Yesterday was a helluva day. Today is nice, calm and quiet - I almost don’t want to ruin the lull with an outing that was promised. But I promised and so it shall be done.
Yesterday’s routine was jumbled for both my girls. Winnie had a doctor's appointment and Maggie had a field trip with her class. For most kids, these changes would be a welcome distraction from the every day. For my kids, they’re a nightmare of uncertainties.
Like most parents, I’m sure - I try to schedule doctor’s appointments outside school hours so as to not disrupt the day too much - and this time I did as well. However, last week I got a call that the appointment was to be in the afternoon, just before school ended. From then, I began preparing Winnie with the reality that she was leaving school early. And so began the explaining, reassuring, and mini quizzing that goes along with getting her to understand that there’s a change in the everyday, and that she can handle it. So far so good - she seemed to be handling it very well and was excited that I was coming to pick her up from school.
Then of course, the day before the appointment, the doctor’s office calls again - change of plans, her appointment is first thing in the morning instead. As I tried to explain this to Winnie, I could see that she was going to have a rough time with it. There was just not enough time to check and reassure - and she was upset at the potential of missing her favorite school activities. She was going to miss the quiet bus ride to school, where everyone is sleepily saying hello and the bus is too crowded to do much but sit and look out the window. She was going to miss the morning message and song - and, she assumed she was going to miss PhysEd. No amount of me talking to her was going to make this better and she let me know that she was pissed off and freaked.
She tried her best to get her day to go the way she wanted. While I was in the shower, she had gotten up, dressed, packed her own lunch and got her coat and boots on. When I still said she couldn’t go on the morning bus, she tried a different tactic. She wanted to tell the bus driver herself that she had a doctor’s appointment. Believing this to be a reasonable request, we waited for the bus to come. But as she got more and more agitated and anxious, I could see she had more in mind. Asking her a few focused questions revealed that, indeed, she was planning on running onto the bus after she told the bus driver about her appointment. When I explained that she still couldn’t take the bus to school she simply ignored me. When the moment came and she finished her chat with the driver, I had to physically remove her crying, kicking, struggling body from the first step of the bus with the driver watching in shock.
I got her calmed down enough to get her to the doctor’s office - the doctor arriving into work 30 minutes late. Winnie, although complaining about the time, was relatively calm, and quietly scolded the doctor for being late, to which he pointedly ignored. They spoke about Angry Birds and school. When I explained to Winnie later that the doctor said he didn’t think she should be playing video games like angry birds (or anything for that matter) she replied with a quiet “But I like Angry Birds”.
Ms. Anxious Winnie watched the clock the entire ride back to school, complaining about being late and missing things - stiff and rigid in her seat as she frantically counted the minutes until we arrived at school. Running up to her classroom, her shoes were missing from the spot on the wall and that seemed to be the last straw. Avoiding my grasp, she burst into the classroom and ran to her seat - standing in front of it she began to cry in front of her entire class - breaking my heart and wishing I could have made this day better, I turn to her EA to explain the events of the morning and she frowns down at me “Well if we had’ve known, we could have prepared her..”
Yah, my thoughts exactly.
But then, at the same time, I know I can’t prepare them for everything - it's where adaptability comes in - a skill she’ll have to learn if she’s going to avoid a lot of days like yesterday. I just wish I knew how to teach that another way than the current “sink or swim” method that life throws our way.
Maggie got to see the fire station - she has decided she wants to be a bus driver and a fire fighter. She’s got plans that one. And although the outing was very overwhelming, she did really well and fought her sensitivities and rigidity with plain old sleep on the way home - the notable difference now being increased reactions to things that bother her - more screaming, more tantrums and more crying about the small things.
There were no reports of anything happening at school, and Winnie seemed very happy getting off the bus. Just before supper she let us know the day was rough though - acting out, screaming and being nasty - basically begging for a time out and the quiet alone time she needed. It was satisfying to see her calmly curling up next to her grandma at bedtime - the extremely rough day behind her. And us. For now.
I can’t protect them from everything, I can’t prepare them for everything and I can’t always be there to soften the blow - but I can listen, and learn, and teach the skills that will help them next time.Next time, they’ll have this time to fall back on so that next time will be easier. Next time.