Life is all about finding success.....the moments of success are happy moments. They are the moments that often come between the humdrum of regular life and at times they are the moments that come in between our failures.
At the end of August, it was time to drop Matthew off at Camp Chazak, a week long sleep away camp for children with special needs. David, Jacob and I then began our 6 day adventure, just the 3 of us. Camp Chazak occurs the second to last week in August, which is the week after most camps in New York have ended. Since I run a summer camp program, this is also the week I am on vacation. I had no real firm plans for David, Jacob and I , but I knew that this would be a week for us to recharge our batteries, and relax after a busy summer.
After dropping Matthew off at camp, the three of us headed to Yankee Candle Company in Deerfield MA. This is a fabulous place where children can explore, make their own candles, and tour through a candy store and a toy store full of little toy figures, games, puzzles and more. It was as we stood in line to make candles that I realized how quiet it was. David and Jacob each had a chance to figure out what kind of candle they wanted to make, then after making candles, we wandered for 2 hours through the store. We had time to look around, to touch, to smell, and to check out the cool toys. We explored the different scents of the candles, we checked out the candy store, and we just were. We were together enjoying a quiet day, enjoying our time together in a new place.
As we got in the car to head home, there weren't any questions of what is next, what's for dinner, where are we going? There was no urgency to get on to the next thing. We drove, I laughed as David rocked out to the hard rock songs on the radio. I giggled with Jacob as he checked out his new toy. We drove. At one point we stopped for ice cream at a homemade ice cream store somewhere between Deerfield and home. The boys watched ice cream be made. We shared a taste of each other's ice cream. There was no arguing over who got what size ice cream. There was only excitement that we were doing something special, and enjoying our special day together.
The second day together we had a playdate at a local state park. Again, it was the quiet that struck me. Quiet does not mean that things are perfect- there is still some whining, after all I am raising children, not perfect humans. There is still some fighting, especially in the morning and at night when little people are tired. But the overall feeling of the day is one of happiness, of contentment, and of ease.
I have come to realize that if I am quiet, I will hear the most important
things from Jacob and David. When I ask questions, I get "yes" or "no"
answers, but when I am quiet, Jacob especially will start to talk. On the third day as we were driving, Jacob asked if he was big enough for his head rest to be put on his car seat. It had been taken off when he was still in a baby seat during a car seat check a few years ago, but now he is older and I said it would make sense and we could put it back on. Jacob is a thinker, so I assumed that he had been thinking about it and just wanted his seat to look the same as mine.
When we got home, Jacob remembered wanting the head rest put on his seat and made sure that I got it down from the garage and he put it on his car seat himself. The next day as we got in the car, Jacob asked if I knew why he had wanted the headrest put on. I said no, and thought he would just be more comfortable. He said no, he was tired of Matthew touching his head in the car, and that this headrest might help Matthew stop.
As usual with Jacob, I was amazed at his thoughtfulness in thinking through the problem. Most of the time we are in the car Matthew does something to bother Jacob, often he touches his head. David has always rubbed Jacob's head as a way to comfort himself , he has done this since Jacob was a tiny baby. Jacob has always accepted this, and seems to know intuitively that this simple act calms David.
I am sure that Matthew wants to rub Jacob's head to "fit in", and not out of cruelty, however, Jacob has asked Matthew to stop this behavior multiple, multiple times, and he refuses to stop. Jacob's desire to put a physical barrier between himself and Matthew was such wonderful problem solving and showed so much thought. His ability to talk to me about this and to let me know that this is something he thinks about what important.
Throughout the 3 more days that Matthew was at camp, there were many times that Jacob would point out that it was quiet, or nice in our family, or as he would say, a good family of 3. I know that Jacob struggles with his emotions surrounding his feelings for Matthew. After all, Matthew is Jacob's older brother, and like any little brother, Jacob does look up to Matthew. However, Jacob also is realizing that having Matthew in our family at times presents challenges. Life is louder, more unpredictable, often repetitive and at times explosive when Matthew is with us.
During my second week of vacation, after Matthew had come home from Camp Chazak, I had the option of sending Matthew back to another camp he had attended this summer or having him with us for family activities. I knew that I wanted some family days, but I also knew that it was important for all of us that we have some more of these quieter days. We had been invited to go tubing on Wednesday with one of our family friends. Tubing is a fabulous activity- you ride down the river on a tube, you go as fast or as slow as the river takes you. Part of the time is spent chatting and laughing and being together, and part of the time is spent just enjoying the scene around you. I made the tough decision that David, Jacob and I would go tubing and Matthew would go to camp. I hated that it didn't make sense for him to come, but I also hated the idea of having him with us creating a different feeling to the day. My mom offered to take Matthew to dinner at night so that Matthew also had something special to look forward to, and this seemed to appease Matthew.
David, Jacob and our friends had a fabulous day on the river! We tubed for over 5.5 hours, we stopped to throw rocks, to catch crayfish and to splash around in the water. We giggled as we raced our tubes down the water and laughed as I repeatedly got stuck in the trees. Everyone got along, everyone was happy, and the day was rejuvenating.
Later in the week it was time for our annual trip to Moreau state park with other friends. Again I knew that with Matthew the day would have a different feel. Not a good or bad feel, but it would be different. With Matthew I would have been on guard all day- checking to see who he was talking to, playing with, and what he was doing. Without Matthew, I knew all would get along more easily, and that the play would be more cooperative. I knew the kids would all play together, build together and enjoy each other's company. There was a birthday party at camp complete with cupcakes, so it was an easy sell for Matthew to go to camp.
Again, as we were together at the Lake it was obvious that there is a feeling of relaxation. Sure David was goofy on the way up to the Lake, and he proclaimed himself crazy. On the way home there was some fighting over video games, but it was really kid stuff. With Matthew it goes to the next level and there is a non stop nature to the action.
Today as we prepare to end summer we spent the day at the town pool. This time Matthew came with us, and we had a fantastic day. The pool is somewhere that Matthew thrives. He lives for the diving board! The sensory input calms his body- he can jump off the diving board for hours upon hours and is completely at peace. When he came over to the little pool he played very happily, and got to be in the big brother role as he swam around Jacob and they played together. After being at the pool we drove to my parents house for dinner and Jacob and Matthew sat together in the back laughing as brothers laugh. They were singing and just being goofy.
Today was a day of success! I think for our family success is going to be best defined by time spent all together but punctuated with time spent apart. It is ok for me to decide that some activities are best when Matthew is with us, and other activities are best when Matthew is with another adult doing something that he loves. Family isn't about being together 100% of the time, but it is about enjoy your time when you are together!
- I am a single mom of three amazing boys! All three of my sons entered my family through adoption. All three of my boys have developmental disabilities. My oldest son, Matthew has been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Bipolar Disorder. David, my middle son, has a genetic condition, he has a duplication on his 15th chromosome which leads to autism like symptoms, seizures and learning challenges. My youngest son, Jacob has learning disabilities. Each of my children bring unique challengs to our family and also bring their own personality and joys to our everyday life!