My son, the squirrel

There was a mix-up at the baby factory 18 years ago and I was given a son who is 50% squirrel.

The Boy’s last FB post yesterday read: “Just set the record for the fastest climb on the <State College> rock wall. 12.92 seconds!” No surprise there.

The first time The Boy disappeared in a park on a family outing, the panic of realizing he’d slipped away was only slightly lessened by the panic when he was discovered near the top of a two-story tall pine tree. But he quickly scrambled down without incident. (I defy anyone to get tree sap off every inch of skin of a 5-year-old. Can’t be done.)

There were plenty of times, though, when he didn’t escape injury. He’d had two sets of stitches by age 4. There was a fractured skull and a broken arm. Throughout high school he came home daily from auditions, rehearsals, performances, stage crew work calls, and cast parties with freak injuries – I mean, who breaks their ear? Twice? While participating in a supposedly no-contact activity like choir and theater? His nose has been broken so many times it can be manipulated rather like firm Jello.

Thankfully, his father is also part squirrel, and together they spent a number of years volunteering for Girl Scouts as challenge course instructors, leading zip lining, rock climbing, and rappelling. The urge to climb was funneled productively, in an environment where safety procedures were carefully observed.

Unfortunately, the random injuries continued elsewhere. I was plagued with mom-guilt – was I not guarding him sufficiently? But then during The Boy’s junior year, other issues we’d been watching closely for some time led us to look into the possibility of ADHD.

One of the first steps of that diagnosis process was a long parent inventory. We were able to check “no” to quite a few questions. But one that blew me away was “Does your child climb excessively?” I didn’t think “yes” was quite a strong enough answer, but I resisted the urge to highlight it in orange. Long story short, he was diagnosed with mild to moderate ADHD.

It wasn’t until a several months after that diagnosis that I heard a report on NPR about the high incidence of injury in kids with diagnosed ADHD. The urge for constant motion plus poor impulse control equals OUCH. Relief for a guilt-ridden mom, and a new parent/child talking point.

From that day on, every time The Boy left the house to hang out with friends or go to one of his many activities, he went with a reminder: “Don’t do stupid things!” There were follow-ups to that line: “Think before you jump, climb, and leap…we don’t have time for a trip to the ER today…a cast will seriously affect your ability to move around on stage.”  On Homecoming night, during the pre-dinner photo shoot, I warned The Boy and his best friend/impromptu wrestling buddy NOT to send each other home with injuries.  All those warnings helped some.

So I’m glad to hear, via Facebook, that he found a safe way in college to assuage that urge to climb. And I can’t help but be proud that my little squirrel set the campus record. Now if he can just get through his freshman year with all his limbs intact…



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