J captures the deck…or does he????

J need never know that he hasn’t invaded and conquered the deck.  We always meant for him to have an outdoor space to call his own, a place to hang out and listen to music while the warmth of the sun surrounds him.  We’ve allowed him to believe that he has stolen this space from us because it makes him happy to think that, well, he’s put one over us.  We will likely sit there late in the evening when J is already in his room, slowly drifting away to dream land.  Once darkness falls, fireflies come out and the air cools slightly we will be winding down…what the deck does when it’s not with us is none of our business.

Of course, this recourse was threatened yesterday by the appearance, sudden and rather obvious, of a dog without a leash.  Oh, he seemed friendly enough, but who is going to convince J that this animal is not the enemy when all dogs are the same to him?  So J ran into the house, ever so slightly horrified, and announced -in a mournful tone- that he was going to his room.  It’s amazing how much speed he can display…

This was after dinner.  The day was already winding down so we didn’t want to pressure him until we could come up with a solution.  Out came the measuring tape and we tried to figure out what would make J feel secure and safe from canines without impeding the cats’ ability to climb in and out of the area.  Safety gates seemed the logical solution, but the size we needed usually requires hardware for mounting, and since we would like to see SOME of our deposit when we finally move out, we were hoping for something less permanent.  The less permanent version in the size we required was either “special order” or expensive, and usually both.

We sat on the plastic chairs and pondered.  J had placed two large planters with potted herbs and another with green peppers on the step.  Access was not the problem, we concluded, but rather the impression of access.  “Digging a moat, I suppose, is out of the question,” I said to no one in particular, but I knew my husband would shake his head vigorously and say “no moat-digging, woman” because that’s the way these conversations usually go.  I still hold out hope that someday I will be allowed to dig a moat, but I’m not holding my breath.

Shower curtain rods and a remnant piece from a sheet I’d made curtains out of…that was the solution.  It covers the space perfectly and, to J’s mind, it is such a forbidding structure that no dog would dream of trying to tackle the task of surmounting it.  I will not be the person to indicate to J that this is a rather inexpensive cotton sheet that has been folded in half and sewn to form pockets for the rods.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the equivalent of reminding a person about the force of gravity as they’re trying to walk a high-wire.  The less he knows about the illusion I’ve created, the more secure he will feel, and that will ensure that he uses the deck at his leisure.

This morning, at barely seven, J was already happily lurking around the sliding glass door that leads out to his new kingdom.  The sun, which slants mercilessly towards this spot until around 10:30, prevented him from leaping out and starting the day.  The board, my new best friend/worst enemy, came to the rescue: by 8:00 we had cleaned the kitchen, sorted the recycling, changed the sheets on our bed, put clean towels in the boys’ bathroom and, as excited as one who knows a treat is heading his way, at 8:15 J finally bounced up the stairs to TGG’s room, unceremoniously opened the door and, finding his older, car-owning, licensed-to-drive brother still in bed, started poking the shoulder until consciousness took over and TGG said “hey!  Good morning!” in a nicer tone than the one I would have used if I’d been prodded awake in that fashion.  J’s right hand immediately shot forward and, so close to his eyes that TGG had to lean back to focus, he held out the PECS for Target.  GO IN THE CAR!!!!  “You want to go to Target???”  GO IN THE CAR!!!!  GO TO TARGET!!!!  CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES!!!!

His enthusiasm carried us out of the house, into the store and out of the store in less than an hour…the only thing that slowed J down was sitting down to breakfast at Chick-Fil-A, where he asked for his drink by tapping insistently on the sign that displayed the brand of what he wanted.  By the time we got home, he was so excited about getting out to the deck that he almost protested having to put away our purchases.  He’s been outdoors since, tolerating the presence of the oldest of our cats on the other cheap plastic chair and listening to music that has made him giggle with joy all afternoon.

The board, of course, is something I know we need, but it’s also something that J considers an aid to ME rather than to him.  The intended purpose is to establish and maintain a routine of work and play for J, and to add vocabulary and signs to his catalog.  I have new signs to learn, new tasks to add to the board and J simply picks things up eagerly, enthusiastically, and almost as if he’s doing ME a huge favor by going along with my plan.  Each morning I get the impression that he is here to remind me of what needs to get done, and to motivate me to do it.

Oh, the patience with which he looks at me.  The only thing missing is a pat on the head.  Now, now, mother, he seems to be saying with his sweet smile, you OBVIOUSLY want these things done and there’s no time like the present.  Wake up, sleepy head, and let’s get going.  You don’t need that coffee, do you?  If you’re not dunking something in it, well, it’s just not worth it…give me…and now wash the cup.  We’re wasting time!!!!  Come on…the board says: VACUUM, SWEEP, MOP, RECYCLING, CHECK THE MAILBOX, GO FOR A WALK…things to do, things to do…

Before I notice, J has swept me up and carried me away in a whirl of activity.  Sigh…

Yeah, I was so excited that I’d convinced him he’d taken over the deck…and he’s taken over the board and my morning!  Who’s the naive one, then????  That would be ME…and I couldn’t be more pleased!

Give me an O! Give me an H! Give me a C and R and A and P!

If it’s on the board, it gets done.  This is a fact, plain and simple.  If it’s on the board it’s going to be a priority.  If it’s on the board, there is absolutely no room for mother to finish her much needed cup of coffee because there are things to do, do, do, do…

Serves me right for putting things on the board.  (Can you hear me growling?  Can you hear the muffled expletives?  Donald Duck, where are you when I need you?  In fact: Caffeine!  Where are YOU when I need you?

As I type this it’s almost nine-thirty in the morning.  The kitchen floor has been swept and mopped, the dishwasher has been loaded.  Trash has been collected.  The master bathroom has been cleaned and you’d think we’re having an inspection because The Supervisor was very thorough.  The beds have been made, and if there was any way we could have combed the deep-pile carpeting to make it look more lush, J would have insisted it be done.

For all his hard work, J has been rewarded with the suggestion that he take over the basement-level deck.  That’s the deck with the nice chairs (as nice as plastic chairs bought on sale can be,) and the footstools (which are really cheap cube-cushions I covered with a vinyl tablecloth I found on clearance.)  The overall effect is charming and comfortable, and -since it appears J is quite happy there with his iPod and the umbrella and the plants blocking the path for any animals other than ours- we will never get to use the deck ourselves except for grilling.  It is a small sacrifice…so long as J is happy, comfortable, enjoying himself and not forcing me to barrel into yet another chore that I had the absurd notion to put on the board.

Before anyone mentions it, because even I would mention it, I have tried peeling things off the board and telling J “we’re not going to do that today.”  Of course, these are the moments when J’s eidetic memory kicks in and he can locate the exact PECS I’ve removed and he insists (autistic individual that he is) on maintaining his routine.  The other side of this particular coin is that, if I don’t put the schedule down early enough, J doesn’t appreciate what he thinks is unnecessary spontaneity on my part.  The soothing effect of the schedule for J goes hand-in-hand with how subjected I will be to his idea of when things need to get done.  It is a small price to pay…just like losing the deck because he is happy sitting there.

TGG has taken J for a walk.  There has been protesting involved.  The walks purpose is merely to get J out of the house and moving, and we’ve told him (because it’s on the schedule) that he’s going to check the mail.  That the mailbox will be empty is quite possible, but that’s a good walk for the morning and will make him happy once it’s done.  Yet another PECS we can remove from the board.

This afternoon’s main project is to make cornbread for tonight’s chili dinner.  This will take us about an hour and a half  from gathering ingredients and equipment to pulling out of the oven and letting chill.  We will also work on a more extensive grocery list that we need to buy tomorrow; I generated a good variety of PECS for the family shopping list, and J has been eyeing them with curiosity since he saw them on the pouch that hangs in the kitchen.  My plan is to read the next week’s menus off the board and call out what we need to buy so that J can select the PECS and put them on the list.  I could do this in five minutes, but where would the fun be if we couldn’t stretch it to nearly an hour and work on some more signs, right?

My days are now filled in spots that used to be quite lax and empty.  I have promised myself that I will take half an hour to read after J has had his lunch and we’ve cleaned the kitchen.  I have promised myself that I will use the timers and trust that they will do their job nicely.  How many of these promises I’ll be able to keep remains to be seen as J is more aware and involved now than he was a year ago.

The walk to the mailbox yielded a ThinkGeek catalog (out of which I’ve made two selections for the Christmas baskets where things are already piling up in the hallway closet) and coupons from the grocery store.  At least one of those things will serve later to keep J busy and improve his fine motor skills with a pair of scissors.  Every little bit counts.

As I hear J listening to Annie Lennox, Dave Edmunds, Liz Phair, Elvis Costello, Plain White T’s and Rickie Lee Jones, I’m glad that he’s found the great outdoors compelling, even if it means I don’t get to read outside while sitting on the deck.  I will get the BYE treatment if I try.  I will be asked to go WASH something.  I’m cool with that because it truly is a sign of easing into summer that J has settled so nicely into the cheap plastic Fake-dirondack chairs and the cheap vinyl-tablecloth covered cubes.  For now, the timers are sitting on the window sill facing him, with the screen blocking his fingers from messing with the time I’ve scheduled before we go into lunch prep…yes, my customer has made his intent clear, and I am willing to negotiate, but I won’t let him take advantage of my desire for peace and harmony by imposing his will…

We are testing the waters.  Dipping our toes and nudging each other closer to lines that we’re not ready to cross or erase for the time being.  It’s only the first full day…so, yeah, it’s oh, crap! time.  Maybe by this time next week we will be patting ourselves in the back and saying “see!  That wasn’t so bad, was it???”


School’s out for summer…and deep breaths…

There’s 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it

Phineas and Ferb theme song

In fact, it’s more like seventy-nine days until the first day of the next school year.  This is not a complaint.  I am merely stating a fact.  J can’t count that high yet, but I’m working on it.  I would do a countdown, but for now I think it’s more important to teach J to count forward.

After donning his last-day-of-school shirt, J took thank-you notes and snacks to his classroom.  A couple of hours later we arrived to pick him up and found him, the only student and the only male, surrounded by aides and playing Uno.  The kid, from what we could see, is quite the card shark; he shuffles and deals like a pro.  Ask me if he’s ever wanted to play with us here at home…ask me.  You know the answer, don’t you?

The afternoon has gone by with Benny Goodman’s All The Cats Join In playing repeatedly, and J attempting a dance step or two when I’m not looking at him.  From time to time, and only to convince me that I don’t want to be in the family room, J will switch to Christmas music.  This is enough to convince me that it’s time to do something upstairs, and as soon as I leave, he starts giggling…very much the cat that swallowed the canary.  Today we’ve given each other time to adjust to the reality of no-school; we have been figuring out who is in charge…J’s winning, of course.  Tomorrow, perhaps, it will be my turn.

At J’s behest, we brewed coffee to have with our sandwich dinner.  This little command of his gave us the opportunity to test the three-timer board.  J’s insistence (he said COFFEE at least six times in the span of five minutes,) and the fact that we don’t want to fall asleep too early convinced us to use the three-timer board to make him wait long enough to grind the coffee, load the coffee maker, and serve the coffee.  It worked.  After half an hour, he came upstairs to grind coffee with Dada, and then -mere minutes later- the next timer went off and he prepared the coffee pot.  Ten minutes later, the coffee was served and everyone was happy.  Tomorrow I will do my best to time a task in three steps using the same system…the worst that can happen is that J is not in the mood to participate.

For now, though, summer has started on a nice note.  We have eased into not waiting for the bus, not rushing up the hill with backpack and watching out for dogs.  Weather permitting, we will go for a nice brisk walk in the early morning hours, then we’ll check the mail at around 2 PM and then we’ll go back out for another walk at around seven-thirty.  During the day, our schedule is peppered with other things: feeding the cats, putting together a Lego, working on a puzzle that will take us a few days to complete.  By Thursday we will be following a chore schedule that will give him three things to do each morning to help around the house.  This, anyway, is the plan I have in mind…

By the end of summer I want him to be able to make pancakes without any help.  I am sure that he can learn to use the griddle with very little effort.  I would probably (with a great deal of effort since I am not very good at Math) halve the recipe so we don’t end up with too many pancakes, but this is not outside the realm of J’s ability.  The kid can make a quesadilla, and we have a panini press so he can use that, too.  Pancakes, though, will take a little more control in terms of pouring the batter, but I’m sure we can master this (with a mess here and a disaster there) before August rolls around.

Yes, it was the last day of school and it is the first evening of summer vacation.  I am still brave, intrepid, ambitious about  the weeks to come, and I hope to continue with my sails full for a little while longer.  Of course…J will let me know how viable my crazy maternal schemes are.

We’ll see…but, right this minute, it’s looking pretty good!!!!

It’s all about fun, fun, fun… Yeah…whatever!!!

The very idea that we are a self-indulgent bunch is ludicrous.  Self-contained, yes…self-indulgent, no.  Our idea of fun hinges on transitioning into new things with as little drama as possible.  That goes for all of us, not just for J.  We let out a collective sigh of relief when the potential meltdown or crisis is averted.  Those who don’t understand this way of thinking simply have very little understanding of what are lives our truly like.

I would like to debunk some myths, mainly because I am up to my non-existent gills with the absurd notion that we think the world revolves around us, especially coming from people who don’t even try to understand our world.

Myth Number 1:

We are sitting at home, having cocktails and laughing…mainly at you.

Myth debunking fact:

We go up and down the stairs more than you can imagine.  Every moment with J is a moment when something is being taught or reinforced.  Our self-centeredness is based on necessity: we have a huge mission in our hands, and if you’re blessed with healthy, whole children, you might have a hard time understanding this.  Your kid might be able to split the atom at the age of six, but ours doesn’t even know how to tie his shoes at the age of seventeen.

Myth Number 2: 

We envy you, and that’s why we resent you and don’t socialize with you.

Myth debunking fact: 

We’re too busy to envy anyone, just like we’re too busy to socialize with anyone, especially if they are stubbornly dedicated to not trying to understand what we’re up against.  Do you have ANY idea how much toilet paper J goes through in a week?  Mind you, he doesn’t go to the bathroom more than the average person; he’s also not any messier than the average person, but we haven’t been able to get him to understand that he doesn’t need half a roll in his hand even if it’s not a “no toilet paper needed situation.”

Myth Number 3:

We’re too sensitive.

Myth debunking fact:

No, we’re not too sensitive; better yet, the possibility exists that you are not sensitive enough.  “Take me or leave me” is a fine attitude, and we’re cool with other people having it, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit there and invite you into our lives, especially when “take me or leave me,” in some cases, is a choice.  J doesn’t have a choice; he’s the way God made him, and we have to work with that and help him.  People who don’t show enough presence of mind to realize that this is a fact of life for us put us in a difficult position.

Myth Number 4:

Since I’m home all day, I’m sitting here idly fanning my ass, being fed grapes by muscular demigods who are at my beck and call, and I have nothing important to do.

Myth debunking fact:

Do you own a laminator?  Do you have any inkling of how many words your child should know and be functional with by the age of seventeen?  Have you had to break down a task into the simplest steps and teach it over and over and over again?  Do you think that I take this LIGHTLY???!!!  That there is no effort involved?  That I didn’t wish I didn’t have to do this?  That I don’t wonder what the world would have been like with Alternate-J???

Myth Number 5:

It’s just us parents who do this; TGG is blissfully uninvolved in this process.

Myth debunking fact:

I don’t care how much responsibility you carry on your shoulders today.  I don’t care how much responsibility you’ve carried on your shoulders in the past.  Did you KNOW at the age of FIVE that you would be your brother’s keeper once your parents are gone?  Is your entire future (since a very early age) colored and textured by the understanding that you have to grow up?  I don’t just mean growing older, I mean maturing.  TGG is a healthy, happy, normal 21 year-old…how do you think he feels about still having to help his hairy, big, seventeen year-old brother bathe or wipe his butt?

A family is very often made up of parents and children.  Ideally, the children grow up and move on, and new families are created.  It is quite possible that our family is nothing like yours.  We do things differently around these parts.  We’re not better than you are; we’re no worse than you are.  We simply are different.

Are we self-involved?  Yes.  Are we self-centered?  Yes.  Are we self-contained?  Yes…with good reason.  We have learned over the course of years and years of doing this that we are IT.  There’s no one else.  People love us; people care about us, but we are -for the most part- alone in this process.  There are those who call and don’t even mention J when they ask how we’re doing.  There are those who, in spite of having witnessed our life in short scenes, can’t quite empathize.

People get offended.  People think we’re dissing them.  We don’t care.  Not anymore.  We’re tired of being told we need to grow “up,” “a pair,” “hair on our chest.”  Personally, I’m sick of “blood is thicker than water.”  I don’t care how thick it is, I still haven’t had anyone very close to me genetically fully understand what it is that we go through every day.  I am tired of the popular myth that we are “spoiled” and we “have it easy.”

We don’t.  No one in this household has it easy.  No one in this household set out to be this isolated by circumstance.  I didn’t walk into the OR, jumped on the gurney and said “please, extract this child by C-section and make him Autistic so I can be left alone, and people can think I’m a bitch because I don’t have time for them.”  My husband didn’t marry me so he could have an excuse to get out of family dinners.  TGG CERTAINLY didn’t ask me “please, give me a brother that I will have to be invested in for the rest of my life, who will probably determine if my marriage survives, if my children grow up in a different household from mine.”

This is a household where crises are not unusual.  We are all traumatized by J’s horrible behavioral problems of a couple of years ago.  We think of them and the music from Jaws starts playing in our heads.  Were you there for the blood?  Were you there for the scar tissue?  The sleepless nights?  The anxiety?  Were you there for the boxing gloves, the hats?  Have you had a child so desperate and so sad that you thought you’d lose him?  I don’t care if you think that prayer works or God doesn’t exist or there are no miracles, but those moments bring you to your knees like you never thought anything would.  Please, please, God, if you’re listening don’t do this to HIM.  Help me help him, please.  And you realize what is important, what matters, what you would do for those you love.  Four people, stuck in a house, wishing they can fix this…and when it’s over, and it’s fixed, you live wondering if it’s going to last.

You think we have it easy?  Don’t let the fact that we love each other and are happy fool you into being so misinformed…

The unofficial start of summer…

This last weekend in May is when America decides summer has begun.  The pool has been packed all weekend, people have been grilling, and we have been acclimating J to the new and improved board, and to the idea that now comes a lull between school-year and summer school.  These tasks have been easier than I imagined…and Amen!

Our Sunday morning breakfast was lazy, as usual; we lingered around the table and sipped our coffee…oh, restorative elixir.  Of course, J had a better idea on how to start the day, namely doing chores.  With as much enthusiasm as we could muster to mimic his, we handed him clean sheets, a duster and the vacuum cleaner.  In minutes, with a huge smile on his face, J had cleaned his room and shamed us into doing the same to the rest of the house.

The weather has made for a lot of indoor time.  J parked himself in the basement and, for the first time in months, the fans and air conditioner are not making us refer to it as “the frozen tundra.”  He has emerged to the general areas of the kitchen and dining area to have lunch and dinner with us, eloquently requesting leftover pizza (which TGG took him to pick up from their favorite pizza joint last night) and partaking of tacos with the rest of us.

Tomorrow we will sit down and write thank-you notes for his mentors and teacher, and we will put together a tray of pastries to take on Tuesday morning.  This is the part where J starts easing into “goodbye for now,” and I’m sure I’ll end up taking notes for the psychiatrist.  Sadness, to a degree, is understandable, and having had a great school year, sadness is even more justified.  J has made such good friends that I would worry if there wasn’t a bit of nostalgia and tugging at his heartstrings.

The rest of us are fine.  We have realized that we are officially settled here.  We have gone from summer to autumn to winter to spring and are easing into summer…we are completing a circle.  We have plants to care for, living things that need us to survive.  We have furniture that looks like it belongs where we’ve set it, and we can easily find our way even in neighborhoods we had never frequented before a few weeks ago.  Last year, at this time, we were pondering the possibility of moving out here with the skepticism of people who didn’t expect such a great opportunity to favor us…yes, the economy is that bad and we know there were others rooting for a change like the one we effected.  That we are here, that we survived a drive across the country with two cats, a moving truck, our van, TGG driving and a bike rack that wouldn’t stay put regardless of how hard we tried to persuade it or secure it…all this seems quite miraculous.

The first yellow squash has emerged…the zucchini is starting to strut its stuff.  Morning glories seem poised to bloom, and our herbs are doing so well we are giddy with excitement.  We are home, and J is happy.  We have successfully completed a cycle that we started with trepidation and, trust us to be the ones to do such a thing, now we’re going to shake the can and hear the pebbles rattle.  Yes, my friends, in less than a month we will pare the meds down to one dose a day.  We had said “we’ll do it come summer!” like it would take forever for summer to get here…

Well…tick, tick, tick…we’re working our way to the day when it happens…

We hope the pool is not as crowded early tomorrow morning, but we’re not holding our breath…

The angry woman without a brassiere…

The older I get, the more important it becomes that I am properly dressed for any occasion.  Anger is one of those occasions for which the right attire is necessary; anger is one of those occasions that require a proper amount of underwear.  This morning I was angry in my nightgown, and I yelled and gesticulated, and it didn’t really have the necessary effect because J thought it was hilarious that I yelled, waved my arms and stomped my feet, my breasts kept bouncing all over the place in a ridiculous manner.  I dare you to try to be stern and convincing when people think you look absurd as you’re putting your heart and soul into getting a point across.

Never mind what the argument was about.  All I’d like to point out is that, in the middle of my tantrum (which was not unjustified, I might add,) J couldn’t keep a straight face and, because his laughter tends to be contagious, I eventually had to give up on my bad mood because there wasn’t one single living thing in the house that could keep a straight face.  Notice, please, I said “one single living thing” and this will include the felines that occupy our household.

At first, J was upset because I was upset.  He did his usual hand-shaking rounds and hugged me, but this was not enough to diffuse my anger.  What I needed, for the most part, was a chance to left alone to cool off and go back to my usual level of patience, but -the older men in my household being men- I was not given this chance.  Before long, I was ready to have a combination tantrum/hot flash/diatribe and I would have been successful in stepping on EVERYONE’S toes had it not been for J’s laughter.

It is funny, in hindsight, that the one person whose ability to empathize is supposed to be impaired managed to be the one who made me go from angry to calm.  For a moment, I saw myself through J’s eyes, and -even though I was tempted to tell him that we do not laugh at people who are in any degree of emotional distress- I could see that he was seeing something pretty funny.  When J and I walk home from the bus, J will put his hand on the top of my head and gently move me from side to side while making a “booooing” noise as we move.  I guess he’s channeling some character from one of his cartoons.  Today, as I stood there raising my voice, flapping my arms and stomping my foot, J started bobbing his head uncontrollably while saying boooooing, booooing…and laughing.

After everyone had calmed down (both in terms of laughter and anger,) I went upstairs to make the bed and get dressed to go into town.  I stepped into the bathroom to brush my teeth, still wearing my nightgown, and when I walked out, there stood J, smiling from ear to ear, with a brassiere in his hand.  He started giggling softly, and then -handing me the bra- said boooooing booooooing and skipped off to his room as if he’d just done the wittiest, funniest thing anyone could possibly imagine…

Now, tell me, who can stay angry for long under such circumstances?  Certainly not I, or certainly not for long.  Because I believe that every person has a right to their own emotions and to an occasional outburst, I’ve added a note to the many that hang in my room, where I can read them to remind me of things that are important.  I have “use plunger in toilet once a week when cleaning bathroom…toilet is lazy,” “sew buttons back on black trousers, blue skirt, white blouse, brown sweater,” “do not buy facial tissue with lotion,” and now…”do not get angry when braless.”

If I want to be taken seriously, that is…which, for the most part, I don’t.




Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop…

It is Friday…and school, officially, ends on Thursday of next week.  Except it doesn’t, really.  Tuesday through Thursday are final exam days…so the other kids in J’s classroom will not be returning to school next week.  After a phone call that lasted approximately 20 minutes, J’s teacher and I agreed on an alternate plan for J.  She hadn’t thought, she told me, of how J might take the news that school is over, and with the flurry of activity that comes at the tail-end of the year and her own children’s multiple activities, we didn’t get a chance to converse about this…so we did it…TODAY.

My schedule, so carefully constructed over the course of the week, is about to undergo plastic surgery. I cannot guarantee that it will look pretty or that it will even look like itself, but…circumstances force my hand and here I go again.  At first, as I read the note in J’s comm book, I felt dizzy and like I needed to sit down and put my head between my knees (assuming, for the millionth time in my life) “crash position.”  Like a person who has just realized they’re old, I feel like saying “but I thought I’d have more time.”  However, and this is my saving grace, I am well aware that the milk has been spilt and I can’t cry over it.

J being J, closure of a sort is needed.  I negotiated that closure with his teacher and, hopefully, our plan will work well.  This is what I came up with: on Tuesday morning (since Monday is a holiday,) Dada will take J to school wearing his “last day of school shirt.”  He would have worn this today if I’d been told the kids were having their party, but I cannot flog a woman who has a rather large brood to look after on top of the classroom full of J and company for not writing this down.  J’s is, after all, ONE out of several comm books she has to update.

J will go to school early on Tuesday, wearing his shirt, carrying pastries and the thank-you notes he’s been working on for his teacher and mentors.  They will have a little Farewell ’til Fall breakfast, and I will then come to pick him up at around 9:30.  This will give me a chance to do the one thing the doctor asked me to do and which I’ve been postponing until it can’t be postponed any longer: I’m having blood drawn.  This prospect is so thrilling and so amusing that I can barely speak of it…so I will go, extend my arm, be pricked with a large needle, give some of my lifeblood to several vials that will then be put through all sorts of tests and, the crowning glory of my morning, I will collect J from school and summer will begin…  Believe me, I count myself lucky: I could have a root canal scheduled for that morning.

I know that J will have a bit of a hard time processing this change in schedule because he likes things tied up neatly at the end of a process.  That’s where the shirt comes in; a garment that would make Jimmy Buffett look like he’s wearing business attire is absolutely necessary for J to end the school year.  It is also necessary that we play Alice Cooper’s School’s Out in the car…loudly.

While I was talking to his teacher on the phone, J lurked around, his eyes wide like saucers and his ears pricked up.  I’m sure that, on some level, he felt like something ended today, but not quite for him.  The regular elements he requires from a last day of school were missing, and that’s what I aim to remedy with this short stay at school Tuesday morning.  Over the weekend, we will stand in front of the board and populate it with different activities we can do over the week, and we will only put the BACKPACK up for Tuesday.  That should be enough…that is what J expects and, pushy mother that I am, that’s what I intend to give him.

J’s teacher told me that she hadn’t really thought how he’d take the end of school.  It is, after all, the first year she’s had him as a student, and one can’t expect her to juggle bowling pins, do origami, knit a sweater and anticipate everything.  Teachers, bless them, have enough to do with OUR children and, on top of it, have to go home to their own lives.  They never really disconnect from the job they do because they go home to children, and structure, and planning…  So I don’t fault her, and I celebrate the fact that she is willing to help me help J transition more smoothly than he would have if he’d heard “ok, you’re done, buddy…it’s over!” when he came home from school today.

This is a trivial matter.  A crisis that can easily be negotiated and averted, and -I hope- the plan we’ve concocted will do that neatly.  Just like we transitioned into the new school, new teacher, new friends, new routine in August, we will now stop the flow that we’ve become accustomed to and move on to the next thing.

Am I ready?  Half an hour ago I wasn’t, I admit.  I was a little nervous about the suddenness of this schedule change.  I was ready to be leisurely about everything until Thursday, when the sinking feeling of a whole summer of keeping J entertained while he keeps me on my toes hit me.  Now I’m cool.  Now I’m feeling capable and efficient.

Oh, I WILL hyperventilate during the course of this ‘not as busy’ season, but that’s what I signed on for when I took on parenting.  The important thing is that J transitions as well as he possibly can, and when I think about what J needs, it takes the edge off my fears and nerves.  The kid’s gonna be alright…that’s what I do best.