In the sixteenth of our series, we present the secret thoughts of an adoptive mom of three kids: Emily and her new siblings, Grant and Lynn. This time, a camping trip tests Diary Mom’s patience, and she prepares for a new school year.
It’s been a hectic summer, and I have to admit some of our activities were just a tad on the crazy side.
I’m not really sure what I was thinking when I suggested we go camping for a week. It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time but was a total disaster. Maybe it was never a good idea, but I had this little fantasy that if other families have fun camping we should too. Picture this: three young children, two stressed parents, one small tent, 40 degrees celsius, and the campground washrooms closed so we’re forced to use the outhouse. And, of course, it’s so much fun finding raw ground beef floating in the cooler. Not to mention the lukewarm coffee and a sore back from sleeping on a deflated air mattress.
I did develop a new mantra though, which I kept repeating each night as we tried to get the kids to sleep. It went like this, ”Lie down, keep your hands and feet to yourself, and don’t touch the sides of the tent.” (Note to self: Must learn to repeat mantras in a calming, relaxing manner).
End of August
The summer is over and soon Emily starts grade one and Lynn begins Kindergarten. We debated keeping Lynn home for another year as her birthday is later in the year, but figured at least being with her peers would give us a good indication of where she is at developmentally. (Okay, I’ll be honest: I’m looking forward to having her gone for a few hours a day.) We did discuss it with Roz, our behaviourist, and she agreed it would be good to see how Lynn does in the classroom situation. She also felt it would good for Lynn to learn that she can be away from me, and I will still come back and get her at the end of the day.
The school does gradual entry where you go with your child for 15 minutes to meet the teacher. Then the following week you leave your child there for an hour, then a few days later your child is there for two hours and, finally after three weeks, your child attends all day. That will be a tough three weeks for Lynn as she does better with a regular routine. She’ll be in a class of 20 kids and attend school Mondays, Wednesdays, and alternate Fridays.
We’ve prepared Lynn as much as we think we can, but we must be careful not to make too much of it as she will be very overwhelmed and might shut down. Roz has given us laminated storyboards with pictures and words to help her at school and at home.
The Kindergarten teacher has been informed of some of Lynn’s challenges and, so far, she seems supportive. Although she did comment twice on the fact that she has 20 children in the class and it will be a busy room. Not sure yet how that will play out, but we’ll see what happens.
The other challenge we have is that Emily loves school and is extremely excited about it and can’t understand why Lynn doesn’t feel the same way.
The gradual entry to Kindergarten was certainly a challenge. Even though Lynn had already met most of the other kids and she knew some of them from previous play dates, she was completely overwhelmed. My heart went out to her. The kids all enter through one door into a cloakroom where they must hang up their backpacks and coats, then put on their inside shoes. In this narrow coatroom there are up to 20 kids, plus most of them are accompanied by at least one parent. I was feeling claustrophobic—I can only imagine what Lynn was feeling.
Some kids freak out when they are overwhelmed, but Lynn shuts down. She is like a zombie. Her eyes glaze over, she doesn’t blink, and she doesn’t move.
I stayed right with her and ignored all the activity going on around us. We went to her cubby, and we went through her chart that Roz had made. Then we took her inside shoes to another part of the classroom, and I helped her put them on. By this point Lynn was still very overwhelmed, but she was functioning better and I know she was listening to me.
This is the routine we have followed since the first full day of Kindergarten, and Lynn seems to be gradually becoming more comfortable. My hope is that by the Christmas she’ll be able to enter the classroom and follow her chart without feeling so overwhelmed and anxious. Perhaps it will take longer than that.