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Catching up and moving forward

So, here we are in the middle of July already. Boy, did time sure fly by.
The end of the school year was packed with twists and turns. I witnessed my children go through elation, confusion, defeat, exhaustion, surprise and boredom from the last couple of weeks of school, until camp began last week.
No structure = grumpy children. And I know that is true for all children. I do. I REALLY do. BUT, and this is a big frigging caveat here, none as much as a child who does not understand the world around him or her. To a child, no, a person, who has a hard time comprehending the abstract, or the idea of not the here and now, it can be incredibly difficult.
By the end of the school year, J was a mess. He was over being in school. He was over rules and schedules. He was ready for summer vacation. What that meant to him, and what it meant to me though, were two very, very different things. J expected that all he would do when school got out was play Super Mario Bros. Wii. That’s it. And eat copious amounts of ice cream, probably. What it meant to me was freedom from packing lunches, and alarm clocks, and time to unwind, and decompress. Instead my family, as a whole, became a combustible mess.
We kicked off the summer straight out of school with a trip to see family. It is one of J’s favorite destinations. We were off to a good start. We completed things on his summer bucket list. (Oh, that’s a really good idea. I MUST remember this!! Note to self: Have my kids make a Summer Bucket List. This way they get to see all the good things they have done and can work towards those goals all summer. BRILLIANT!).
Then, we came home. And we had a few days with nothing to do. Bad. Let the battles begin. The sound of Mario Bros. Wii playing over and over in the playroom brought me to cringe. The constant fighting and arguing among siblings left me thinking I should go to Foot Locker and fill out an application so someone would give me one of those black and white referee shirts, and maybe a whistle. The non-stop complaining about having to do ANYTHING BUT play Super Mario Bros. Wii was enough to drive me to drink.
This was not how I foresaw the first two weeks of summer.
The lack of structure was making all of us suffer. It got so bad that, one night when we were trying to get the kids to bed, and the level of not listening and disrespect coming from both of our kids was causing a lot of yelling and arguing amongst all four of us, that, with both children crying in my arms, my daughter said, “What happened to my nice family. My funny family. I want my family back.”
Well that was a wake-up call. We all needed an attitude adjustment. We all needed to figure out how to get along. For the kids, it meant some behavior charts. For my husband and I it involved letting each other be for a little while, and checking back in with each other afterwards. It meant getting back on the same page.
Fortunately, the next day was J’s first day of camp. He was excited. He was happy. And so we were, although a bit nervous. We have seen him excited for a camp before and then hate it within two weeks. So, with fingers crossed we sent him off to his first day of camp.
First good thing that happened: the bus pulled up and he was the only kid on the bus. This meant he got to sit in the front, where he likes to sit. Put one in the win category!!!
He came home that day still happy. He enjoyed his pre-picked activities. He was tired, but not cranky. He came home and, what do you think he wanted to do?? That’s right, play Super Mario Bros. Wii. And he did, for a bit.
I, on the other hand, got no other information other than to know that camp was “good”.
Well, I guess that would have to do. “Good” is certainly better than “I hate it”, for sure.
Two days later, the third day of camp, I received a phone call from one of the counselors. He explained to me that J was having a hard time with losing in sports. SHOCKER! The kid has ALWAYS had a hard time with losing in any capacity. Great, now what? I figure they’re going to tell me that he doesn’t belong at a camp like this. That his needs require more attention than they can provide. Right? We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard that. My dander was up. But then, in a thrilling turn of events, the counselor made a suggestion. Would we be alright with J having a “shadow” at camp? Someone just dedicated to him, to help him through the rough times, the transitions, etc. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Of course we were okay with that! Beyond okay with that!!! J has a one on one aide in school, so he is accustomed to this formula. He is okay with someone being there to help him through tough times.
As a friend of mine pointed out, the reason that this was a case of extreme awesomeness is because, for once in a long while, someone came to me with an issue and presented a solution, not a problem. They addressed and solved the problem before calling me, therefore, alleviating any stress or disappointment for any of us, J included.
So, with my approval, the next day they set J up with his own “shadow”. It went fantastic! I spoke with the camp that afternoon and they were very pleased with how well it was going. That night when I asked J about his new buddy at camp (the shadow), his response to me was this: “Mom, I think I really needed that.”
I was stopped in my tracks by that comment. My child has NEVER in his life been that self-aware of something not tangible, or concrete. Never before has he been able to express his experiences in the moment. He talks about a lot of the same stuff that occurs or is going to occur. This was progress. This was amazing. Of course, I cried a little bit. All good tears.
He is in his second week of camp now and he is still thrilled to be there. He is happy. More than that, he is active. He is with kids all day navigating this new place, and new experiences but with help and support.
When I spoke to the directors of the camp, and I told them how I felt about solving this for J, and how it could have turned into them saying he didn’t belong there, their response was, “No. This is exactly where he belongs.” Man, have I waited to hear that.

*In case you are interested, you may email me to find out more information about the camp.

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