Five days. Five days without one meltdown. Five days without our son on the floor pleading with us to stay home. Five days without having things thrown, without anything broken. Five days of this slight loosening of the grip on our chests. Five days so far at his new school, and we are starting as a family to come up for air.
We know these are early days. We expect to hit bumps on the road. The week has not been easy for our guy, we see that on his face where he has been biting his lips which are sore and raw. He has had so much to take in, so much to absorb.
And yet, there is a peace about him, a contentment that was not there a week ago. He has come home each day tired but calm. He doesn’t have much to say, this process is being internalized. When we ask him, he says his new school is good and his lips are sore because of the cold outside. We see he needs not to be peppered with one hundred questions. We sit close. We rub his feet. And we wait for a meltdown that just doesn’t come. We breathe in. And we breathe out, a little more relaxed.
There are surprises. Already the education is breaking through. The first day he tells us they watched a movie, “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare. He corrects my pronunciation of one of the German composers. He pulls out a keyboard that hasn’t been used in ages. He has been painting, bringing out games he has not played in ages. He records a TV documentary about WWII and lays on the couch and watches it two afternoons in a row. Plopping on the couch and watching TV may seem mundane to some, or even your parental nightmare, but in our house, this has never happened. He has not previously chosen an educational program, and just watched it for an hour. This is the sort of quiet that has descended that we are not sure if we can trust yet. Perhaps, once it all stops being so new at school then he won’t be so tired and we may yet again see the after school ramped up behaviors. Or perhaps not. But for now, we have space to breathe deeper, lungs starting to expand. We know enough to hang onto such moments.
Perhaps being around teachers who understand him, who listen as he sings, and who spot his growing distress due to the noise in the wood shop and who take him out to a quiet space matters. Perhaps being in a place where he can pop into the sensory room at lunchtime and play with Orbeez matters. Perhaps being allowed to wear hairclips in whatever way he wants to keep his growing hair out of his eyes matters. Perhaps petting the school dogs and feeding the guinea pigs matters. Perhaps not having to wear a tie or an uncomfortable blazer matters. Perhaps not hearing loud bells ringing every hour and not having to face a huge scrum in the hallways several times a day matters. Perhaps, and we hadn’t anticipated this, focusing on Candy Crush during the 30-minute drive in the car to get to and from this school matters as it is providing him transition time that he lacked before between home and school.
He is going to sleep on his own again, he doesn’t need me by his side to unwind at night. He is not as oppositional, not so easily discouraged. OK, he is learning some new vocabulary and occasionally using it. A couple of the other kids who have less social boundaries bewilder him – he is not used to kids wandering during lessons, using curse words and not being sent out of the classroom. But if something confuses him or throws him off, he recovers more quickly now. Not everything is sending him into orbit. I feel the hypervigilance we had been living under is slowly beginning to melt away.
Our relatives are rejoicing. They tell us they have not seen us look like this in ages. They see a glimmer in our eyes that has been missing for some time. We are still a bit stunned. Not yet fully relaxed.
People are asking if we wish we had done this switch sooner. The answer to that is that we needed the past year so he could benefit from the expertise of a seasoned and experienced SENCO, deeper insights from teachers and the teaching assistants who worked so closely with him, and the pile of reports done by others they brought into in the secondary school to give us the missing in-depth specialist assessments – detailed pieces of the puzzle that we lacked previously. These evaluations enable us to understand his educational profile better than those that we had in hand from the primary school. They also provided the convincing body of evidence needed to enable the powers that be to make a quick decision to move him to special provision. So his time in the mainstream school was useful to him and to us, even as it was hard. But we are very, very happy to have found a place that seems to be better meeting his needs.
We are not sure what to expect this weekend. I am guessing there will be a release of tension at some point. Things may yet sail across the room. We will do our best to get him some physical activity, to keep things positive, to keep pressures at bay. I hope we can see him laugh.
But five days…I will hold onto that. Who knew five consecutive days could be had without that heart-wrenching dysregulation that had become commonplace in our home?
I, for one, had not realized that we had forgotten how peaceful it can be to simply breathe without waiting for a crash or a bang or other signs of a small, pressured soul poised ready to explode.
I hope, I hope, I hope that we are breaking free of those times. But I am sure we must be vigilant and protect these hopes from disappointment. I am sure we are not out of the woods. FASD is a hard, brutal taskmaster – throwing many hurdles in the way time and time again. But five days…they mean something too, and we have to celebrate when we can the successes that come our way.