A Really Big Butterfly (#405)

With two more weeks of ESY/summer school to go and two weeks of vacation at the beach ahead of him—and then just over a week off before school starts in September——Charlie is anxious.
Make that really anxious. Maybe even all the way to his stomach.

Charlie woke up an hour before the bus came this morning and said “yellow school bus” every other minute or so. I responded with “yes, the yellow school bus” is coming and when I did not, he pinched my mouth for a moment. Charlie pulled on his backpack at 8.30 and insisted on waiting in the sultry morning heat. After school, he alternated being happy and vocal—“payanno! payanno!” Charlie called when I summoned him to practise at the keyboard—“swimsuit on! not gettinn da fries, not gettinn fries—–I wahn fries” (with a sigh). He was okay sharing a soda with me and sat patiently asking for pieces of sushi, one by one, at dinner. Then he requested some frozen vegetables; the second serving flew, confetti-like, in the air. Charlie immediately burst into tears—no more vegetables, and he’d broken a rule, as I explained in as few words as I could.

Then it was “Daddy cummin home!” and Charlie sped-showered, donned his pajamas, white socks, and off we went to wait for Jim, with Charlie walking up and down the train platform excitedly. It was straight to bed for Charlie but not straight to sleep as he has the past two nights. Again came the repeated, repeated, repeated “yallow school bus” and a lot of rocking and rolling in his bed.

I went downstairs and went through Charlie’s picture schedule, read him some of Harold and the Purple Crayon, talked about his teachers and classmates, got Charlie out of bed to do a puzzle—-he was wide awake and his words, if not his mind, were solidly stuck in one groove. And why shouldn’t Charlie be nervous—-he must be aware not only of the fact that he will be out of school for a month, but the memory of his having to be out of school last November—because there was no appropriate school for Charlie—-is fresh and raw in his young mind. Charlie, whose face opens up in that sunbeam on the water sort of way when he walks in the door of Grandpa’s house—Charlie’s house—has the air of someone who feels he has landed safely after a journey on the rough seas. And, I surmise, the thought of being adrift from his sweet new routine rattles Charlie as chaos come again.

We are readying the calendars and the pictures—-today, I decided I might as well pack my printer along with my laptop, so I can print out more schedules and pictures to help Charlie visualize how the days of his vacation will go. (I must bring some velcro, too.) In previous years, I used to pack bags of gluten-free crackers and cereal and noodles and waffles and boxes of potato milk mix; this year, though, I think we are paying attention to the real essentials that Charlie needs for a relatively peaceful vacation.

As for me, I am thinking I need a vacation from masterplanning against Charlie’s vacation anxiety. (I’ll settle for a few cups of good strong coffee and a more peaceful easy-feeling boy.)

And yes—-I have been thinking that Charlie’s recent bouts of food-throwing may not be such a coincidence with the end of ESY and the start of “vacation,” and that he might have been harboring a really big butterly in his stomach for more than a little while.

6 Responses to “A Really Big Butterfly (#405)”
  1. tara says:

    Transitions are always anxiety producing around here too. This may sound crazy- but for Littleman, I am concerned that the calendar and the countdown to school may be anxiety producing in itself. He is so closed of to the subject and so resistant to any attempt to prepare for beginning Kindergarten. Do you think the two week vacation Charlie has will
    reduce some of his anxiety??

  2. The same happens with Charlie—-the countdown and the very anticipation of vacation (and of its ending when we are on it) cause Charlie tons of anxiety. I’m working on calender with simple visuals—-I’m finding that the more I talk about the “countdown” or vacation etc., the worse it gets.

    I’m not sure how the two weks are going to go this year. Last year, Charlie settled into his “vacation mode” pretty nicely after 2-3 days, then erupted into lots of repetitive speech the last 3 days to the point that he got hoarse from talking (yelling, at times) so much. I am hoping by emphasizing that vacation/home/school are all just as much fun that some of his anxiety might be allayed—-I hope!

  3. Rebecca says:

    We go through the same anxieties with Chris. He is beginning middle school this year which is stirring up major butterflies. We will be taking many trips to the school so that Chris can study the teacher names and faces (they have their pictures posted in the halls…the new location doesn’t seem to pose new anxieties since he learns layouts and locations easily). Poor Chris has had many transitions this year…a new school and two new stepparents in addition to the twice weekly transitions from Mom’s to Dad’s house. It’s amazing that he does as well as he does…

  4. Wade Rankin says:

    Charlie’s had to deal with so many changes in the last year, that a large butterfly or two has to be expected. He’s clearly ready for the start of school (ESY just can’t be the same) and the comfort of the school bus. I suspect that the start of the regular school year will bring back the peaceful easy feeling.

  5. Jannalou says:

    One of the kids I used to work with got really excited about her eighth birthday and that’s all she talked about – eight guests, eight candles, eight party hats, etc. – from the moment school let out in June (and her birthday is at the beginning of September).

    I made her a count-down calendar thing, where every day she could count take off a piece of paper with a number on it – it counted the days until her birthday and said that she could start talking about her birthday again eight days before.

    Read it through with her a few times, got her started on the taking numbers off the pad, and she got the idea really quickly.

    Her family was definitely relieved!

    (Relevance: Charlie’s anxiety over the ending of school and repetitive talk brought this to mind.)

  6. Jannalou, that’s a great idea—something more than looking at a picture or written schedule. Will try it!

    Wade, yes it’s been a year of changes, and changes, and changes. Our IEP meeting is tomorrow morning: I feel like we are getting a bit closer to a long-term plan for Charlie’s education.

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