Here’s a clue to how Elliott’s day went yesterday. At about 3:01 p.m., the school bus pulled up, the doors opened, and my ever-charming 4th grader yelled “Mom, why do I have to be respectful to teachers? “That’s just too hard for me”. Yeah, too hard – hmmm . . . not that we have not discussed it 752 times in the month of March alone, but I’m sort of lacking sympathy about how challenging it is to treat others with respect. Deal dude.
But, here’s the good news. This amazing, crazy early summer like weather we are experiencing here in Minnesota pulled the snarkiness right out of my pal, Elliott. Oh sure, he tried to remain cranky and sulk around a bit about how difficult his life is, but within 30 minutes of forced playtime at a park (cruel Mom that I am) and the sunshine won him over. He actually did his homework, and then chose to ride his bike, hang out in the back yard, and help Dad when he grilled brats (representing his WI heritage).
Most of all, it was as if all of us in our little family were determined to make a 70 degree sunny day in March a great one – nothing was going to bring us down. Not even a disrespectful 4th grader . . .
Tom & I even chatted later, and it’s as if we can feel that we’re on an upswing again as a family. After a crappy start to 2012, we are ready for something, frankly anything, to go right, and indeed it is! Sure, for most people this might be small kind of dorky stuff, but we’ll take it. Heck, we’ll even celebrate it – because we need good news, and just haven’t had much of it lately.
I’m going to own that this blog is about Elliott a lot. There are many reasons for this – and likely the most prevalent is the squeaky wheel theory. Everything about Elliott is exaggerated – he’s the oldest, most outspoken, he does things in a big way (sometimes good, often not so much), and he much of the time commands a great deal of attention. I often say that Elliott’s mood drives our family. I’m not proud of that, but because he has the most challenges, and because of his personality, that’s just the way it is. He’s overcome amazing challenges, and yet has a long way to go. His fighting spirit is going to catapult him to success in life, but is also what makes parenting him exhausting at times.
But we also have Henry & Ada, and I don’t think they’ve gotten their fair share of focus on the red couch. Now I’m going to do that proud Mom thing for a minute, so please bear with me. This winter has been an awfully challenging one for Henry. To say that it took Tom & me by surprise when we learned how significant his difficulties were would be an understatement. Yes, we knew that he was having some organizational challenges (his room could be featured on “Hoarders”), and we knew that he had minor challenges with focusing at school. When we met with his teachers, and learned the extent of his challenges, it nearly sent me into a panic attack (thank goodness for Prozac!). We had guilt – how could this have spiraled so quickly without our being keenly aware, and why is such a big part of our lives focused on getting his siblings with ASD the right kinds of services and help to the exclusion of his needs? Enter our amazing clinic and our medical provider who “gets” it.
For probably the 140th time, I made an appointment, and broke down about our parental guilt, but most importantly, the need to help our little buddy get some help with his focus. She listened, presented a plan, and then had a sit down with him (on her own version of a red couch which is more of a frog room), explained how medicine might help him and how it worked in his body, and told him she was there for him along with his parents and teachers to help make learning & focus easier.
Over the course of the past 6 weeks, his life has changed in dramatic ways. No, it’s not just about medication – lots of other things have changed too. We met with his teachers and Principal to make a plan for how to communicate with one another about what’s going well and what needs a bit of extra focus at home. With the help of our amazing behavioral therapy team, we’ve implemented a new after school structured schedule (which is posted prominently on the wall) which applies to all the kids, as well as some new family rules (also on the wall in a fancy color coding system that all the children have memorized). We made a point of making “Be Respectful” in Elliott’s favorite color – green.
Bit by bit, Henry has just come out of his shell in so many ways. You can practically see his self-confidence growing, and he’s sharing bits and pieces about his day – other than what he ate at lunch. He’s “getting” concepts that were difficult, and just yesterday, his teachers reported that they are noticing a big improvement in his focus, attitude and accomplishments.
No, this does not solve every challenge he faces, but it doesn’t feel so overwhelming anymore – for Henry or for us as parents. We know we are on the right path, and that together, we can do this! He’s back to our smiling, creative, artistic guy more and more, and it’s so nice to have him back J
And then there is Ada. Something has just clicked for her, and she is so much fun to be with right now. She’s just more connected than she has been in a long while, and it’s awesome to witness. She’s embracing the whole being cool about new hair and clothing thing, and is now even adding accessories to her outfits on her own! Often they are more interesting than coordinated, but I sort of appreciate her confident style!
Little things like Ada really knows how to play the Wii now rather than last year when she would just watch Elliott and have facial tensing issues. Now she can claim victory over anyone in the house at Lego Batman! She rocks. Also –we expected a huge battle over giving up her winter coat and being flexible about a spring jacket (and shoes), and it was just no big deal this year. We got them out, and she just dealt. No huge meltdowns, no tears, nothing. Just acceptance that the season is changing (for now – this is MN after all), and adapting. Yeah, that might seem small and insignificant, but at our house, it is worthy of celebration. Mostly, she’s just funny, and is having truly meaningful conversations with us, and tackling some of life’s bigger questions – like when she will get to wear bras. She likes fart jokes a little too much – but I’m guessing with two older brothers, that’s not going away anytime soon.
Yesterday, Henry finished his homework quickly, and spent an hour outside in his garden with Ada, teaching her how to work the soil just like an old pro. They were smiling, having fun and enjoying their time together. They reminded me of my Grandpa, taking their gardening seriously and planning what they would grow, and it made me smile while I sat on the deck in the sunshine and enjoyed my cup of coffee.
It was just too beautiful a day to be inside on the red couch . . .