He’s His Own Man

So we’re already heading into the end of July and I don’t really know what to say about this summer. I guess I can say with certainty that it’s going by far too quickly. I can also say that I’m enjoying all the intensive speech therapy I’m doing, even though my days are a tad longer than they should be. I booked my days really tightly as if we were still living in 2007, when people took long summer vacations and canceled speech therapy sessions left and right. Now? Not so much. Back in the day, everyone fled Chicago for the month of August. It was rarely worth working that month. This year I only have a couple kids taking time off in August. This is very good for the continuity of therapy, but I’ve been shocked by the lack of breathing room in my schedule. However, I’m loving the work and excited to be back in the trenches, so to speak. It’s all good.

I suppose I can also say that the schedule works well in terms of me having four days off after my three busy days. It’s VERY exciting not to have to run out the door on Friday mornings. And I loved having my parents here for a long weekend, that was great.

But, man, we are struggling with our little dude. For him, summer is not what it’s cracked up to be. He’s cranky and rude, and wanting every day to be a party. When it’s not: attitude. He yelled at my mother, asking if she’d “lost her marbles” the other day, and suggested that he’d had the “ride from hell” when my father set his GPS wrong and took them to Oak Park from Target rather than back home.  Yes, Bart Simpson is in the house. Let’s just say the boys’ TV watching has been significantly curbed and they’re back to PBS, where no one on “Dragon Tales” yells at their grandparents. My rule: if you can’t watch negative behavior in a show without imitating it, you’re not old enough for it. Buh-bye, Cartoon Network.

He loved camp the first week, raving about it every afternoon and dying to get there the next day. But after a 3-day weekend of downtime at home, he decided he really didn’t want to go back (it’s more fun to play at home) and had fits of increasing intensity every day of week 2. He enjoyed his first swim lesson, giving me sly smiles and more than one thumbs-up during the lesson, but afterward declaring it the worst time in his life, deciding he’d never go back, and staging a sit-in at the next lesson. Even though I promised a cookie to anyone who got into the pool and he really wanted that cookie after the lesson when Baxter got one. Tough love from the “Meanie Mommy” over here.

I asked the boys today if they have been thinking about school much, or if they’ve put it out of their minds during the summer vacation. Baxter admitted that he’s “dreading” it and doesn’t want to go back, but with more discussion it was clear that this was not because anything was inherently wrong with school, but rather that he strongly prefers unstructured time at home. “I like not knowing what we’re doing every day in the summer,” he said. But Lyle was shocked to hear that and had a very different answer. “I think about school and I want to go back,” he told us. I suggested that Lyle feels good in a schedule and routine, it makes him feel calmer, and reminded them that both ways to be are fine. I pointed out that camp has a routine but it’s different from school. “I want to go to summer school – not camp,” he said, which I thought was astute. I told them about year-round schools and how much better that might work for Lyle. Baxter thought it sounded dreadful. Lyle made a comment about how he used to think that because he and Baxter “both came from the same Mommy, [they] would always think and like the same things”. The realization that this is not so made him light-hearted as he skipped along with us.

I don’t always know how to make these kids happy – and quite often this summer Lyle is incredibly unhappy – but I believe part of the job has got to involve helping them know themselves. If my little guy can learn from an early age that he feels better in a familiar routine and might prefer a half-day camp around a specific interest (he wants to go to Lego camp next year instead of day camp) – and that he isn’t expected to think and feel exactly like his big brother – then I guess he’s on his way to learning what he needs to make himself happy, and when it comes down to it, well, I have to believe that’s enough for this summer.

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2 responses to “He’s His Own Man

  1. squidrosenberg

    Lost ability to put thoughtful words together after reading the Jennifer L. “for Jessica” piece you tweeted earlier, but I hear you and hope your disgruntled youngest child finds a rhythm that stabilizes his mood, as your work rhythm seems to have done for you — and how astute of L. realize his beat doesn’t have to be the same as his sibling’s.

  2. I don’t think your job is to make your children happy but to help them find their own definition of and route to happiness. I’d say you’re doing an amazing job from that standpoint!

    Lyle’s realization that he doesn’t have to like the same things or feel the same feelings as Baxter is a huge leap forward. I suspect, much like the video of the boys on the swings you posted on FB, they will keep you & Matt running in different directions! And it’s ALL good.

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