August 14, 2012

An Unnatural Position

Moe has a great laugh. Sometimes I hear this laugh, a sweet giggle that is pure joy, when he's watching TV or we're in the car. Occasionally, during a rare moment when I can get Moe to play, he'll let out a genuine, adorable belly laugh.

But Moe also has another laugh. To the untrained ear, this laugh sounds a lot like the first laugh. But trust me, it is different. This is the manic laugh, the one that escalates, the one that starts and does not stop. This laugh is not in response to a game or a joke, but comes from inside, from a place I do not understand. This laugh is a warning.

It is a warning that Moe is overstimulated. It is a warning that he is not able to control his impulses. It is a warning that he won't be sleeping any time soon, that I need to be on high alert because he is going to grab the dog or pull Jelly's hair. And he better not need a diaper change because it might be nearly impossible to accomplish.

Sometimes Moe wakes up laughing like this, and I know it is going to be a rough day. As parents, we innately want to hear our kids' laughter. In those earliest sleep deprived days, we are propelled forward by our baby's first smile. And just when we wonder how we will make it through another spit-up covered day, we hear our child's first laugh, and are energized once again.

But if ABA has taught me anything, it is that we humans are, as all animals, creatures of behavior and conditioning. And though the power of motherhood is strong, we cannot deny our Pavlovian dispositions. And my life, turned upside down in a myriad of ways, is one in which my son's laughter fills me with dread. I hear Moe laugh and my heart sinks.

It is an unnatural position, an uncomfortable contortion of emotion.

I suppose I am lucky. Moe doesn't have tantrums. He survives trips to Target and is able to eat at a restaurant largely without incident. He rarely cries. If, on a trip to the grocery store, Moe begins to giggle wildly, the stares will largely be of the "aww, isn't he cute" kind, rather than the "I wish she'd control her kid" kind. Not that it matters what anyone else thinks, but I'll take what I can get.

I cannot tell if Moe is happy when he's giggling wildly. I suspect not, that he doesn't enjoy that his mind and body are out of control, or at least I suspect they are. Sometimes he calms down by finding a quiet space, in a closet or reading a book in his room. Though sometimes he seems to try to make the feeling continue, spinning wildly or running back and forth. I imagine it is like a drug, that high feeling, one he wants to continue. And all I can do is try to help him come down gently, and not get hurt in the process.

A mother, trying to stop her son from laughing.


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