Trusting My Instincts and Learning to Ask for Help


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Trusting My Instincts

As an early childhood educator and preschool director for the last 10+ years, you can imagine I’ve seen it all. 

I’ve seen kids of all types with all kinds of unique needs, personalities, learning styles, and coping techniques. I’ve coached teachers through all types of situations. And with my director hat and tool bag and the partnership of the families and teachers, we’ve almost always found some headway with the issues that have arisen.

So you can imagine my surprise when I had a child that didn’t fit any of the molds. My tool bag just didn’t seem to be enough. And you can imagine even more surprise when that child was my son, my SECOND son.

I have learned through raising my first son that as a mommy, I know nothing. My heart strings are just too taut for me to have the ability to see the situation from a different perspective.  

We knew he was different from the day he was born.

As a preemie newborn, he had this high-pitched squeal that could be heard a mile away. His level of emotion has always been a little more intense than what we experienced with our oldest. And there was never a rhyme or reason, so creating patterns was out. 

We did what any parent would do and used the tools that worked for our first. Applying consistent messages of “blowing out birthday candles” (taking deep, calming breaths) and “you may be sad or angry, but you need to do it in your own space” seemed to get us through the first 3 years of his life. But things took a turn leading up to the 4th birthday. That was about the same time we welcomed our 3rd child into the world.

Our pediatrician was also concerned, so we did all the big stuff (MRIs, EEGs) to rule out the things he couldn’t control. He is/was fighting for attention in a new way, one that didn’t seem to respond to ANYTHING WE TRIED, and we tried it all. We were at a loss. We spent half of the time on eggshells, never knowing what would send our sometimes sweet boy to the point of no return. And the worst part about it was that he only showed his true emotion at home, so his teachers were starting to think I was crazy.

But then I asked for help.

We were finishing up a “Mommy/Griffy” date with his baby sister that ended in him deciding he needed to leave his coat in the car despite the 40-degree weather. He. lost. his. mind. He refused to get out of the car, slammed his head on the concrete, kicked, and screamed. Thankfully, one of the teachers knew what was going on and came out to get my youngest so I could put on my director hat. He snapped out of it about 10 minutes later, but in that moment, while I watched my 3-year-old turn into a different person, I knew we couldn’t do this alone anymore. I asked for help. I finally stopped trying to be everything to him and started focusing on the one role I was lucky enough to have that no one else got to be: his mother.

Fast forward to today.

We now know (as of September 13th to be exact!) that what we have been seeing is actually High-Functioning Autism. As his mommy, I always knew that was what we were seeing, but autism is such a scary, weighted word. With some help from an awesome play therapist, we’re carving out special time for our son that is necessary for him to feel like an equal part of our family (not the oldest, not the baby). And although we still have days like the one that got us on this path, we’re grateful we’re learning how to meet his needs more and more every day.

What I have learned.

I’ve learned so much about myself through this process. It’s not my job to “director” him or to approach his situation as if I’m confident and in control. My job is to just be his mom. My job is to LOVE him and to FIGHT for him and to WORK my bottom off to ensure we’re setting him up for success. And guess what? It’s working. Because I am enough. Griffin just needs a few more people in his corner, too. 

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Erin Rice
Erin is a fresh transplant to Orange County from Richmond, VA as of January 1, 2019! She and her husband, Rick, married in 2008 on the same beach where they fell in love on Virginia's Eastern Shore. They are thrilled to have settled into the Laguna Niguel area with their three wild children, ages 8, 6 and 2 and less than 5 miles from the coast. Erin works full-time as the director of a preschool, where she has the opportunity to make an impact and encourage the future of tomorrow to grow in every way, all while having fun! A self-proclaimed eternal optimist, she and her family enjoy living life and turning everything into an adventure. She loves trips to Target (alone at 8 am), iced coffee, baking, cheering for her VCU Rams, staying healthy, fresh air and introducing her kids to real music. Keep up with Erin on Instagram @1erinrice