung capacity measurements, the p'flometer, he called it, using them to reassure himself that all might just, possibly be well. A few weeks later, those lung capacity numbers trailed into relative unreliability. pphhhht, blew the kid, and rolled his eyes. And PUHPHHHHHHHHHTTTT! blew the kid. Thanks for the data points, the Man sighed, and tossed a third of them. But nobody could argue with the jump. His lung capacity increased by 42.2% (saith the Man), and we all stared. He's making his own rules again,  I muttered.

And grinned.

The teachers smiled back, politely puzzled. He's the class clown, they told me, and waited to see if I winced. I did, dropping my head onto one hand. But he can stop when he needs to, they told me. And his sense of humor is really quite good. Inexplicably, I began to choke. Swallowed. Resisted the urge to wheeze. There are class clowns who aren't funny? A twinkle from the teacher on the end of the table, and, oh, she said gently. Oh, yes.

And winced.

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