Don’t Tell Anyone But I Still Dress My 9-Year-Old

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I still dress my nine-year-old. Literally.

Having a kid with serious fine and gross motor problems can present many challenges for a family. Nothing ever moves quickly, and simple tasks like putting on shoes or zipping up a jacket can take forever.  This is particularly challenging for me, as I am an ants-in-the-pants kind of gal who likes to bust a move whenever and wherever I get the urge. I’m sure my neighbors are less than thrilled by my morning rant of “Shoes on, shoes on, shoes on!” for the 10 minutes it takes to get my son S. focused enough to do the hard work of, you guessed it, putting on his shoes.

You would think that I would thank god for the advent of footwear like Crocs. Unfortunately, as a kid with motor challenges, S. is also not so sturdy on his feet, so Crocs are hazardous for anything other than a quick trip to our local convenience store.

The challenges of motor problems run a lot deeper than shoes and jackets. Many things, like poor handwriting and the brain effort it requires to put pen to paper, affect S.’s performance in school. Team sports, a big part of many boys’ worlds, is a no-go. Getting a basketball in a basket requires immense practice and determination, and that is just one of the many sports kids play. S. just doesn’t have the patience nor desire to put in the time on something that feels so daunting and unrewarding. Not so uncommon for an 8½-year-old. It’s just that so many physical things are a big challenge for him.

And it is for that reason that I still dress my almost nine-year-old son. Picture it: a 4-foot, 60-pound boy squirming around while I stuff his head into a fabulously cool t-shirt, simultaneously yelling at him to “point your toes” so I can get on the ultra-hip skinny jeans. Instead, I dress up him up like an urban Ken doll.

At a recent school function, one of the moms came to tell me how well dressed my son is and how she has a pile of fabulous clothes for her own son that he will never wear. (Most of my friends with boys have similar complaints – that their sons will only wear sweatpants and loose-fitting T-shirts plastered with sports-team logos.) I didn’t tell her that I dress my child because it’s too difficult and time-consuming for him to dress himself. I just smiled and remembered that every cloud has a silver lining – as silly and shallow as that lining may be.

Before you judge, know that having a child on the spectrum is non-stop work. Every moment is a planned out, meditated and a process. There are plenty of plus sides to having a super smart, creative, out-of-the-box kid – and I’m sorry to say that fashion is one of them.

(Photo: Nick White)