This Familiar Place

We’re almost two months into this school year. For the past week or so, I’ve noticed some regression in Little Man…..more tears, more outbursts, a couple of full-blown meltdowns. His anxiety level is up.  He’s pushing back more. Then we have that situation I wrote about last week. He’s not really interested in going back to that particular class. Friday and yesterday, he spent significant time in the nurse’s office complaining of a bad headache. Friday, I ended up bringing him home. Yesterday, I took him ibuprofen at 9:30, but then got another call two hours later to come get him.

He’s fine. No other physical complaints, just the headache that only appears at school.

Here’s what I think, having done this school thing with him a few times before. I think he’s maxed out. Does that make sense? He just reaches a certain capacity to tolerate it all, and then hits a wall. We typically see this happen six weeks or so into the school year. It doesn’t even take me a few days or weeks to catch on to what’s happening. I just  know, as soon as we see this regression start it’s because he’s tapped.

I can’t pull him out of school just because he’s reached a wall. I can’t let him skip doing his work just because he has little left in  his tolerance tank.  I can’t let him just escape. I do give him a little space where I can, but we can’t allow him to retreat completely.

It’s so painful to watch him struggle. It hurts my heart. The world isn’t always kind to everyone, much less those with different needs. Every time he goes sideways, I mentally go back to that night he told us this was too hard and he didn’t want to do life anymore. I’m terrified….that is my biggest fear for him, always. Once your child says those words to you, you will never get over it. It’s always there in the back of your mind. But then there’s a fine line between acknowledging that’s there, and pushing him through situations because that’s what he has to do.

We are where we are. We’ve been here before. It’s a familiar place. Even knowing it’s probably coming doesn’t make it any easier once you notice you’re there. But we dig in, we love him through it, we keep fighting. That’s just what we do.

Huddle

We have two more weeks before our kids are on spring break. It seems an eternity since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to a much-needed break. The Herd will be headed out on an RV trip to some National Parks. We had invited a few other families along, but it didn’t work out for either of them to join us, so it will be just us – just the five of us. While I was super bummed our friends couldn’t come along, I’m now grateful for the time we will have as a family.

I’m feeling we need a family huddle – a time to re-group, reconnect, heal some wounds, help recover from some lessons, push a re-set button. It has been yet another haul this school year. We’ve had some really good things happen, but we’ve also each slugged our way through some pretty heavy stuff. I think we could each use some time to lick our wounds, figure out what we can fix, how we can fix it, what we need to move on from, what lessons have been learned, how we can communicate our needs to each other much better than we have been. We can remind each other all the great stuff about us.

Oh, it won’t all be serious stuff over the whole week we’re gone. There will be adventures – lots of hiking and biking. There will be lots of pictures, because that’s what I do. I’m already planning the scrapbook for this trip in my mind (and on Pinterest). There will be music, food, games, books, late nights, blessed mornings. Someone will say something funny and it will become part of the fabric of our family – another story to tell in years to come. We will see amazing things, go amazing places. There will be meltdowns, arguments, frustrations, but those are all part of building memories, right?

I just feel we need this time to figure out who we are as a family once again. I cannot wait to see the places we’re going to see, but more than that, I cannot wait for the time together, away from tv, friends, distractions, training schedules, classes, homework, practices, computers.  We will be contained in one RV – no separate bedrooms to run off to and close everyone else out. I’m sure that may sound like some form of torture for my three teens, but I think they’re looking forward to this as much as I am. The time with them still under our roof is speeding quickly by. I’m grateful to have the chance to be with them, experience something new for all of us.

Does your family take huddle time sometimes?

Summer, Unmedicated

I’ve been asked frequently lately how summer is going for Little Man. My fast response is, “Great!” but then I usually end up qualifying. I decided, about a week into summer, I wasn’t going to fight it. He had a miserable year much of last school year. We’re both exhausted. So he’s pretty much been allowed to do what he wants to do each day, which involves a lot of screen time.  He isn’t just playing video games, nor watching YouTube videos of other gamers playing video games. He’s been making his own videos, and creating a lot on Minecraft and Lego Create.  And he’s not by himself – our house has been boy-central most of the summer, with two particular friends hanging out nearly every day. So he’s engaged, and he’s happy. I do force him out of his comfort zone on a fairly regular basis, but I haven’t rocked the boat much. We’ve spent five days in Palm Springs, gone to the movies to see Dory (more on that later), taken a few beach trips.

He asked to go off his ADHD meds for the summer. I didn’t think too long about that one. His ADHD is completely different from that of his brother, so it’s not a huge deal to leave him unmedicated when he isn’t expected to focus on classroom schedules, rules, and activities. He’s at a critical growth point, too. Taking him off the meds leaves his appetite at that of a normal 12-year-old. He is more outgoing, engages in more conversations, unmedicated. We’ve had multiple comments on it. That kind of hurts. Here’s why – when he has to focus for hours on end on something other than his screens, he is incapable without his medicine. Also, what most people don’t see is his struggle to maintain his emotions without his medicine. Yes,  he’s more outgoing, talking more, but there are also more tearful sessions, more angry outbursts. He goes swings from one end to the other on the emotion scale within seconds. I see it, because I’m with him 24/7.

So his summer has been pretty great, 90% of the time. He’s had lots of sleepovers (all here, though as he still doesn’t like to spend the night at someone else’s house). He’s had a ton of friend time. He’s in his element – and I have computer parts and screens and cables ALL OVER my family room. But  he’s happy, content. I’ll take that. In a few weeks, we will have to start re-focusing and preparing for the new school year. Until then, he eats, he plays, he talks, and he’s unmedicated.

Single digits, folks

Nine. More. School. Days. NINE!!!!!!!! Well, let me clarify….Big Man has just three left. Yeah, our high school district and middle/elementary districts cannot seem to get on the same page. Trust me, it totally blows. But I digress.

I’m barely making it. The school nurse called yesterday morning – Little Man had a headache and upset stomach. No fever. I didn’t argue – just got in my car and picked him up. He’s home again today. Still no fever, just a general not-feeling-good kind of feeling. He is a bit pasty, I’ll give him that. I just didn’t have the energy to argue with him this morning. There are days I think how I would feel to have to sit at a desk, surrounded by kids, trying to learn, while feeling totally icky. That was my thought this morning. I wouldn’t want to do it, so why would I make him suffer through that? If this were October, or even March, he’d totally be at school. Late May? Forget it.

I think we’re done with school projects. I’m praying we’re done with school projects. If I have to go to Michael’s or Staples to get one more tri-fold, I might lose it completely. Thank goodness 8th grade doesn’t have any “days” like sixth and seventh grade – no Greek Olympics, no Renaissance Fairs, no Colonial Days for 8th grade. We’re done with all that. Can I get an Amen?! My creativity is tapped out, for real.

The most depressing thing going through my head right now is that summer will not bring any respite. Cheerleading continues, Monday through Friday, at 6am. I kid you not. Then Big Man has cross country 9am – 11am, Monday through Friday. Ballerinas do  not get summers off, so we will continue at the studio five days a week, with recital at the end of July. I WANT TO SLEEP IN!!! My summer is being held hostage by high school sports. We’re trying desperately to figure out when we might be able to squeeze a little vacation time in. It doesn’t look promising. Weeks off from cheer, dance, cross country, and my work events are not coordinating at all. Something will have to give. We need to get away. We need some real summer. There’s no way we’re going to have any kind of energy come the fall and  new school year if we don’t get a break.

But there you have it – we’re down to single digits as far as this school year goes. We’ll get there. It won’t be pretty, but we’ll get there.

The downward slide

It hit me yesterday afternoon we have just three months left of this school year. We are on the downward slide towards the end of the year. Why does that freak me out so much? There are so many reasons I’m freaked out. Big Man will graduate from eighth grade. He starts high school in the fall. Little Man finishes his elementary years and will be off to middle school next year. Those two things alone are terrifying and carry so much emotion. My babies are growing up, and it’s happening too quickly.  I don’t feel old enough to have a child in high school, a year away from driving. I don’t feel old enough to not have my babies be babies anymore.

What’s really and truly  freaking me out is this, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is our last year at our elementary school. I can’t help but be aware of that fact every morning when I drop Little Man off, and every afternoon when I pick him up.  Our days are numbered. We will leave this safe, comforting place behind. I can’t imagine not seeing the teachers and staff every day. They took on my babies, and didn’t just teach them, but loved them and brought out the best in them. I don’t know if they are aware how very  much they mean to us. I don’t know they know how they’ve impacted our lives. They have helped see us through some of our biggest challenges. They’ve cried with me. They’ve comforted me. They’ve taught me as well. They’ve given my herd a safe place to grow and learn. They’ve looked beyond the surface to find what makes each one of my kids special, what makes them them, and encouraged, cultivated, and inspired. I don’t want to leave that behind.

I can’t even think about our last days without becoming a weeping mess.  I know these three months are going to fly by, as they typically do.  I will find myself on the other side of the “last day” wondering where it all went. We are staring down a new stage in life, one where elementary school is a memory. I will no longer have “little kids.” There will be no more book fairs to chair, no more FAVE festivals, no more Three Piggy Opera, Apple Valley School days, Pioneer Days, Colonial Days, state capitol tests, salt dough maps, fifth grade musicals and picnics, no more Coyote howls of appreciation and congratulations. (Good golly – I’m getting the keyboard wet with tears already) I take each one of these lasts and treasure them, attempting to draw out every last moment, imprint it upon my brain and heart.

There’s so much I would say to the teachers and staff. I know when it comes to that day, the words will be beyond me. Just know, if you’re part of the RC staff, you’ll always be part of our family, part of our Herd.

The last first day all three were at RC

The last first day all three were at RC

Winding down = winding up

The school year is winding down. Three and a half more weeks left. Two more Mondays. Sixteen more wake-ups.  Most kids are excited for Summer’s arrival – the release from routine, from the classroom, from homework.  For  my neuro-typical kids, the excitement is palpable. All the fun stuff is going on….end-of-year performances, 6th Grade Greek Olympics, Portfolio Presentations, softball against the staff members, parties, lunches, celebration.

For E, there is anxiety, fear, and sadness. Change in routine is beyond difficult for him. And he will be leaving a classroom he has been in the past two years. He will have a new teacher, a new classroom, a different desk, different classmates next year. He is anxious about leaving the teacher who has understood him so well, encouraged him every step, kept him in line when he was going sideways, and allowed him to learn and grow in his own way.

As at the beginning of the year, his behavior has regressed. There is much more whining, fussing, lashing-out.  He is defiant. He is oppositional. He does not want to go to school. I try desperately to maintain my composure and be patient, knowing exactly what is going on. Added to the usual end-of-the-school-year anxiety is the stress for him of knowing we will be traveling much of the first month of Summer. He is not good with travel. As much as we try to build it up, ease his fears and concerns, and micro-manage, he is anxious. 

The next three weeks will have their highs and lows. This morning was just the first reminder I need to work hard to keep it together for him, and that he will always see it in his own particular way.