Friends – it is eerily quiet here on the red couch. The hustle and bustle of the last few weeks of extreme family togetherness, episodes of giant anxiety attacks, school supply purchasing and labeling, open houses, literacy assessments, middle school orientations, meltdowns about new school parking lots, and so much more – all done. Tuesday, the trio woke early, slung their backpacks over their shoulders, and went off into the great unknown to face 6th grade, 5th grade and 1st grade. 3 kids in 3 different schools – an accomplishment and a lot of planning and organizing just to get everyone where they need to be on time. But after visiting the middle school nurse on Tuesday morning to ensure E would receive his noon dose of his ADHD medication (aka the legal crystal meth derivative), I arrived home to a quiet house, and was overcome with a huge pile of emotion.
While I admit that I’ve been looking forward to a pinch of quiet time since, well, whatever day school got out in June, and especially in the last few weeks, as the trio has processed their anxiety about the new school year in interesting and less than attractive ways, now that it had arrived, I just kind of collapsed at the finish line. I know it was bad, as the cats & the guys putting a new roof on our house all gave me funny looks. I wanted quiet, but it felt too quiet. I had a huge list of long forsaken projects, emails to send, appointments to schedule, autism books and curriculums to research, etc., but I just kind of sat there in stunned silence (well, except for the cats howling because of the really loud noise the roofers were making), but you get the picture. It was just funky.
I’m embarrassed to admit it’s kind of been that way all week. I have managed to get some of the “must do” things crossed off, but I’m easily distracted, and just have that weird feeling that something is not as it should be. Certainly, I’m concerned about the kids getting off to a positive start in their respective schools, and worry and hope these early days will be positive for them, but I must find a way to motivate myself to action.
Often, it just hits me – the thought of E man being in a giant middle school and making it work makes me want to puke, even now. He’s doing great (so far), and if he can learn to not tell other middle school guys that he loves them, he’ll do even better. I went to school (we didn’t have an official middle school – it was just 7-12) with 50 people, and even that made me nervous. If I had to go to E’s school, I really would puke. But he thrives on adventure, learning his way around new places, figuring out the “rules”, learning combination locks, and meeting people – especially teachers & administrators, so he’s loving this. Day one, I pulled around to pick him up in the craziness of dismissal and the parent pick-up line, and there he was, standing out front so proudly in his bright red shorts & Mickey Mouse shirt, waving at me with a smile that could light up the night sky! He was as proud as any new middle school guy can possibly be, and gleefully shared the rundown from his day one schedule.
While the complete reconstruction of the parking lot threw him into giant meltdown mode a couple of weeks ago, once they completed it, he surveyed it (thankfully, it met his approval), and has been at peace with the whole middle school process since then. Yes, challenges will arise, and I can’t help but worry about his social naiveitivity, but I really feel he’s in the right place, and have complete faith that the team of educators he works with are terrific, and well equipped to deal with the surprises and challenges that he will face. I can already tell his autism teacher is amazing. Within a day, she has figured out what motivates him (the ability to order a junk food item on Fridays from the a la carte menu) and has tied that to his positive friendship skills (i.e. chatting with pals without necessarily reciting their family members’ names, birthdays, & addresses and/or expressing an interest in marrying them). Pure genius! He was even running through a few possible cool guy topics with me last night in hopes of earning extra stars (let’s face it, I have no idea what cool middle school guys talk about). If he has his way, they will all be extreme couponers by the end of the year!
Henry seems off to a good start, and so far, is hanging in there. His withdrawal from Minecraft and technology in general was easier than I imagined for him – mostly because he sees his Minecraft friends at school now. But, it seems like every other year, we have faced some school related challenges with H, and that would make this the year. His new ADHD meds seem to be helping him, but not cause any weird side effects, and so far, I can read what he’s written in his planner, and that is progress in and of itself. Best of all, I love his new orange bus patrol vest – he rocks it! For a guy as quiet and shy as Henry who chooses never to stand out in a crowd – the orange would typically be a bit much. But he’s taking his duties seriously, and I have faith that the children on bus 257 are in good hands!
Ada made great strides this summer working with an amazing literacy specialist, and has a new found confidence with reading and writing. Last night, she spent an hour writing rules on a white board to remind all of us how to have a harmonious family life. They included “do not push”, “be a good listener” and “no bad words”. I’m thinking the bad words relates more to the brothers than something she picked up from first grade, but it’s a fine reminder either way. So far, reports from her teacher have been positive, and she’s hanging in there after doing ½ day Kindergarten and now full-day 1st grade. But, by the time I pick her up, she’s at the end of her rope. I appreciate that yesterday, she finally told me “Mom, I need 30 minutes of quiet time – don’t talk to me”. I can only imagine how challenging it is for her to hold it all together all day. It’s hard to see her so exhausted and a tad sassy right now after school, and last night we saw some stimming behavior we have not seen in a long while, but hey – this transition is hard for all kids, and for Ada, likely even harder. So proud of her efforts.
Summer around here was full of huge, giant changes, and while the Labor Day fiasco of epic meltdowns by the trio took us down a few notches, overall, I’d have to give our summer a giant thumbs-up. While I am grateful for the quiet time, I actually really miss my people . We sort of had to learn how to connect and work together as a family without in-home therapy this summer, and despite my fears of falling apart, we came out even stronger in the end. Ada learned how to ride her bike, Henry was more social than ever, and E man tried lots of new activities and (gulp) has started reaching out to some kids he knows from school and trying to form friendships on his own. Kind of awesome stuff. Maybe not earth shattering, but considering where we’ve come from, this is as close to “normal” family stuff as we’ve ever been (at least if normal family stuff is what you see on tv – otherwise, I wouldn’t know).
So, as I sit here on my red couch, kind of missing them, kind of anxious for them to be having a great end to their first week of school, and kind of grateful for the quiet, I’m cautiously optimistic. There is much that can (& will) go wrong, and right now, the afternoons are filled with sibling snarkiness from the adjustment to school schedules, but hey, there were many more ups than downs in our summer, and I have time to take a quiet walk and maybe enjoy a pumpkin spice latte before I find out who Elliott “loves” today . . .