The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Atypical Behavior

I’m in spin class, trying to focus as the hyper-perky instructor barks out orders to “make smooth, full circles with each pedal stroke!” But as a funky remix of an old Sarah McLachlan tune blares, tears slide down my cheeks. Luckily, the room is dark. I duck my head, pedal harder, and hope no one will notice it’s not just sweat making my face glisten.

In my head, McLachlan’s soothing voice is drowned by the harsh sound of two words that pound over and over again in time to the music: atypical behavior, atypical behavior, atypical behavior. . .

I’ve been hearing them since I left a meeting at my five-year-old’s school to discuss her behavior problems.

“So I guess we can all agree that this is atypical behavior for a kindergartner and that the next step is a complete social and mental evaluation?” the principal asked, looking around at the others in her office: Phoebe’s teacher, the school counselor, a child psychologist, and another child development professional.

They nodded and smiled sympathetically. Phoebe’s teacher had just finished describing her behavior in detail.

While her classmates sit quietly and listen, my daughter’s teacher explained, she frequently interrupts with loud, often random remarks. Other times, she lets loose blood-curdling screams that are way over the top in relation to the minor mishap or verbal slight -- real or imagined -- that elicited them. She fails to pick up on social cues that are obvious to others. She’s oblivious, for example, to body language that clearly says “back off” when she puts her hands on her hips and practically mashes her face into the face of another child to make a point.

I wish I could deny seeing similar behavior outside of school. But I can’t.

It was painful and hard to hear my precious girl -- who is also known for her lively, funny, super-imaginative ways -- described as atypical; to know that she will likely be diagnosed with a behavioral or mental disorder that could affect her for life.

It was also a relief.

Perhaps now I can stop second-guessing what my heart and gut have been telling me for so long -- that something’s not right with my child.

Perhaps I can let go of some of the guilt I feel for somehow causing her behavior. Perhaps instead of wasting energy worrying about her, I can focus on working with a caring team of educators and child development experts and get into action to help her.

By Dorothy O’Donnell


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Your story reminds me My Sister from the Black Lagoon : A Novel of My Life by Laurie Fox. Your daughter is lucky to have a mother like you.

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