Here we are at the end, the beginning, and more of the same. It’s the end of Term 4, the beginning of high school, and possibly six more years steering our youngest away from the vortex of negativity.
From the first day, the final 2018 school term has been a tough gig for my two Aspie boys. Now it’s the last week and my youngest is formally transitioning to secondary school status.
And transitions – change – can totally rock a carefully balanced little boat. I’m talking about the delicate craft that we all share and steer, not a one-boy boat.
My boy’s relationship with school is still strained, to say the least. He has mixed feelings about secondary school. Now, transitioning from Year 6 into Year 7 and moving to his third school in four years adds a further layer of anxiety and stress. For us all.
His anxieties, attitudes and behaviours seep into us all: his family, and most of all us parents. They’ve turned what should be celebration, into trepidation.
We’re approaching his Grade 6 Graduation Ceremony as though we were walking on tiptoes over eggshells. Will he join in? Won’t he? Will we even get him to school that day? Will he hide? Run away?
Perhaps he might just take it all in his stride, as he did recently with Sports Day. We simply can’t tell.
My husband and I want to be able to share the enjoyment and anticipation of graduation with him. We want to shop for the special top together, talk about what’s going to happen on the night. But he’s not feelin’ the love. Anxieties and other feelings are overwhelming him.
When he refuses to look outside the paradigm of his own negativity and gloom. It’s like living with a Dementor.
So instead, we agonise over the best way to approach the subject. Do we leave it to the last minute, to minimise the focus on something we know he’s not wildly enthused about, or take the drip feed approach, hoping this allays his anxieties and sensitivities a little? All our joy of celebrating this milestone with him is totally sucked out by the deadening mass of his negativity.
I can almost hear the shocked intake of breath. How could I possibly be so selfish, moaning about what I’m missing out on when clearly my boy is struggling?
Well, here’s the thing. I don’t consider I’m being selfish, any more than he’s deliberately self-focussed or aiming to make life hard for us. Yes, he’s the one in the classroom, trying to sort out life in a way that he can manage. But school is a shared journey, ours as well as his. We – his family, teachers, friends, support people and his feline friends – are the ones getting him there and keeping him on the path.
For me, that means I’m constantly calibrating and recalibrating our dialogue with him to keep things light and positive. I calm him when they’re not, wrestle him into the car on the bad days, share a drink at the café on the good days, hold myself minute-by-minute on high phone alert, meet his teachers, organise therapists, help him (and others) devise coping strategies, manage my own sleep deprivation when he refuses to go to bed and endlessly sort out fact from his fictions about what actually goes on at school.
I believe we should acknowledge and honour our own place in that school journey. We must be honest that emotionally draining struggles happen on both sides.
I find it hard to be joyful, and to keep the positivity bubbling when my child keeps knocking the wind from my sails, seeing the glass as only ever half empty and then knocking it over so the contents drain out anyway. When he refuses to look outside the paradigm of his own negativity and gloom. At times it’s like living with a Dementor.
I’m not advocating false cheerfulness, or a refusal to acknowledge the downside and struggles for your kids. As a default setting, these approaches aren’t healthy or helpful for our boys, and certainly don’t help us as parents. At the same time, we need hope, and hope is born from a feeling that things can – should – will – get better. Pasting on that smile does give hope a shove along.
For those out there who smile knowingly and nod, and say, Yes, well, all kids dislike school, homework, worry about moving to Year 7 etc, we know what it’s like… Actually, you really don’t.
The anxieties that lead your child to hide in cupboards to avoid graduation practice, to hang onto the car door to avoid being taken to school and to melt down at the request to complete a 5-minute homework task are completely different from those that cause a child to grumble but get on with things anyway.
So I’ll just take another deep breath and vent with my husband, who is also missing out on sharing the joy.
Then I’ll get ready to spark up the celebration of one more day of school accomplished with my youngest. Because this boy needs me to be his positive energy source when he has none himself.
Just as our kids need us to be consistent with boundaries, he needs me and the rest of his “village” to help provide him with the kickstart he needs while he currently lacks the internal resources to do it for himself. I know his brothers are only too happy to provide the “kick”! I’ll provide the “start”. Iced mocha usually works!
I’m hoping and praying for a positive graduation – a happy finish to his primary school years and the concluding chapter of this book for me.
Until next time, Happy Wombatting!