Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roller Coaster Life

One more month until school starts for our kids.  The anticipation is building in our house, and with it the anxiety, especially on Safety Guy's part.  He had about one month of summer vacation where he wasn't anxious or overstimulated, bullied or out of his depth socially and emotionally.  One month between the last day of school, and the first day of Boy Scout camp. 

It was nice.

He was generally calm, mostly easygoing, pretty agreeable.  He had more patience for variations in routine, and was able to go with the flow more easily.  He had time to decompress, flake out, read, listen to music, ride his bike, watch videos, play with his vintage video games, and be alone to his heart's content.

It was VERY nice.  For all of us.

Boy Scout camp was the end of that easygoing summer reverie.  Camp was a week-long exercise in too much togetherness, huge over-stimulation, sensory overload, dietary unhappiness, disillusionment (some of his money was stolen), and homesickness.  Sure, he enjoyed earning his badges in meteorology, geology, and Indian lore, and working on his badges for camping and wilderness survival.  He got a kick out of trying the rock wall.  He liked the sing-alongs, the silly games, and hanging out with his friends at the camp fires.  But his margins were shot to heck by the end of the week.  He had HAD IT. We knew that would be the case.  He made it through with some meltdowns, and he might even go again next year.  But, it was the end of his summer vacation mentally.

Now he's anticipating the beginning of seventh grade.  Junior high school.  His anxiety has started increasing, and he's been perseverating on the transition.  New teachers, new classrooms, new routines and transitions, new principal, new EVERYTHING - except for the prospect of having the same old bullies in many of his classes.  That got old real fast last year, and he's not looking forward to that again this year.  He's seen some of the bullies at the pool this summer, and when the bullies know I'm there they don't go too far with Safety Guy.  Still, Safety Guy doesn't like seeing them AT ALL, anywhere.  (I had to explain to him that it's a public pool - anyone can go there.  Safety Guy wasn't impressed with our civic freedoms in this case.)  As far as he's concerned, it's still summer, but it's not quite as relaxed as it was early in the season.  Now he's anticipating September - and most of what he's anticipating about it will be stressful for him.  There's no way around it.

He's still giving me occasional grief about sending him back to public school.  We've been over the reasons for that decision many times:  that he needed more help than I was able to give him on my own, that he works well with different teachers and has made a lot of progress, that I had a lot of health issues over the past 5 years and I was burnt out, that I need to go back to work soon.  He sometimes says he feels like I don't want him around as much as I used to, which is NOT the case at all.  But, I think hidden in his frustration with me is a kernel of awareness that living with him and teaching him and dealing with his autism 24/7 was difficult for me and eventually became too much for me to handle effectively.  I want the best for him.  My flagging energy and decreasing focus on teaching the kids were a huge reason for our decision to stop home schooling.  (I've been SO careful to not make it sound like his Aspergers was the primary reason for sending him and his sister back to school - but it was a large part of that decision.  He's not stupid.)

You can probably read more than a little Mom Guilt between the lines here.  It's true.  But sending the kids back to public school has still been the best decision we've made for him as he's gotten older, and for me as well.  I'm hopeful that we can work with the school as the demands of his education grow, and the social/emotional issues of being in junior high put increasing pressure on him.  It's going to be an interesting year.  A real roller coaster, if I'm any judge of things.

Might as well hop in the front car and enjoy the ride - it's too late to get off now.