I have nothing to compare to, so I don’t know whether every family experiences this level of trauma, anxiety and stress upon returning to school.
Little Man just left after a week off for half term. The week has gone fairly well, but he’s constantly exhausted and has been in a fair bit of pain. This means that activities are limited and he’s spent a lot of time watching telly (cue some good Mum-guilt for not finding more creative, useful pursuits). He’s also lacking in friends… although he’s made some good friends at school, we have yet to bring them out into his extra-curricular life; and his brother and sister are masters at making him feel excluded. All in all, the holidays are not the best time for him.
But before this school year, school had become so sad and traumatic that he still dreads the start of term. Unsurprisingly, while his thinking brain may welcome going back to his new school, his feeling brain has not yet accepted that school is now good. So leaving this morning, when both siblings only start again tomorrow was tough. The taxi’s remarkable lateness didn’t really help.
I’m happy he’s now gone because it has been really challenging keeping him happy this week… but my heart is twisting a little because he is obviously very, very tired, feeling floppy and in more pain than usual. And I made him go to school.
Sweet Girl… golly that kid makes my heart explode! She is so much like me, in all the good and all the bad, and I often find myself tremendously frustrated with her. She comes to me with all her happies and all her sads, and I am immensely privileged to be her confidante… at the same time that role comes with a huge weight of responsibility. Despite a very typical teenage melting pot of hormones and mood swings, she brings super human effort to the management of her moods. Once again, I cannot feel anything other than tremendously proud of her, but it can be a little galling to have to come out of my frustration because she has managed to come out of hers!! She may be super human. I, on the other hand? Really, really just human 🙂
Sweet Girl is about to embark on a whole new adventure… To some, those three little words would spell excitement and anticipation. For Sweet Girl, thanks to her wonderful new school, it does… but added to excitement and anticipation are anxiety and trepidation. And come Wednesday morning that will no doubt escalate to blinding panic, but we will deal with that. Starting this week, my sweet little girl will be staying at school from Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon – oh yes! She will be boarding!
While this change will bring with it some difficulties, Sweet Girl has never liked the holidays. She thrives on the structure of school life, and finds it very difficult to occupy herself at home. In fact, she begged me to register her for the Young Writers’ Program on NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve given her a very achievable word count of 6000 to write by the end of the month. I’m hoping to be able to share her story with you all when she has finished (if she gives me permission, of course!). The conclusion is that I have no worries about her going back to school… and that gives me more relief than many of you might know.
And then we have Eldest…
My chest is tight, my head is whirling and the anxiety is mounting as we head towards tomorrow, when I must take him back to school. Do not get me wrong. The school is working incredibly well for him; he is cared for amazingly well, is learning and progressing; and I trust them absolutely. In his head, however, it is “a hell hole”. No matter how much I remind him that his phone calls to me in the last few weeks have been happy and full of good news, he simply cannot access those emotional memories. He cannot move past the fact that his friendships are not a “good” thing about school because he can keep in touch with them via Skype. He cannot accept the fact that the school had nothing to do with the departure of one of his best friends. He cannot comprehend that if he were to stay home during term time, he would not have the leisure time that he enjoys during holidays.
Talking to him is of absolutely no help. He is stuck in a very autistic logic… one that thanks to his intelligence is difficult to refute, simply because its only fault is its premise. And he refuses to accept that his premise is faulty.
Being silent is equally problematic. If I do not speak to him, I do not care, it seems.
Empathy is a very painful companion. I feel what he feels. And it hurts! He is absolutely in real pain, and the desperation creeping up on him is tangible.
shhhhhhh…. and I want him to go back to school as soon as possible…….
There is a part to blogging that rips something inside me. The demands that my own words make on me to write the truth. However horrible that may be sometimes. I can justify it, I really can. After all, if I admit to these awful feelings that I would rather a team of caring people (near strangers in some way) look after my son because it’s hard work doing it myself, then maybe another parent will read my words and realise that they are not alone. And I know (I think anyway) that I am not alone. But at the same time, the nakedness that follows is quite frightening.
How do I make certain that everyone… my readers, my family, my beautiful, darling boy… knows how much I love him? That in spite of the relief of not having to battle to get him into the shower, my true feelings about sending him to school are pride at his progress and thanks to the staff that are helping him achieve it?
How do I admit, once again, that I and Darling Man are insufficient? On our own, here at home, we cannot help him become the young man that he can be.
I wrote up above that I am really, really human. Two weeks of Eldest at home, and a part of me cannot wait for him to go back to school. We have had largely a lovely two weeks. But it’s also a game of treading on eggshells, pretending to have control that I absolutely do not have. Weaving a careful dance with Darling Man around him to ensure that our minimal requirements of him are met in order that we not have to put in place consequences that would absolutely come with massive meltdowns. And knowing that our ability to manage a true meltdown is possibly nil. We dare not test those waters.
Eldest is making amazing progress. I have to share here a youtube video that he made this week. His understanding of physics and electronics of sorts staggers me. While he spends far too much time on his computer, I do recognise that he is not wasting his time. I know that many people consider Minecraft to be a kids’ game. Look at his video though. This is a 13 year old boy who has taught himself at the School of YouTube to build circuits that allow his character to move up and down an elevator (I think it’s a transporter, but you be the judge). The limitations of my account here do not allow me to embed the video… but click on the link, it’s worth it.
Come Wednesday, I will be calmer once more. In the meantime, we have to navigate the next 30 hours or so. They will be filled with anxiety and anger. While he can manage to contain his anger and avoid physical aggression now (phew!), he has no concept of shielding others from it. And that’s where empathy and sympathy are nightmare companions. Not only do I feel what he is feeling, without the slightest ability to help him, but I bear the brunt of all that anger. And I hate it!!! It simply does not feel good!
So do share with me… “special” families, and more “normal” ones…. how does your back-to-school happen? Is it a non-event, or does it begin days before the actual event? Do you look forward to the children returning to school and if so does that come accompanied with guilt? Do you hate sending them back because you enjoy their company? How did your half term go?