How Far We’ve Come

We had a couple of mornings that we were out of routine this week.  My neighbor had contacted me over the weekend to ask if I could take his daughter to school on Tuesday.  He’s a real estate agent and usually works out of his house, allowing him to take her to the bus stop.  But he had an early morning meeting scheduled and would have to leave before it was time for her to get on the bus.

That was no problem.  I told him months ago that if he ever needed me to give her a ride I’d be happy to.  It’s not like I’d have to go out of my way seeing as they live right next door and all.  The only wrench in the works was that he needed to be at his meeting at 7:30, meaning that she’d be at our house somewhere around 7:15.  Still not too much of a problem, we’re up and moving around by then anyway.  But it did mean the boys had to get out of bed a little sooner than usual.

The way things are supposed to work is everyone gets up at 6:45 and Brendan takes a shower.  By 7:00 he’s supposed to be done and Cameron is supposed to be in the shower.  By 7:15 he’s supposed to be done and Kaylee’s supposed to get a bath.  Well things don’t always go by those exact times and in thinking about it if our neighbor was going to show up at 7:15 I didn’t really want Cameron to just be getting out of the shower anyway because he still hasn’t mastered this whole modesty thing and would probably come streaking out of the bathroom without his towel.

So the boys had to get up extra early and get their showers done by 7.  This put us off on our whole morning routine, but in the good way.  We had an hour to get done with breakfast and pack bags.  The little neighbor girl wasn’t thrilled about having to be there any more than the boys were at having their morning changed up because as it turns out she had to alter her morning routine too.  Despite the unhappy faces that everything was different we all made it through the morning with no mishaps.

The following morning Cameron had a doctor appointment at 8:00.  They had asked me to arrive at the appointment 15 minutes early so I could fill out some paperwork, meaning that we had to be out the door by about 7:30.  I could have asked my neighbor to turn around and take Brendan to school but didn’t because his daughter rides the bus and Brendan doesn’t so that would mean we’d either have to figure out how to get permission for him to ride the bus or my neighbor would actually have to drive them up there and that felt like too big an imposition.  Plus Brendan has cello on Wednesday’s and that was going to be an even bigger hassle.

Luckily Matt was able to work from home that day and take Brendan to school himself.  This also meant that I could leave Kaylee at home with daddy and be free to concentrate on Cameron.  Wednesday’s morning routine was even screwier than Tuesday’s.  We got the kids up at 6:45 and Cameron jumped into the shower.  Once he was done at 7 I fed all three kids breakfast and quickly packed their bags and lunches.  At 7:30 Cameron and I got into the car and left leaving Matt to get Brendan showered and ready to go.

The reason I bring this all up is because we got through both of these altered routines with little to no incident.  A lot of people are probably reading that sentence and thinking to themselves, “So what?”  But for my kids this is nothing short of a miracle.  Years ago, with Brendan mostly, if things did not go precisely according to the schedule that I had set forth things would not go that smoothly.

Back when Brendan was 4 our morning routine was to get him up and dressed (he bathed at night), pop a pair of frozen waffles into the toaster, and load him and his waffles into the car to drop him off at my dad’s house to be picked up by the van that took him across town to his special ed pre-school.  I kept every flavor of frozen waffle made in my freezer so I could satisfy whichever urge hit Brendan that morning because I knew to do otherwise would cause me more headaches than not.

On one particular morning he wanted strawberry waffles.  I had some, but had run out in my freezer in the kitchen.  I have a deep freeze in my garage and had probably 3 more boxes out there.  But I made the mistake of saying to myself, “oops we ran out in here.”  Brendan heard me and instantly started screaming his head off.  It didn’t matter that I had more in the outside freezer, they weren’t in the right place.  He was so used to me reaching into the freezer in our kitchen and producing his breakfast that he couldn’t handle even that teeny tiny miniscule change to his morning routine.

The other two haven’t been quite that bad.  I’ve never had either of them throw a tantrum about the location of their breakfast materials, but unfortunately having Brendan on such a rigid routine means that they’ve gotten used to a certain way of doing things as well and don’t adjust to change as well as they should either.  (I’ll just stop here because I know if I don’t I’ll get comments from my husband–the peanut gallery.  I don’t adjust well to change either.  While I’m not known to throw temper tantrums about it–most of the time anyway–I definitely don’t do as well if something changes at the last minute.  So at least a piece of this may be hereditary…who knows.)

So the fact that we got through two days of altered routine without any incidents really is something to celebrate.  It shows just how much Brendan has grown in the past 5 years.  It’s still not perfect, but we’re getting somewhere.  Friday was another example of how far he’s come.  The boys were coming down the sidewalk toward the car and Brendan was carrying his cello on his back so he by-passed the side door and opened up the back end to put the cello in.

Now he does this by himself pretty much every Wednesday and Friday.  He’s got the process down pat and is even tall enough to reach up and shut the back end by himself.  Admittedly I had been to the store the day before and hadn’t pulled the buckets of cat litter out of my back end yet so he did have that as an obstacle, but I didn’t think even that would warrant the mumbled ravings that I was hearing from him as he loaded his instrument.

When he came back around the car to put his bag and lunch in I asked what was wrong.  He began yelling at me right away and telling me that Cameron had thrown his lunchbox onto the sidewalk on the way to the car and demanded that Brendan pick it up (which Brendan did because he didn’t want us to lose it) and it wasn’t his job to carry Cameron’s lunchbox…on and on the tirade went.

I could smell a meltdown surfacing, so I tried to re-direct him.  It doesn’t often work but occasionally you get lucky.  Friday was a lucky day.  I calmly told Brendan I understood he was upset, but why was he yelling at me.  He took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know mommy, I’m sorry.  I just had a really rough day.”  And as we drove home he told me all about his rough day.

He said that there must have been a teacher meeting because both his regular teacher and his math teacher had substitutes that day.  Brendan always, always gets out of sorts when he has a sub.  I’m not sure why exactly he has such trouble with it.  If I had to guess it would be because it’s not the right person teaching him even though they’re following his regular routine to the letter.

As we made our way home I could tell he was still quite upset.  I talked to him about it and tried to do what I could to convince him that having a substitute was not the end of the world.  What really stood out and convinced me that he’s changed a lot over the past few years is that rather than obsessing about the situation and continuing to be agitated he asked me if he could practice his cello when he got home.

He doesn’t normally practice cello on Friday’s since he has music in school.  But that day he wanted to practice at home because he thought it would make him feel better.  He recognized he was upset and wanted to do what he could to change his attitude.  I couldn’t believe it.  We’ve tried dozens of times to distract him and keep him from going down the path of a full meltdown.  It almost never works.

But in this case he came up with the idea on his own, put it into practice as soon as we walked through the door and came out 20 minutes later refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to be an active member of the family again.  I never thought we would get to this point and I can only hope that someday he will learn to control the meltdowns completely.

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