To be a child.

So I just got off the phone with my sister in-law.   She told me that the principal of the school her son goes to has good reason to believe that her son, let's call him Joe, has high anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.   My sister in law bought into it, and was in tears, telling me how guilty she felt for not seeing the signs.  She even went as far as to blame herself for his mental illness.   I simply did not know what to say, except to ask her "How do they know?" 
She explained that the school had her fill out a questionnaire, checking off the behaviors Joe expresses at home.   They say that Joe is having a hard time making friends, and that he shows some irrational fears of abandonment and the loss of his belongings, all amounting to a obsessive like attachment to his family and toys.  The example she gave me is that when he gets a treat from Grandma's, like an ice cream cone, but doesn't finish it, he doesn't want to throw it out, and insists that they freeze it so he can have it again later on.  He fears that it is the last ice cream cone he will ever get.  If they don't save it for him, he throws a fit. Basically what they're saying is that Joe almost always resorts to the worst case scenario. 
Joe is 7 years old.  Now before I even go into how someone of that age could possibly have serious obsessive and anxiety disorders, I'd like to take us all back to that innocent age.   Personally, when I was seven, I had many irrational fears and attachments.  Nobody could convince me that the ghosts weren't going to get me if I didn't have my night light.   I vividly remember the fear I had of the dark.  I wouldn't enter a room without turning on the light, and I flicked that switch fully expecting to illuminate the boogyman.   I also had my "binky", a torn up little blanket that I carried around for most of my infancy.  It was pink, had little yellow ducks on it, and to me, was essential in all aspects of life.  Even the threat of removing it from my little fingers was enough to throw me into a full blown fit.  Like most children who are dependent of their parents - so all non-orphaned children, I also had a fear of abandonment, which my parents used tactically.   Who here hasn't heard a parent say to their children "Ok let's go!  I'm going to leave without you if you don't hurry up!"   They wouldn't actually do that, they just knew it was an easy way to remove their kids from the park or a friends house.   When a kid's having fun, they don't really care that their parents have other things to do, and it would be impossible to sit there and explain why the bank closes at 5, and why certain bills have to be paid today. 
Children simply do not have the same reasoning skills as adults do.  Their brains are not developed enough, and they haven't experienced enough of life to know better.  I thought everyone knew that. Joe isn't perfect though.   He is not only and only child, he's an only grandchild on both sides of his family.  He has no siblings or cousins, so naturally it makes sense that he has more trouble making friends than children who have regular interaction with relatives around the same age.   His mother works at the school, as the lady who every kid hates - the recess supervisor.... I don't know what it's called, but she's the one who puts kids on time out.  So Joe has never had to endure more than a couple hours away from his mom.  Not only that, who wants to be friends with the wicked witch of the west's offspring?  He loves his mommy, and probably doesn't get along with all of kids who don't.  They probably even make fun of him for it.  It's sad really, Joe's mom has great intentions by being so involved with the school, and her son's education.  
In addition to his social retardation, Joe is extremely spoiled.   Like I mentioned, he is an only everything, and has every toy you can imagine.   His parents claim that they have tried to put a dent in their son's hoard by getting rid of some of the toys, but they claim that Joe is attached to every single one of them, and refuses to let them go.   Now if you ask any 7 year old, who gets anything he wants, to give up something they enjoy, there's going to be a problem.  It's difficult to explain a need to give things up, to a kid who knows nothing but accumulation.   However it is impossible for a child to maintain a precise inventory of such a massive amount of items.  It's obvious that he doesn't claim attachment, and thus a fear of loss, for much of his unused toys without a reminder.   My husband and I have inadvertently proven this not so long ago, when we borrowed his xbox and games.  Against what the school's diagnoses claims, he had no qualms over loaning his games to us, and did not fear that we would ruin them, lose them, or take them away for good.  There were, I kid you not, 3 garbage bags filled with xbox games.  There were many doubles, and even a few triples of some of the same games.  We borrowed his console for 2 weeks, and eventually packed it all back up and brought it over to their house.  No problem.  A few weeks later my husband and I found one of the games Joe lent us.  I guess we misplaced it... one out of 70 isn't so bad.  So we called Joe's parents and told them that we had the game and would bring it over next time we visit.  The very next day we got a phone call from one very distraught 7 year old.  "Can you bring my game back? It's my favourite!"   Obviously one of his parents told him that we forgot one of the games, and that set him off.  The very worst part of it was, his dad drove all the way to our house to get the game, and tried to get mad at us, because we apparently triggered some anxiety in Joe, making his "condition" worse by validating his fears.  My husband bit back by explaining "We've had the fucking thing for over a month now, and I'm sure if you look hard enough, he has another copy in that mountain of crap you people call a toy room".   We're not allowed to borrow games from them anymore. 

Which brings me to my next point.  Joe's parents have bought into this, taking the school's advice as gospel.  Unfortunately, we've seen a decline in Joe's behavior.   Since the school says that his fits are a result of his illness, it is actually counter productive, and non-supportive to try and talk him down.  For example, if you try to tell him that he doesn't need to save his half eaten / melted ice cream, because there will be more ice cream, he will not only reject that theory, but feel alone in his thinking, and as though people are trying to trick him.   Their new approach is to save the ice cream, and hope he forgets about it. What sickens me is that they show sympathy towards him when he gets upset about anything, and now I believe that subconsciously he uses that as a way to get what he wants.   It's gone far beyond a fear of loss, and he now screams and even turns violent whenever anything remotely negative occurs.  When this happens those around him rush to his aid, and give in instantly, without question.  He has absolutely no boundaries, or structure.  He is being completely shielded from anything Joe deems negative.   It literally makes me sick to imagine how that little boy views the world around him.  There is no guidance.  He is free to believe what he wants, which can only result in an extremely irrational conscious. 
I'm not a parent.  If Joe was my son, I don't know what I would do in this situation.  However it's not fair for Joe to have to go it alone like this.  I am deeply saddened by the future that little boy faces.  I know he looks up to me and his Uncle Rob (my husband), and we can tell by the way he hangs on our every word, that he wants help.  He wants a role model.  He wants someone to help him make sense of the world around him.  We can only do so much.  When we visit and play with him, we often try different things.  For example we take turns making the rules to the games we play.   We call it "Boss", who ever the boss is, get's to create the game structure, and the other people have to play by those rules or they lose. He always wins when he's the boss, but in turn he loses when we do. He doesn't think it's fair, but he doesn't get his way either.  At Christmas time we even taught him about giving, and convinced to him to give his family members some of his toys.  He was reluctant at first, but eventually really got into it.  He gave his Grandma a toy cook set because Grandma likes to cook.  He gave my husband one of his white dinky cars, because we recently bought a white Dodge Caliber.   It was really sweet to see him come up with meanings behind everything he gave us.  It was really funny hearing him talk about how he bought everything, and told us what he "paid" for each item, and where he bought it.  All lies of course, but he was so proud of his little accomplishments.  
I don't think he has any illnesses worthy of a real medical diagnosis (which he has yet you receive by the way).   He is just misguided, and missing boundaries and structure that will help him grow out of a lot of this behavior like most children do.   I don't think that because it's taken a bit longer for him, has anything to do with a medical defect.  
This all reminds me of a story my dad told me once.  A long time ago when he was in his 20's, he worked for a gas company, that repaired and installed furnaces and things like that.  One day he was sent to a job at an orphanage.   He said there must have been over 100 kids there, ranging in all ages.  Not one of them was crying.  Not even the little infants that were under a year old.  Taken back by this, he asked the Nun in charge how this was even possible.  She told him "Babies cry to get their parent's attention.  They know to cry when they are hungry, or need to be changed.  They don't cry because they are sad, they only cry to alert their parents.   If you give them what they need, but do not answer their cries, they will learn that crying doesn't work, and will stop."  

Uploaded 01/30/2013
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