My failure: a son in therapy
I work away from home three days a week. My wife struggles at home with the boys because she works as much as I do. I’d concluded that the boys played up to this, and got away with things. When my bride insisted that she wanted the eldest (aged six) tested by an Occupational Therapist (OT) I was rocked to the core, and could scarcely admit to what I was hearing: my perfect, yet obstinate boy?
I figured that I owed it to her to give it a shot. Inside I was shattered, muted by my circumstances.
Making time in her schedule, my wife took the boy to an evaluation session. I had my head in the sand, already convinced that this kind of therapist was a self-serving snake oil merchant. I reluctantly read the report and had to concede that parts of it resonated; partly because it made sense, and partly because my boy is my clone and what it true for him is largely true for me – ergo if he needs therapy, so do I. Then, in what I considered a broadside, my wife asserted that we both be present at the prescribed therapy sessions. I hoped at the time that she didn’t see me feel that way. She probably did.
I went to what I thought were great lengths to describe to my son the plan for the therapy sessions – without knowing the extent of them myself. My wife had consistently tried to extract this information from the OT to no avail, so I didn’t have much to go on. I settled for explaining our motivation and how it would disrupt his routine. He was unfazed, but could tell that it bothered me.
I resigned to the fact that I now have a kid ‘in therapy’ and in some way, at some time, it was going to come back that it’s my fault.
On the day, the bride and I were short with each other, even snippy, denoting that we were both apprehensive about this and had no idea how this day was going to pan out. The boy was inconvenienced, but slept on the way to the rooms. The waiting room was like a stereotypical nightmare: that kid had troubles; I wouldn’t want to be her son; why is that kid looking at me like it’s my fault he’s here… I had my back up. I resigned to the fact that I now have a kid ‘in therapy’ and in some way, at some time, it was going to come back that it’s my fault.
The doctor had to have sensed my scepticism. He cautiously retraced his steps through my son’s initial assessment, and how that brought his plan to bear; he’d done this before. Once he walked me through the difference between the behavioural and the neurological in his plan, I eased. When he described his treatments as physiological (rather than pharmaceutical) I drew breath again. I was interested. In the end the plan was up to us to implement. He would review progress with us once we were happy with it. I’d slowly realised that I’d made a mountain out of a molehill.
We were a different family on the way home. My son, who had happily been roaming the halls while we were being schooled in therapeutic techniques, was hungry. My wife and I were discussing all manner of things, including treatment options. It was probably the best conversation we had had since the strain began. I felt better about a great many things.
Later, the wife even joked with someone else that she would get some Occupational Therapy for me (a lot of truth is said in jest). We are optimistic about having some things to try and help the boy. I’ve engaged properly with his teacher, for the first time really, in ideas for moving forward.
I don’t think any of us are kidding ourselves about the struggle ahead, but it’s now an onward struggle, together, rather than the pedestrian, helpless, disparate efforts I had hitherto made.
I didn’t need the big stick I had beaten myself up with after all.
Richard Lloyd is a dad of two from Beechworth, Victoria but stays in Melbourne two nights a week. (He’s a TITO: Train-in, Train-out, as opposed to FIFO.)