Wednesday, June 14, 2017
I walked into his classroom on Monday and saw my little boy sitting by himself reading a book. I could see the dried tracks of tears on his face. I could feel, almost physically emanating from him, his sadness. He (all 60 pounds of him) wanted to be carried out to the car. My boy, my bundle of energy who lives life like it's a competition to get anywhere first, who usually sprints to the car, his beautiful head on my shoulders, slumped in defeat.
On the drive home, I asked him how he was feeling.
"Mama, I so sad."
"They took the pictures off the wall. School is ending. I don't want school to end."
While so many kids around the country are literally bouncing in their seats with anticipation of this Friday or who have already celebrated that last day all the way home in the last few weeks, there are kids like my son.
Kids for whom school, its regularity, its comforts, its amazing teachers, its friends for the raging extrovert, is everything. Some kids have tough home lives and summer is a long, terrifying unknown. Some, like my son, have a diagnosis that means that any kind of change in his routine causes him actual neurological distress.
All he could do on Monday was cry. And all I could do was hold him, help him understand that camp is coming next week and try to remember that it's ok.
I am not a failure as a mom because my boy would rather be at school. It's taken me awhile to be alright with that fact that I am "at home" with my kids but that I have a 3 year-old in school five mornings a week. To know that I am not abdicating responsibility. To be comfortable in the knowledge that I am actually doing the absolute best I can to give him what he needs in all his challenges and gifts.
On Tuesday he came home sad again. And I knew that we needed to go to his happy place.
So, after nap, we skipped swim practice and went to Target. Yes, Target is my 3 year-old's happy place. He picked out end of year gifts for his teachers. (And those who know him well will be unsurprised to learn that he chose to give them new water bottles.) We headed to Kid-to-Kid next because he had outgrown yet another pair of shoes and really wanted some new red sneakers. That kid scored some red and white Jordans for 8 bucks. He wore them out of the store, charged home, colored his teachers some pictures and wrote them notes. His smile was back.
All these rituals. The gifts, the notes...even the buying of new shoes for the summer. They were comforting to him. Things he could do, even at 3, to process saying goodbye. To think about what the summer will hold for him.
And that next morning when he went to school? That child sprinted in wearing his new kicks, hugged the administrators on the way and tackled his teachers with his gifts.
And they know him so well.
"Look at your new shoes! Those are amazing! Did you find those at Kid-to-Kid?"
"I did, I did!"
When I left, there was a little less sadness. A little less clinging. A little less panic.
Will the next few weeks be hard around here?
It's ok, though. We are ready.
We are armed with our social story full of pictures of his camp. We have our visual calendar we will do every morning and night. We have our theri-putty and our trampoline. We have our "sensory diet" and our "no drama discipline" to meet him where he is each morning.
Most of all, we have hugs. Tears are ok. Saying goodbye is hard. I want him to know that it's ok to be sad. That it's fine for him as a boy and one day as a man to FEEL. To be unashamedly who he is in all his chaotic and beautiful and emotional glory.