So, I’m fairly confidant that all the Mommy bloggers out there tonight, (or at least sometime in the coming days), are cleverly rehashing the amazing tales of the commencement of this year’s fall semester of school. I don’t see any reason to be different on this front. The first day of the school year, unlike any other day that doesn’t have a religious tradition or some sort of historical value to it naturally, manages to capture the complete attention of nearly every human in the American Midwest. (And I expect probably further reaching, but I’m not completely sure when all the other schools start.) Moms and Dads are concerned with getting the proper supplies. They plan and arrange lunch menus (hot vs. cold?) and clutch to aching wallets because of the shopping involved in preparing a child for a new year. Little brothers and sisters are mad because their older siblings aren’t around to play and demand attention, further adding to the Mom and Dad stress level. Little girls are consumed with picking the perfect outfit, coordinating backpack and pencil topper to catch the attention of the boys she hopes will notice them. Couples my age, without children, are annoyed by the four thousand facebook posts each child’s first day, (including some of my friends when this posts tonight, I’m sure.) College kids are moving back into dorms. Older generations and most business owners are woefully happy that the children are off the streets, out of their stores and no longer cluttering up the town during the day hours. They are also putting up signs to lure all of the aforementioned people to their businesses to find all the necessary academic items at a great sale. That’s pretty much everyone in Midwestern America….
Oh. Everyone, except boys. I guess I had thought that boys were impervious to new school year and the excitement it presents. I learned through out the last few days, though, that boys are not immune to the chaos and energy. Starting a few weeks back, Jake began discussing that he’d like to grow his hair out. He wanted a faux hawk, but knew his dad wouldn’t approve. So, he made enough jokes about it that I finally bit, and we talked about what he wanted. (Actually, what he wanted was the spiky doo that Jaydon Yugi has on Yugi-Oh, apparently, which reminds me that the characters on Japanese anime don’t seem appropriate for kids… but that’s another blog). So, we discussed that maybe he could compromise with his father and grow his top out a little longer but keep the back and sides a little shorter and less spiky. Luckily, Ryan was reasonable and Jake is now growing his hair out as he pleases (to some extent) and we are going to try to be supportive. (Really, considering that I have a very super thick mane and Ryan can grow more facial hair than most people can grow on their entire bodies, the child is bound to have a lot of hair anyhow. There’s really no reason to fight this. He’ll probably be shaving his beard before he enters 3rd grade…) Problem solved.
Finally, last night, it was the eve before school started. Jake started getting squirrelly. His hyperactivity seemed to jump into overdrive, and he was bouncing around like Tigger every where we went. He couldn’t sit still, even to eat. So, sensing that he was a little off, and deciding that being scared of transitions has always been his way, I decided to start discussing his behavior a bit. I asked Jake if he was nervous about school. He responded that of course he wasn’t. He’s good at school. I asked him if he was excited to see his friends that he hadn’t seen much all summer. He responded that was, especially his friend Victor, that might be “okay”. I asked him if knew where he was going, if he liked his outfit we had picked, if he felt like he was missing anything, if was afraid of the new teacher…. And he assured me that everything was just fine. I kissed his forehead and left for roller derby practice.
When I came home from practice, Ben was sleeping peacefully, but Ryan thought Jake would still be awake, which was the reverse of the more usual night. Excited that I could say good night to Jake, I slipped into their bedroom and went to the edge of Jake’s bed and whispered. But, I got no reply. Jake wasn’t in his bed. I checked to my left, and Ben was sleeping soundly. Jake wasn’t in his bed either. So, I headed back out to the living room and asked Ryan of Jake’s whereabouts. Ryan said that Jake had probably switched to our bedroom because he was waking Ben as he “couldn’t sleep”.
So, I turned around and headed back down the hall to our room. I slid onto my bed and cuddled up next to Jake. Sure enough, he was still wide awake. So, I asked him what was on his mind. He told me some things about video games, he told me me about the kitties…. and then I told him he needed to get to sleep. He agreed and said good night. I cuddled him for a moment longer and headed for my bedroom door. Just as my hand was hitting the knob he whispers, “Mom, will I have to do really difficult math tomorrow?”, and suddenly I had my answer. Jake was nervous about moving up to the 2nd grade. Not at all anything I would’ve expected, considering that his academics come so naturally to him. I reminded him that they will not make him do anything that they don’t plan on teaching him to do. Because, it would just be silly to teach someone something they already knew, right? He laughed, and agreed. I turned again for the door, and just as my hand hit the knob, I turned around once more, but this time I was compelled to speak.
“The first day of school is almost always boring kiddo. You’ll read a lot of rules, meet a lot of people, do introductions and review the things you learned in Kindergarten and 1st grade.” He seemed much more relaxed and he quietly drifted to sleep as I left the room. Once he was truly asleep, Ryan moved him back into his bed so he could have a little more room to wiggle.
This morning my alarm clock went off and I talked Ryan into waking Jake up for the day. Ryan got up, stretched and stumbled tiredly as we all do when we are first awake, and shuffled towards Jake’s room. A moment or two later, Ryan came in, wide awake and grinning. He smiled and convinced me to come see what he had found. There was Jake, sitting on the coach, completely dressed (including tennis shoes) holding his backpack and watching television quietly. I have no idea what time Jake actually got out of bed, but I know that he was up, had eaten and gotten ready, all on his own, before my alarm even went off. This seemed pretty impressive for the child that we’d have to bribe out of bed last year walking on eggshells each morning to try to keep him from throwing tantrums. I was super impressed and I told Jake so. He told me that he had considered it all summer and it would be best to do a good job listening and behaving this year. SUPER impressed Mommy now:)
I picked him up from school, and he was covered in sweat. It had been a humid day, but you could tell he had been playing hard. He greeted me with flailing arms telling me that he had a life saver and “chocolate” (Hershey kiss) from school and he couldn’t wait to share it. He also had a band-aid, but he had to use that when Alex knocked him down play fighting at recess. (No worries, it sounded pretty innocent.) He said he had a (very enthusiastic) GREAT 1st day and loved his new class, even though he was the only child from his class the previous year in that class. His new teacher was nice and he knew her from last year also. There were a few friends from his Kindergarten class in this year’s class that he knew, and he was very excited about that. In fact, we walked from the school to our van with his friend (also named Jacob) that he had made in Kindergarten. (Actually, that Jacob being in his Kindergarten class was the reason that Jacob decided he wanted to be “Jake”.)
When we got home, Jake watched his father play a new game that they had found and then he played for a bit himself. He had a really hard time turning the game off without throwing a fit, which is a behavior we have not witnessed with him in a few months. I reminded myself that he must be more tired than usual and calmed him down. The transitions got a little harder at that point. He didn’t want to play outside, because it was too hot. He didn’t want to eat, because it wasn’t Burger King. He didn’t want to go to the park with us, because he was too tired. But, he hung in there, and slowly I’d convince him and he’d whine but follow along…. until we got to the park. We picked a local park where both of the boys will be having their very first soccer practices at tomorrow. He was pretty interested in seeing the park, and hungry so he was ready to eat the Little Caesars Hot-N-Now Pizza we had picked up, but he was obviously too tired to actually play. He had a melt down of epic proportions because two bumblebees were buzzing near our table. I couldn’t calm him down, so I put a disappointed Benjamin (with soccer ball in one hand and breadstick in the other) back into the car to head home. We got home, continued eating our pizza, and Ben took a bath. I let Jake play a single game of video game hockey to try to enhance his mood. It certainly helped, and we were able to go back out to the back yard and play a little soccer with Ben. We ate a few Popsicles and headed towards bed. Jake was VERY upset that he had to brush his teeth. It’s never been a favorite, but, lately he’s been objecting at a bare minimum. Again, it was obvious he was extremely tired. I let him out of flossing and that helped, especially since Ben still had to floss. We went to bed, and he was so grumpy that he was throwing tantrums about which books we would read as bed time stories, which is very very unlike him these days. Finally, after a few threats of losing video gaming privilege and things of that nature, he worked hard to turn his attitude around enough to politely say good night and stop tantruming long enough to sleep. Once I noticed his about face in emotion, I cuddled up with him again and praised his efforts. He feel asleep excited to do some math tomorrow.
So, that story probably sounds a lot more traumatizing than it really was, but this behavior has just recently become abnormal for Jake. Just a few short years ago, Jake had such trouble transitioning that he it showed up clinically in evaluations as a symptom of autism known as “rigidity”. In fact, at age two and a half, Jake’s daycare pulled me aside to ask me to have Jake evaluated for autism. Not surprisingly, as we probably all do, Jake showed up on the autistic spectrum. After doing some intense evaluations, we found out that Jake has many symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome is usually referred to as “high functioning autism”, but I like to call it reverse ADHD. (More on that in my next blog.) I have a lot of stories from today alone that have inspired a series of two or three more blogs to come, but for today, suffice it to say that Jake has a natural ability to do exceptionally well in some areas like in math, rote memory and comprehension skills. Yet, he seems to lack other abilities we take for granted, like socials skills as simple as basic conversation and eye contact. The day they pulled me aside in his daycare, I distinctly remember hearing, “I just can’t imagine him ever being able to be in a normal Kindergarten at this rate.” (And I’m sure that sounds crude, but to be fair, I knew as a parent something wasn’t right, and their being kind and brave enough to confront me felt more welcomed and relieving than it felt offensive. I firmly believe getting him help that early was why I am so lucky as to have the child I have today.)
So, while the end of the day was a little rough, ultimately, I’d say that Jake was much like every other person in the American Midwest, caught up in the fury of activity that precipitates the coming of the 1st day of school. Considering where he’s come from and comparing that to today, I could not be more proud of my son. I anticipate nothing but wonderful stories until his winter blues set in. Way to go, Jake!
Now I’m off to be anxious about the start of Ben’s unusually formatted school year… but that, will probably take part 3 of this epic blog series.