Oh hai there, Nate the Great fans! We’re grateful you haven’t forgotten about us as our family ungracefully navigated the throes of summer. I spend a lot of time on Facebook, as it’s often my only link to the outside world / adult conversation (until Chad comes home, of course). Many friends are lamenting the end of summer and the unofficial start of fall with the ban on white clothing and the hum of school buses on the streets. As I read these lamentations, I notice most of them are posted by non-parents. Some, but rarely, are also posted by friends who are fortunate enough to be stay-at-home parents with financial freedom. But for our family? We welcome fall – in its unofficial or official version. I’ve been ready for fall since June–and it’s finally here! All rejoice in the blessings of fall!!!
Fall means routine. Fall means normalcy. Fall means I have help. The extended school year really provides Nate with the bare minimum of support and, as I mentioned earlier, he regressed in potty training and self-injurious behaviors returned. As I do freelance writing when Nate is in school, his summer weeks (two after the end of the academic year and two before the start of the new one) mark the height of our ungracefulness. During the first two weeks in June/July, we secured the wonderful Ms. Julia, a recent college graduate with a dual degree in early education and special education. But the last two weeks were much trickier. We cobbled together what help we could find–Ms. Jen, the daughter of Nate’s ESY teacher Ms. Pat, was able to be with us for four days. During the second week, Nate’s faithful babysitter Ms. Kaylyn was available but we had to work around her high school band camp schedule, which left very few daytime hours. Out of desperation often comes genius–and the idea flew into Chad’s funnel to ask for flexible work hours for that week. So, Chad stayed home in the mornings, which gave me 7am – 11am to write. Then Chad got dressed, took the train, and worked from 1P – 9P and I worked a few hours in the afternoon when Kaylyn was here. Unfortunately, this meant that Chad didn’t get home until 11PM. It was an exhausting, unsustainable practice but it got us through three of those days. (Chad had meetings on one day and his Yale program on Friday.) Nate started school last week. On Monday and Tuesday, we did doctor visits/checkups and whatnot and squeezed in what fun we could. On Wednesday, you never did see such a relieved mama as me when those school doors opened.
Our current moment with Nate is not conducive to the season of summer. Summer means outdoors, freedom, roaming. Nate needs to be contained, constantly watched, and careful. He still does not respond to his name. As he’s nonverbal, if he gets out of your sight, he cannot respond to, “Where are you?” He still has no fear. He is compelled to run toward danger–the road, moving cars–or jump from unsafe heights; his willingness to respond to “stop” is spotty, at best. And he has allergic reactions to bug bites (though the swelling is lesser than in the past) that can cause him to be miserable for days. So going outside is an ordeal: SPF swimsuit for his fair skin, a hat, sunscreen for skin (and he hates the texture of the cream), bug spray, and swim shoes. But Nate loves going outside. He wants to do everything, fleeting from the trampoline to the sandbox, then running to the swing, then asking you to turn on the hose. Chad is much more willing than I to take him outside because it sends me into a panic attack. If activities aren’t set up before you go outside, then they just won’t be played that day. You can’t turn your back to set up a sprinkler or get the bucket of chalk because, in the blink of an eye, Nate’s gone and you’re left with no clues to find him. It is heartstopping when that happens. (Thankfully, so far, he’s either squatting and playing with mud or looking for something in particular…though recently he did take off for the road.)
But the fall? Oh sweet autumn! The air is cool and crisp and our windows can be thrown open wide. Nate’s more willing to play indoors because it’s too cold to jump in water. When the leaves fall, Nate is easily found through the crunching of the leaves. He is also very happy to “help” rake the mountains of leaves and loves to ask Chad to take a leap into them or go for a ride in a leaf pile on a tarp. Not to mention, the regularity of therapy and school and schedule. It makes a world of difference in his quality of life–and ours. Maybe it’s the Hawaiian girl in me but, on the mainland, I love spring and I love fall. Summer and winter are fierce extremes but spring brings about renewal and fall brings back normalcy. So happy unofficial fall, everyone! May normalcy reign in your home, too.