Last Days

Oh lordy, but we are struggling through these last days. It seems an insult to have to carry on with regular school activities for one kid when two have been on their summer break for eleven days. My brain is totally not on reports, Open House, report cards, morning routines, nor on signing field trip/dance permission slips. This momma has checked out, and I do apologize to Little Man’s teachers and team.

He is having a rough go. They had a field trip yesterday. He wouldn’t say what happened, just that it was “horrible.” That may mean one small thing went awry, or it may mean he had a full-blown meltdown. Who knows, and I’m afraid to ask. There’s a dance at school Friday  night for the 5th-7th graders. We haven’t even discussed it. I have to keep reminding myself his Open House is Thursday night (can I send a surrogate, or would that be frowned upon?). I got an email from his SAI earlier today he has completely pushed back on being in the classroom for the 7th grade health class. While I feel the curriculum is important, appropriate, and not beyond his abilities/understanding, I don’t have it in me to fight him right now, nor deal with the fallout of pushing his boundaries. We’re both toast. My response to her was I was fine with him sitting this one out.

His anxiety is elevated. He’s done. He wants nothing to do with getting out the door in the morning. He has asked daily to take his plushy  to school (I’m still saying no to that one). He’s forgetting necessary items. He’s basically pushing back on almost everything. While I know he will have another adjustment period once summer does start for him, we are both so ready to be through this process of the end of the school year.

I looked back through my end-of-year posts through Timehop on my phone. So many of them reiterate this feeling – he’s over it, he’s stressed, he’s anxious, he’s ready to be done but he’s also afraid of the change of routine/lack of routine that comes with summer. No matter how much he matures and grows, change in routine and structure is an achilles heel for him, and it likely always will be. His tool box is forgotten by this point, and we all just hang on for the ride. It’s a bit brutal, and these are the days I would do anything to make this all right and better for him. This is when I raise a certain finger to autism, because it makes days that should be full of fun and excitement stressful and anxiety-ridden. Add to that fact his siblings are swimming, hanging out with friends, sleeping in and enjoying summer while he sits in a classroom, and you have a boy (and a momma) who is just over it. #bringonsummer

Return of the Wonder Twins

When Big and the Princess were little, I called them the Wonder Twins. They’re not twins. They’re not even technically Irish Twins – they missed that by 19 days – but they’re close enough. And the two of them together…..yeah…..two creative, intelligent, mischievous minds working together to cause as much chaos in my world as possible. I couldn’t mentally keep up with the two of them. I believe I’ve shared some of their earlier antics – him cutting all her hair off twice, running away while I was feeding their brand new baby brother, finger painting with baby shampoo all over their bedroom floors (carpeted), unraveling an entire Costco-size package of toilet paper and tossing another package of toilet paper into my full jacuzzi bathtub, making a mud pit in our backyard and basically bathing in it, climbing up on top of the fridge to reach the candy I’d hidden up there…..They work well together, what can I say?

They’d veered away from creative disasters in recent years. They do have a special relationship, though. That’s never really changed. They are both in high school together this year, and now that Big Man has his driver’s license, they have a bit of freedom away from us they hadn’t had before. I’m seeing a return of the Wonder Twins, and I’m a wee bit terrified of what they might get up to.

They are GOOD kids – both in honors and AP classes, involved in sports and other activities. They have good friends. But I remember that feeling of newly-gained freedom in high school, and I see the writing on the wall. They talk with each other about things they don’t even tell us. They have each other’s backs, for the most part. They move in relatively different circles at school, but they do have some friends that overlap.

I got completely bent the other day when I thought they might be covering for each other. I’ll admit – I’m paranoid. I was a supremely boring kid in high school – never broke the rules, never even thought about it. I was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there, always (okay, I did skip a few classes senior year, but that’s about it as far as being a rule-breaker). I was basically a nerd. I didn’t party. I did what I was supposed to do, what I was expected to do. But I do  know what my brother and sister got up to, so I’m scared – scared I’ll miss something, so we do keep a watchful eye on them. I don’t expect them to be as boring as I was, but neither do I want them ending up in situations we can’t get them out of.

My point is, my Wonder Twins are back. It’s fun and amazing to watch, but it’s also terrifying in a good way. They’re there for each other, thank god. But look out school – who knows what these two will do.

The Fixer

I’m a middle kid. Well, I’m actually one of seven siblings, but I’m the middle of three who grew up in one household together. Family is complicated, isn’t it? Anyways…I think I’m a pretty typical middle kid – overachieving (when I was younger….now I’m respectably average in pretty much all I do), perfectionist, self-driven, super organized. I was the mediator growing up. I liked to smooth the way between people, particularly my siblings. I translated, repaired the communication lines. I needed everyone around me to be happy, and would do all I could to make it so. I also flew under the radar a lot.That was my happy place. I tried desperately not to make waves, not to disrupt, not to make anyone unhappy with me.

It can make a person a little bit neurotic and anxious, trust me. It took me years to figure out what I was doing, and to learn to take a step back. I was not responsible for the happiness of every person in my life. It wasn’t my job to make everything happy and smooth for them. I shouldn’t change myself, or give up my voice, just because someone else might not agree, or it might cause some tension. I needed to learn to let go, a lot, especially as people will still make their own choices/mistakes. At the same time, I struggle incredibly with conflict. It makes me super uncomfortable, even now.

I was doing really well with the letting go, the backing away, the putting responsibility for a person’s happiness back upon that person rather than taking it upon myself. Then I had kids, and those kids grew into big kids, and now teenagers. I want, so much, for them to be happy, for their lives to go smoothly, to ease their paths. But guess what? Teenagers don’t listen to their parents. We’re the morons who know nothing, aren’t we? I remember that distinctly from when I was a teen. That’s fine. I can take it. But oh, when things aren’t going well, it’s all I can do to not try to mediate, translate, offer some suggestions. That middle kid syndrome is back in full force. They’re my babies – I do hold some responsibility for their happiness, don’t I? So I’m fighting myself to just step back. They   have to learn, on their own, in their way, in their time. It’s part of growing up, becoming independent, preparing to be out in the world on their own.

Middle kids – we like to fix, make happy, help create smooth paths. It’s what we do. We are, after all, in the middle.

Transitions

Little Man has one more year in middle school, but we are already thinking ahead to high school. The biggest decision will be where he goes.  I’ve been trying to live in the land of denial with this one. I’d rather not consider a) three kids in high school; b) his actual transition to high school (because we know how well the transition to middle school went); c) my baby in high school; d) getting to know a whole new IEP team; and e) his last tri-ennual evaluation, set for his Freshman year. All. Of. That.

He will, of course, have a voice in the decision-making process. What brought it all to mind today is that he brought it up in the car this morning. He and his buddies were talking about high school, where they each wanted to go, and – of all things – the possibility of getting community service hours by volunteering at their old elementary school when they’re in high school. Nothing like planning ahead! Anyways, he firmly stated he wants to go to the same school as his siblings. Okay, well, wow.

There is a math and science high school in town, which is much like the middle school he attends. It’s project-based, heavily utilizes technology, collaborative work, and it’s much smaller than the nearby high school. It’s a lottery process to get into the math and science high school, so it would be luck of the draw to get him in. It’s also across town – at least 20 minutes each way with traffic. So while I think it would be a really good environment for him, I’m unsure he will get in, and unsure of the logistics.

I like the idea of him at school with his brother and sister. I haven’t had all three in the same place in nearly five years. And if he does go there, that will give us that many more years of blessing those hallowed halls with our particular brand of crazy. I’m sure the Principal, VP’s, counselor, and school nurse are already cringing at the thought of three extra years with us around.

Knowing he would have his brother and sister on campus to look out for him and help him gives me small peace. I know how frequently Big Man and P see each other at school (hardly ever) during the day. It’s a big school with 2500 students, give or take. I do panic though…..the more students, the more opportunity for some jerk to give him a hard time. And don’t get me started on the PE situation with locker rooms, etc. I can’t even…..

He’s in a good place now. High school will be a new story. He’s hardly had to change classrooms, is used to not having homework, and has plenty of kids similar to him at his school. The kids know him, accept him, know his quirks and how he is. I can’t entirely picture how that’s going to go in high school. We do have other options besides these two. There is a charter high school, Classical, and other semi-homeschool options (although the thought of him being home more during the school day, well, that’s a whole other discussion). He seems bent on going to school where his brother and sister go.

It’s going to be a transition no matter where he goes. Those transitions are never easy with him. Yes, we have another year where we are, but the process has begun.

These Two

I truly didn’t plan to have two kids twelve months apart. I get asked that a lot. I barely had a grip on having one child when I found out the Princess was on her way. I cried. Spouse laughed. Who does that – has two so close together? We did. I wrapped my brain around it, and dug in for the ride.

Big Man, being a preemie, was developmentally nine months old when the Princess was born….not walking, still in an infant seat, still in diapers, still on bottles. It was rough going. But, on the flip side, the two of them have never know anything but the other being there. They  have always been close, and it’s been an amazing relationship to witness. I thought they would brawl like crazy. Nope. Not in the least. They played together, they destroyed together, they drove me insane together. They learned together.

Last year, they were at different schools. They both seemed – at least in my eyes – to struggle a bit without each other, not that they hung out together at school, but knowing the other one was there seemed to give them each balance, strength, a base. This year, they’re both in high school, together.  They move in different circles, although they do have a couple of overlapping friends (those friendships totally intrigue  me because Big Man and P are SOOOOOOO different from each other). I still love their relationship.

I took all three to the mall a couple of weeks ago. Little Man is his own gig entirely, but the other two were asking each other if this shirt, those shorts, this jacket, these shoes looked good on them. I could see how they’ve always been, and I could see how they will be all their lives. They rely on each other. They bounce things off each other. They talk to each other about things they may or may not share with their brother, their parents, or their friends.

Their future boyfriends/girlfriends/spouses will have to pass the sibling test. They will have to understand and accept their relationship. They should know that, and just deal. To try to split that relationship apart would spell the end.

Sometimes I feel bad for Little Man – he is not as close to either as they are to each other. He’s the youngest, and just doesn’t have the same relationship with either as the older two have. I don’t know if he notices it.

I love that these two are so close. While I was completely freaked out about having two twelve months apart, it’s been the most amazing gift to them, and to me.

Why Baseball?

I may  have mentioned in the past I’m a huge baseball fan.  Less than a week until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training!!! We’re *this* close to my favorite time of year.But why baseball, you ask? The easy answer is I just love being at the ball field on a warm summer day, listening to the sounds of the ball being caught and hit. The long answer goes much deeper than that.

My brother, K, is almost four years older. When I was little, I worshipped him. I was too much a priss to want to do the same sports he did, but  I loved watching him play. And he played baseball. More than that, he was pretty darn good. I was so proud of him.  Most of the younger siblings would play on the playground during the games, and pester their parents into multiple trips to the snack bar. Not me….I sat in my little chair, watching my big brother play.  I learned how to keep score when I was maybe seven years old. Some of my best childhood memories are from those Little League ball fields.

Add to this, I’m a Daddy’s girl, in addition to being close to my brother. Spending time with them meant watching sports. One of those sports was baseball. They were Oakland A’s fans, so I became an Oakland A’s fan. The fact they won three World Series in a row when I was little-little didn’t hurt. So baseball is also wrapped up in memories of spending time with Daddy and K.

When I was in college, a bunch of my friends were on the baseball team. We spent Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (when I wasn’t working) at the field watching them play. I learned so much more about the game those three years. I learned the mental side of the game, the strategies of plays and players, the dance that happens between pitcher and hitter. I learned the game, and I learned respect for the game.

A couple of years out of college, my brother and I got season tickets for our beloved Athletics team. Now baseball meant Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the park. Sun-drenched memories created with the brother who introduced me to baseball. We had our favorite players, few of whom ever lasted more than a few years with the  A’s before they were traded away. But it was baseball, and it was time together, and it was our favorite team.

Every year as Spring Training approaches, I start watching baseball movies. I have my favorites…Bull Durham, Major League, For Love of the Game, A League of Their Own, The Natural, Eight Men Out, Moneyball. They remind me baseball is close. They remind me all the things I’m anxiously awaiting. They remind me why and how much I love the game. When the season actually starts, our television will be tuned to games nearly every day, from the time the first pitch is thrown of whatever early game there is, until the last out of the last night game that day. The sounds of the game bring calm to my day.

Baseball is a game….it’s a game of throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball. But it’s so much more than that. It’s little boys taking the t-ball field for the very first time. It’s little sisters watching big brothers play on an all-star team. It’s daddies and daughters spending treasured time together. It’s siblings sharing a passion for a certain team. It’s competition. It’s one man vs another, one team vs another. It’s beer, brats, cotton candy, and peanuts. It’s fly balls and home runs. It’s winning, and losing. That’s why baseball.

 

What’s it like for them?

I saw a book on an autism page I follow, written by the sibling of an autistic child, about what it was like to be the sibling of an autistic child. I didn’t read all the details – the book was targeted towards younger children. But it got me wondering again what it’s like for Big Man and the Princess to be the brother and sister of Little Man. How are they changed, how are they different from who they would be if not for autism being part of our daily world?

Every family has their stuff to deal with. Autism is what’s on our plate. Currently, they are in a different school than Little Man. That will be so for another year and a half. And, quite honestly, we still don’t know he will go to the same high school as they. If he does, how will that change their lives? They get that respite for seven hours a day. They get to be who they are, rather than “sibling to an autistic kid” being in their face constantly. But when they bring friends home, it’s there. Do they explain beforehand? Do they have to explain again? Does it bother them? Does it enter their minds when they’re building those outside relationships? Does it make them anxious?

Here’s the deal  – Little Man is high functioning, and while his social skills have improved immensely, his particular issues mean he can sometimes come across as just a jerk, rather than a kid with autism. Does that make sense? And then there are his quirks – carrying around stuffed animals, obsessing over particular video games and wanting to talk about them ALL THE TIME, needing to leave the movie theater multiple times during a movie when the stimuli is simply overwhelming him, often behaving like an 8-year-old rather than the almost-13-year-old he is but then frequently showing his extreme intelligence. I don’t know how new people, people who don’t really know us, know him, take that in. As siblings, do they, and how do they, prep other people?

Other than that, what is it like for them to be his brother, his sister? I know I lose patience with him sometimes. Trust me, there have been days I’ve seriously earned the Mother Of the Year trophy. Last week, the Princess had enough of his (what should have been thinking bubble) comments, and blasted him. You can bet it didn’t go over well. I completely understood her losing patience. Do they understand why he gets treated a certain way in certain situations? Why he might be allowed to not eat what we’re eating? Why he might get his phone when we’ve said no technology in some social situations? Why we still find him in our bed some nights and don’t always make him go back to his own room?

I’ve seen the Princess mothering him, managing situations to minimize the potential for meltdowns, helping him. Big Man seems less engaged that way, but I know it’s in there, I know it affects him.

If I allow myself to go there, I can nearly break with the thought their lives shouldn’t have to be affected by autism. I do believe it will, in the long run, make them more compassionate, patient, empathetic, understanding people who will defend and stand up for those who need it. I just wish they didn’t have to learn that first hand. What’s it like for them? I may never know completely. I know I generally keep what it’s  really like for me to be his mom to myself (and my blog). I wonder how much they’re keeping to themselves what it’s like to be his siblings?