I can’t even think of a good title

Good Lord but this week really sucks, and it’s only mid-day Tuesday. I’m beginning to think I need a good, old-fashioned, therapeutic crying jag. I’ve felt on the verge of tears over a week now, which only grew worse yesterday morning with news of the Vegas mass-shooting. I’m just so freaking sad…..

I caught my ring on something yesterday when I was unloading the car from a Costco run. I didn’t notice anything right away, so I guess I’m lucky there. But last night, I discovered one of the prongs around my center stone had completely pulled away, and the whole setting was tilted sideways. So now I’m without my ring for at least a week while it’s being repaired, and getting the appraisal (only five years since I lost and had the center stone replaced). Anyways, while driving to the jeweler, my phone rang.  I recognized it as one of the school district numbers, so I took the call.

How do you lose track of where you are in the school year?  And how do you forget you normally get *this* call this time of year, and have for the last six years? The special ed district admin was calling to schedule Little Man’s annual IEP meeting. Punch to the gut. I’ve been trying so hard to just enjoy being in the good place he’s in this year, and avoid thinking about IEP’s and transitioning him to high school. Life is having none of my denial. It’s not like we haven’t begun discussing it. It’s been hovering there in the background all year. But the high school team – at least part of it – will be at his IEP meeting next month to start the transition process. I’m so not ready for this. As before he started middle school, I’m terrified and anxious of what next year will bring for him, not to mention just making the decision where he will go to high school. Every time I think about any of the options, I have a panic attack. I’d homeschool in one capacity or another just to ease my own anxiety, but I know that is totally not the best option for any of us. Actually going to school, being in those social situations, and dealing with the classroom is a form of therapy for him. And it would just plain be counter-productive for both of us for him to be home all day every day. But I digress….I wasn’t ready for the call to schedule his meeting. I’m not ready for his meeting. I’m not ready to make a decision for him on high school. And I’m certainly not ready for whatever fresh form of hell we’re going to deal with while he transitions to wherever he goes for high school.

My freaking TimeHop and Facebook memories have both been full of photos of the Princess dancing or posts about her dancing. She isn’t dancing at all right now. I don’t know if she will ever dance again. I miss watching her dance. I miss that part of her. I am excited for the new adventures she’s having, and the girls on her field hockey team are incredibly supportive of each other. It just still makes me a little sad……I ran into a mom from the studio in the store yesterday. Just seeing her made me tear up. P’s dancing was more than just her dancing….so many of the parents (and grandparents) became my friends. I miss that little community too. My FIL asked for a photo the other day of P – one of her dancing. Just looking through her dance photos was an emotional haul. I sent him two of my favorites, and felt a couple tears roll down my face. I hate change.

I guess I’m just feeling drained and emotionally overwhelmed at the moment. I know it will get better, but for now, those tears are pretty close to the surface. And that just is what it is……

The Year of the Choice

I remember this point three years ago, when Little Man had just started his last year of elementary school. I remember the anxiety I was beginning to feel, knowing we would have to make the decision during that year where he was going to go to middle school. He was in a pretty good place that year, but I was terrified of what was coming, terrified of messing up and making the wrong decision, terrified of the new big bad world he would be facing and its potential for total disaster.

Sixth grade was BRUTAL. We knew it would be, no matter where he ended up. The magnitude of change moving to middle school guaranteed stress, anxiety, meltdown, regression.  I don’t doubt the decision we made as far as where he goes to middle school – it is the perfect place for him. We’ve watched him thrive in the last year, and feel confident he will continue on that path this year. That’s not to say he’s without issues.  He’s been pushing back on doing his work, and on doing his work to his full ability (he’s a brilliant boy).  He’s gotten a little lax, a little lazy.  And, I’m not gonna lie, he sometimes uses his ability to manipulate to get out of things, or delay. So we’ve brought the hammer, because we know we have to prepare him for high school and the expectations that come with that level of education.

I’m trying desperately to stay in this moment, to just relax and enjoy the good place he’s in. But I can’t help the thought from hovering…..we will have to make a choice at some point this year where he will be going for high school. Thinking about any of the options brings a rise in anxiety level for me.  The school the older two go to is huge, and it is traditional….moving classes, big campus, PE for Freshmen, homework loads, etc. I fear the potential for bullying is too big. I get palpitations thinking about him going from class to class, much less making it through every class every day (they block, so Tuesday – Friday, classes are 90-ish minutes long). I panic when I think about him even knowing what his homework is, much less getting it done. And don’t get me started on PE – that’s been the bane of his existence since first grade.

The PBL/math and science high school would be a good fit, but it’s different. He wouldn’t be with his siblings.  And its location requires navigating morning rush-hour traffic in addition to the usual drop-off/pick-up mess. Yes, that one is on me – it’s SUPER inconvenient. Then there are the other options – Classical, Charter, home school (which, quite honestly, isn’t really on the table at all). So. Many. Choices. So much pressure and anxiety.

He goes back and forth between wanting to go to the math & science school, and going to the school down the street with his brother and sister. His class will do high school visits around town in October or November. We have his IEP in November, and a representative from his “home school” will be there.

I feel like I need to meet the special ed teams at each school on the table. I need to know we can work together, that they will have his best interests at heart, that they will protect him, that they will help us get him to the goal of a full diploma with as few disasters along the way as possible.  We  need a school he will keep receiving the services he needs, and that will accommodate him in his particular form of special.

See, this is where I spiral. I’m really trying to focus on the fact he’s in a good place right now, and not stress about what’s coming next year. At the same time, I know how quickly time passes, and that we will need to start these discussions with his teams sooner than later. We basically have about two months to live in the now. Then, we will have to face the year of the choice head-on.

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.

One. More. Day.

Little Man starts school on Wednesday – yes, a full ten days after his siblings started. Let me tell ya, it’s been a LONG eight days. He thought it would be so cool to still have a week and a half left of summer. Yeah, not so much. By day two, he was crying by early afternoon, wanting his brother and sister home. It didn’t help I was busy with work and couldn’t cater to him all day. Blessedly, his besties have still been on summer as well. He figured out quickly it isn’t awesome being the only one home all day.

I’m ready for him to go back. Yes, I dread the fact they’re all three growing  up so quickly, and I miss the early days of preschool and school. But he needs structure back. I need those six-point-five hours a day to maintain my own sanity. I love summer – beach trips, vacations, time with family, the break from routine, the lack of homework battles, the later, relaxed nights. But I know I am a bit better mom when we all have some time away from each other during the day.

Little Man has been struggling the last week or so. Impending routine change will always do that, and I don’t know why I always forget that  until we’re well into the tears, meltdowns, and outbursts. All of the sudden, a lightbulb will go off in my mind, and I think, “Oh, yeah, routine change is coming, which means anxiety and stress for him.” As much as I knew I needed to warn his teachers towards the end of the school year, I needed my own warning towards the end of summer.

We have one more day. He will do okay the first few days, maybe the first two weeks. Then the wheels will fall off, until he’s fully adjusted back to the school routine. Every year I pray it will be different. Who knows….maybe this will be that year. But we have one more day to get through first. And trust me, tomorrow will totally suck.  Sleep will not come easily tomorrow night. There will be battles and tears most of the day. And once I drop him off Wednesday morning, he and I will both breath a short-lived sigh of relief.

Transition

I don’t know why I seemed to think Little Man’s transition to his new school would be much smoother than it’s been, but I guess I did. And I’m feeling kinda blindsided at the moment. This sucks. It’s awful to watch him go through this. He won’t tell me how his days are going, but his SAI and social worker have been awesome at keeping me in the loop. Only the news usually isn’t fabulous. Yesterday was a day for him, although not quite as bad as last Monday. I’m left feeling defeated. I’m watching him regress, right in front of my eyes. In the back of my mind is the stark fear this amazing school is going to tell us he’s too much for them, he needs too much, too many services for them to handle. I don’t know where we would go from here. I’m spending most of my days praying he will pull it together, turn it around, get back to where he was last year.

He has regressed. His anger is at all-time levels. He can’t ask for help. He can’t express what has him so worked up. He can’t figure out what to do to help himself calm and settle. We never know what we’re going to get when he wakes up in the morning, but it’s typically been a lot of stomping, banging, slamming, lashing out. I’m angry….not at him, but my anger gives me a very limited amount of patience, and we’re all paying for it. I’m also just so sad.

We knew there would be a transition period. Everything is new, and I mean everything, except three friends from his class last year. It’s a brand new school, in a new building, with only one teacher he knew before this year, in a different part of town, with a different schedule, new routine, new style of learning/teaching. For him, that’s just a whole lot to take in and process. We were in such a good place last year. I’d hoped, given the environment at his new school, he would settle quickly. We’re midway through week 3, and it’s pretty dark. I don’t doubt for one second this school is what he needs…the way they are teaching (it’s a STEAM school), the characteristics they are building and encouraging, the choice they give the students, the innovation is everything he will thrive in, once we move past this.

He would have to go through transition no matter where he went to school this year. He’s in sixth grade. That means middle school. The lifeline of our familiar elementary school is gone – although I’ve checked in with his SAI there, and remain friends with so many of the teachers and staff there. He can’t go back. I can’t imagine how much worse this transition would have been had he not had the choice of his current school. He would be a thousand times overwhelmed if he were at the traditional middle school his siblings attended. Thinking about it gives me the hives.

That doesn’t change the fact this is brutal. And I’m calling BS on those autism parents who say they wouldn’t change their kids for anything. I would, in a heartbeat. I would take a kid who was less brilliant, less creative, less witty, less amazing, if he didn’t have to go through this painful struggle. Wouldn’t we change our “normal” kids in some ways too if it would make life easier for them? My little man has to function in a world not designed for him. He has no choice. Watching that struggle, when there’s very little I can do for him beyond the medications, therapies, and accommodations we have in play, breaks me. I hate seeing his face crumble after he’s had an episode. He can’t help it. He’s  surviving as best he can, but that means responding to being overwhelmed, anxious, over-stimulated. That means meltdowns, tantrums, lashing out, withdrawing. That means me waiting by the phone each day, micro-managing as much as I can at home knowing those 6.5 hours he’s at school each day take just about all he has in the tank.

We’re on week three of school. How long can this transition last? And will we all survive?