He’ll yell “NO!” when you say hello to him.
He’ll scream “get it!” or “do it!” with utter disregard for the word please.
He’s been known to push and shove.
He speaks in whines.
He spends a good portion of the day vociferating.
He repeats himself incessantly.
He throws himself on the floor when he’s mad or upset.
He constantly wants to be carried.
No matter where he goes, he always wants to go home.
And he’ll unwrap all the canned goods in the house and take out all the clothes in all of the closets just for shits and giggles.
But he is not an asshole.
He is a narcoleptic.
Crim Law 101
Dylan may be a handful, but no judge or jury would ever convict him of being an asshole. To prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, let’s approach this from a legal perspective. Let’s suppose the morality police arrest Dylan and charged him with the offence of being an asshole. Although there might be sufficient prima facie evidence to arrest him based on his obstreperous behaviour, a conviction would require evidence of both actus rea and mens rea. As Ms. Elle Woods eloquently stated in her now famous cross-examination of permed heiress Chutney Windham “there can be no crime without a vicious will.” In other words, the act is not culpable unless the mind is guilty. Mens rea would be particularly difficult to prove for two reasons:
- Like the automatism defence that was successfully applied to acquit a Toronto sleepwalker of bludgeoning his mother-in-law to death, it could similarly be reasoned that a diagnosis of narcolepsy serves to effectively negate the necessary element of mens rea.
- At the ripe old age of four, Dylan is not nearly old enough to be mens rea-ting.
Boom! Colonel Jessup just admitted to ordering the Code Red, Ms. Vito just explained that positraction was not available on the ’64 Buick Skylar, and the giant floppy disk that proves Xenstar is guilty on all counts has been submitted into evidence. If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit. Lawyered.
Dylan really, truly isn’t a bad kid. He’s not insolent or mean or spoiled or neglected. He doesn’t have OCD, ODD or PMS. He’s not lazy or crazy or needy. He’s not anti-social or apathetic. He’s just a chronically sleep deprived four year old boy with an unnecessarily hard life who has been wrongfully accused of all of the above. I can assure you, however, that as long as I am his mom, he will never be wrongfully convicted.
I often feel like Dylan’s PR manager, constantly explaining away his latest scandal or diva like behaviour to avoid a cover story in People Magazine. Every new teacher, every new instructor and every new counsellor requires a debriefing not only on the specifics of the disorder but also how it adversely affects his personality. In fact, I’ve had to have this conversation with everyone from his hairdresser to his phlebotomist to even his neurologist. All the parents at his pre-school have heard my spiel and so have all the parents of his friends. I have had this conversation so many times already that it’s become an unwanted exercise in rote learning. Even Rylie has committed the speech to memory and often takes pleasure in correcting me if I’ve missed a point or two. If you’ve ever met me, three things are certain: 1) you’ve been struck by my good looks and killer sense of humour, 2) you know I’m exceedingly modest, and 3) you’ve had a conversation with me about Dylan’s narcolepsy and how it has dramatically changed his disposition. Despite all this, Dylan is still somehow loved by all his classmates and friends. For now, anyhow. While snapping at his friends and sleeping through playdates may make him the most popular kid in pre-school, I am cognizant of the fact that his sour mood, whether intentional or not, whether explained or misunderstood, will eventually start to wear thin with friends. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about his social development and how it will affect him in the future. I can only hope if enough people are educated and informed about my little narc, they will learn to love him, high-pitch screams and all and see the beautiful boy inside.
Since becoming sick, Dylan has become fractious, cantankerous and irascible. I use these visceral adjectives intentionally because I am verbally pompous but also to underscore the gravity of his demeanor. Dylan isn’t just tired and moody like an average four year old might be after a missed nap. Dylan hasn’t slept in a year. To say he’s just irritable and cranky doesn’t do his state of being justice. Calling Dylan grumpy is like saying Don Draper is cute or referring to Tobias Fünke as merely a therapist.
The harsh reality is that Dylan is suffering from a devastating neurological disorder that has forever changed him in many ways. Hopefully these changes will be subdued or maybe even reversed once we find the right medication and dosage.
Reasonable Apprehension of Bias
Despite all the bad, there is still so much good inside of D. He is incredibly affectionate and loving. Almost every morning while I’m still half asleep, Dylan will cuddle up next to me and say “I love you so much Mommy”. Every night when I lie with him before bed, he wraps his big bear paw around me and hugs me as he falls asleep. In the few minutes I have with him before he drifts off into REM much too quickly, we’ll whisper talk about how much we love each other. If I’m scolding him for a wrongdoing he’ll ask me for a hug. He tells me I’m beautiful or that my hair is pretty or that he likes my outfit everyday. When I ask for a special Mommy kiss, he wraps his arms around my neck and pulls me in close for a smooch. He passionately insists he’s going to marry his girlfriend Ava and he has had a major crush on my best friend’s sister since he was 6 months old. Regardless of his mood, he has never refused a kiss or hug from Auntie Alison. Apparently, the damage to his brain has no affect on the love in his heart.
Dylan is also very compassionate. He hates to see others hurt and will run to their side for a hug. It pained him to watch Finding Nemo for the first time because he was genuinely worried that Nemo would not find his dad. He is the most resilient and brave four-year-old I have ever met. He has been poked, prodded, scanned, tested and sedated all year long, yet he never complains about going to the doctor even though he always asks if we are going to the “sleep doctor or the hurt me doctor?” He is inquisitive and observant, soaking up all the small details of the world around him and asking questions about everything. He is so smart, my god is he smart. He has a memory that is nothing like a sieve and recall ability that will eventually fund my retirement à la Rain Main. He has a special smile just for me that melts my heart, big blue eyes that sparkle with mischief and a mop of curly hair that I can’t help but brush into an afro. He is so silly and so much fun and he is one of the funniest people I know. I think I love him just a wee bit.
Narcolepsy sucks but Dylan still rocks.
He’ll yell “NO!” when you say hello because he’s frustrated with life.
He’ll scream “get it!” or “do it!” with utter disregard for the word please because his exhaustion makes him short on patience.
He’s been known to push and shove because some of his meds make him aggressive.
He speaks in whines because he’s a four-year-old (we can’t blame everything on the narcolepsy).
He spends a good portion of the day vociferating because everything is a struggle for him and at four years old this is the only way he knows to express himself.
He repeats himself incessantly. It’s called perseverating which is the uncontrollable repetition of a particular response, such as a word, phrase, or gesture, despite the absence or cessation of a stimulus. His body expends so much energy regulating sleep and wakefulness that there isn’t much left to regulate emotions.
He throws himself on the floor when he’s mad or upset because strong emotions cause cataplectic attacks that cause him to lose muscle control.
He constantly wants to be carried because he is constantly weary and fatigued.
No matter where he goes, he always wants to go home so he can sleep.
And he’ll unwrap all the canned goods in the house and take out all the clothes in all the closets just for shits and giggles because even at four he’s got a wickedly twisted sense of humour.
But he is not an asshole.
He is a narcoleptic.
And I adore him.