Well, it’s only Day 2 and I’ve already had to hold back the tears.
I thought I was more resilient. And fully rested after the holidays. Maybe I was just overcome with disappointment that I was facing the same issues all over again.
School, and the need to attend it was driving my youngest to avoid it and taxing all my creativity, patience and hope for the year ahead.
After a reasonably positive start at a new school at a difficult time of year (a month before the end of Term 4) and a difficult year level (Grade 5), I was hopeful that LW would hit the ground running this year. Having said that, I was also acutely mindful of a comment he made on the second last day of school last year.
“Mum, I can’t do school.”
Sinking feeling for me.
“It’s just like the old school, only with less driving.”
Oh no. So, we’ve done what he asked – changed the environment, and things are the same?
I needed to slow down, I thought, and not not jump to conclusions. It was the end of the year. Everyone was tired. This young lad had experienced a huge change and a massive strain on his own resources, managing a new school in these circumstances. Perhaps that was all.
I was seeing distressing shades of my oldest son in the youngest. Was he suffering from anxiety? After all, he seemed bright and chirpy at school. We got the backwash at home, but that’s normal. I hoped the holidays, and a special family trip away, would reset things.
Fast forward to Day One, 2018. He got himself dressed. At the last minute, but he did it. He got in the car. Ok, he didn’t want to get out of the car, and turned back at least four times on the way to school, saying that he “couldn’t do it”. First day nerves, I tried to kid myself…and reassure him. I avoided asking questions about school when he came home, so got no feedback at all until later in the evening. Then he told me that it had been the worst day of his life.
“Oh well,” I replied, with the cheeriness of someone who is absolutely not trying to get her child to get to bed when it’s already after 9.30. “That means tomorrow can only get better.”
“The worst day of my life…so far,” added my pint-sized pessimist grimly.
What can you do?
And so to Day Two. He didn’t get out of bed. I ended up lifting him off the bunk and carrying him to the table, along with all his clothes (I really should start lifting weights). He ate some breakfast, slowly got dressed, and then brought up the subject of camp. The standard Grade 6 camp to Canberra. He didn’t want to go. Couldn’t go. And, while on the subject of what he couldn’t do, he couldn’t do school either. I looked at the clock. 8.30. Really?
I am just about at my wit’s end. I have had these conversations so many times. Treading the tightrope of trying to understand your Aspie child’s way of seeing the world and learning, together with helping them engage in compulsory schooling up to a certain age and level. My oldest son leaving school before completing Year 10 is further complicating things for the youngest (that’s another story). And now I could see at least another year of me getting him out of bed every morning, helping him dress, coaxing him out the door with another new strategem. It’s so, so wearing.
I’m still in a fog of uncertainty. What tactics will I need to use tomorrow morning?
As hard and frustrating as it is for me, it is harder for my boy. But I feel sometimes as though I’m in a canoe, trying to stop a supertanker from heading towards a reef. I can see the dangers, but the supertanker’s captain can’t. And he – or she – thinks that the ship is big enough to withstand whatever consequences might flow from being grounded. Either way, damage is sustained.
We managed to get out of the door and into the car. I barely let go of him.
But it was when I had got him into the car through one door and he promptly escaped through the opposite door that I couldn’t hold back the tears, just for a moment. That checked him. He is a dear boy with a gentle and loving heart, and he knows that I’m trying my best.
“I’m sorry, Mum, I really am.
“I know, sweetheart, and I am too. I know it’s hard for you. But we just have to find a way through. I’m really trying.”
“I know you are, but I just can’t do it.”
“You have to. We need to find a way. There are things in life that are really hard, but we just have to do them anyway.”
So many conversations seem to happen in the car, don’t they! It’s not always the best place, when you’re trying to keep your eye on the traffic. This morning we had planned to walk to school together – it would have been much easier to talk, and we would have had more time. But I suppose I would have been having to stop him from running back home more often. It was hard enough to get him from the car through the school gate to his classroom. We were both in the controlled calm after an upset – better than full melt-down but still, not ideal.
I went to the school office, trying to hold back tears as I explained to the lovely office lady what had passed this morning, and could his teacher please keep a close eye on him and let me know how things were going.
It’s funny. As I write this, I realise that many different admin assistants have seen me at my lowest point, in tears and unsure of what my next steps should be – knowing only that I have no option but to keep moving forwards. And perhaps that is the silver lining in these dark clouds that so often seem to gather. We meet compassionate people at different stages on our journey, who help refill our resilience buckets with their own patient, calm kindness.
I’m still in a fog of uncertainty. What tactics will I need to use tomorrow morning? I also have to manage getting my oldest child to her new post-school programs. On the days that I need to drive her, how will I get my youngest to school?
To anyone out there who thinks that getting your child to school should be as easy as just telling them to go, well, it’s not. You’re welcome to come and try at my house. Perhaps you might secretly think that I’m not being firm enough with my children. I would challenge that. Besides, I value my relationships with them, and being strict for strictness’ sake will be more damaging in the long run. If you don’t think I value education sufficiently to “make them go”, I’ll send you my CV.
Autism can make the simplest things hard. The difficulty is that not everything can be modified to suit our children. We also need to teach them coping strategies. But this too, is hard.
So wish me luck. Because I’ll need it.
Until next time, Happy Wombatting!