Category: Camp experiences

Art, Creative Expression and The Maturity Journey – My Exceptional Son’s New Found Love in Making Bracelets

 

Michael has always been artistic. He learned to sing whole songs before he could talk. He loved music and dancing to all kinds of children’s music. After that, he graduated to playing musical instruments like his toy electric piano, his toy accordion and a tamborine. He put on concerts for us where he sang popular pop song lyrics and improvised with the music on his instruments. But drawing and arts and crafts, that kind of art, was always something he struggled with both in school and at home. He’d look at me as if I had two heads if I mentioned making crafts at home or doing anything arts and crafty. Yes, he was artistic, but not in the crafty way, if you know what I mean. That is why this year at school, an now at camp, I am extra impressed and proud that he growing to regard art and any kind of fine motor art work as fun and interesting.

His favorite subjects at school are now music, science and art! The work he brought home this year blew me away! It was especially beautiful for me to see how he is growing in maturity, despite the tough year with challenging behaviors that we had. It made it even nicer to experience as a result. And now he has been at a new camp this year. It is going very well, and he started making bracelets. Yes, you heard me. He started beading bracelets on his own! He made one for himself, and one for me and his Dad (the two pictured above), and now he is working on bracelets for the rest of the family, grandparents and cousins! It has blown me away how into this he is, and I am so proud of his growing confidence and maturity. It is also helping him transition from that strange age, 10, when a child is not a baby, but not a teenager. And though he is developmentally delayed so he is not quite 10 in all areas, in many he is and is struggling with how to entertain himself when he is home.

“I don’t want to play with toys Mommy. But I hate board games. What can I do alone?”
This morning in the car on the way to camp, we talked about different games I would show him in August when he is home from camp, and different things he can now do in the evening before bed. I spoke about puzzles, drawing and painting that he likes to do, playing on his instruments and then Michael added beading bracelets. Yes, his ability to entertain himself at home, which is still hard, is on the way to being realized.  I am so proud of his maturity, and I am trying to go with his flow. A few weeks ago we bought face paint at an arts and crafts store as Michael has also become fascinated with face painting at summer outdoor festivals. In his typical ambitious style, he wanted to be able to paint Minions and Yoda tattoos as the artists there did. I had to burst his bubble and inform that it takes years of training to do that. He was a little disappointed, but I’m happy to say that he experimented and made his close approximation of Yoda and Minions that he could. He had a lot of green and yellow paint on different days to remove. 🙂 Still, he enjoyed doing it himself, and even used his chore money to buy the paint. I’m so glad that I can encourage him to explore different interests. It has truly helped him to mature and me to see that mature little boy growing.

Exceptional Parents, do you remember to let your child explore their interests and creativity, no matter how fleeting they are? Within reason of course, all parents can find ways to let their children explore their creativity so that they could hone in on things they love. You never know where it will take them in terms of development, and maybe even future job possibilities. 🙂 Remember, let your child explore, enjoy, and fall in love with different forms of art. It is truly a way for them and you to grow closer together. Until next time.

Summer Camp Adventures And Mom/Son Respite

So yesterday was Michael’s first day at a new camp. He did really well, had fun, and so did I. It was great to have some time for me. I did my meditation and yoga outside, took some quiet time to read, write, and then used the time to catch up on things around the house. After all, that’s important to keep the house running smoothly. Dad was home and did some chores as well before we went to pick Michael up, and we had time to talk without any little interruptions, if you know what I mean. 🙂 What is important is that Michael and us are getting some time away from each other, family respite if you will, so we can each grow, have space, and try new things. Self-care is easier to schedule in for parents when we have a little bit of downtime here and there. It makes you a stronger and more patient parent. This helps your child grow with confidence and you as a parent to be more relaxed.

Many parents do not have the option of doing summer camp for one reason or another. If that is you, it’s still important to try and get some downtime for you whenever possible. See if there are family friends, a respite center that can spend some fun time with your child so you both get a physical break from one another and a chance to do new things. It will refresh your parenting batteries, and your child will have a chance to see you re-energized and happy and rested. It’s also good for them to build relationships with other adults and children. It exposes them to new experiences. When I was growing up, it was a different world. Kids played together in the street during the summer time. Moms or Dads (though it was mostly Moms),  were home full-time which wasn’t always exciting for them, but they would get a kid break when their child would play with peers. Kids would also be out having fun, using their imaginations, and having lots of adventures. Then there would be family time and Moms and Dads would have more patience as a result due to that break. It was far from ideal in other ways, but kids and parents each had their time together and away. Today we have to find creative ways to make this happen for the whole family’s sake.

Exceptional Parents, how do you make separate time for yourself and your child in order to be re-energized? Remember, as long as it works for you and your child, it is the right thing for you and your family. Give your child a parent break and give your self a kid break. You will both be happier and healthier as a result.  And happier people get along better, grow and have  more fun. After all, isn’t that what summer is all about?  Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach whose son with autism has shown me a whole new way to see the world and embrace the joy of the moment! I believe in empowering parents to trust their own instincts when it comes to their children, and in helping them parent with love, respect and confidence towards their child.

For more information on my coaching services, see my website: www.creatingexceptionalparentingg.com, and for a free 30 minute exploration/consultation session contact me at joanne@creatingexceptionalparenting.com. Also to receive a copy of my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” click on www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/EBOOKS.

Exceptional Growth and Maturity-Mine

adorable, baby, bear

With Michael away the last two days I have had some time to myself when not working to think about where my life is going and how far I’ve come juggling exceptional parenthood with the rest of my life. It has not always been easy, but I have learned that I not only can do it, but I can help other parents do it too. How? Well, it’s pretty much by showing that sometimes it is ok to have a bad day or week. Sometimes it’s ok to struggle with decisions on what to do for your child. Sometimes it’s also ok to admit that you are happy when you get a parenting breather and they are away at camp. The first time I felt this, I had some guilt. Am I a terrible parent that I don’t miss my child to bits when he goes away for 2 days? Then I began to realize no. He is getting older and more independent. When he goes with his school I know I can trust he is in amazing hands, so I have no worries.

He also has different issues now and it can be difficult to help him manage his stress and anxiety, field lots of questions daily, so getting a mental and physical break from parenting for a few days is nice. Of course, I think if he went for more than a week I would feel differently. Still, I would remember that as he matures, I mature. We both need our space to grow and will come back to each other stronger in the process.

Exceptional Parents, how has your child helped you to mature and find your way? How easy or difficult is it to separate from them when they are away from you? Remember, let yourself feel all the feelings and emotions taht come up. It does not mean you do not love your child. You want them to grow, mature and find their way in the world. If your relationship is strong, they will always find their way back to you. Until next time.

Mother/Son Bonding And How Change Can Bring Exceptional Families Closer

It is the morning that Michael heads out to winter camp with his school for two nights and three days. It is his second year going and he is so excited as am I! Last year we were all “nervous excited”. Dad and I knew he would enjoy the time with friends, activities, but worried about his sleeping regime. At home that was still a major challenge last year. But this year his sleeping is going relatively well, he knows what to expect at camp as do Dad and I, and Dad and I have even scheduled in a little late afternoon spa and dinner getaway this year. It is more relaxing all around already due to the familiarity of everything for all of us. What has also been surprising is Michael’s affectionate attitude towards Dad and I the last few days. He has been listening better. He has been calmer. And he was so happy that I was postponing my writing work until after he went to bed to have quality time with him. He said as much.

I think even when we are there for our children in concrete ways, they sense if we are not present spiritually and mentally with them as we are physically. Many children act out in order to get attention from us as they feel like we are tolerating them, when really it is just the opposite. Parents are overwhelmed by so much these days. They barely have the fuel to keep going and often are exhausted. But their kids need to know they matter at the top of the list. I have started showing Michael this in many ways, by taking care to talk to him, spend time hugging and cuddling, and reminding him that he is the top over everything else. In whatever way it works, most parents need to know their child and how to remind them that they matter above all else, particularly before a big change like sleep away camp, a big event at school, or something else that matters.

Exceptional Parents, how do you show your Exceptional Child that they are top in your books? How do you make “special time” with them? It is important to verbally reinforce it with them, and then physically deliver. Stop looking at your phone every five seconds. Guilty of that one myself as charged. When kids feel you are connected to them on every level, they will not act out and test at all or as much. They will know that you, their parent, are there to help them through the next hurdle. Until next time.

How To Transition Smoothly from Day Camp to Mom Camp

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So here we are. Today is the last day Michael has day camp. As of next Monday, he is home with me for one week then we have our family holidays together with Dad. I am nervous/ excited as Michael would say. I am nervous because I know there will inevitably come a time when Michael will be bored, a friend won’t be available for a play date, and we will have to improvise. This will be a little challenging. However, I am also excited because Michael and I know how to communicate so much better. I know what he needs to stay busy, and that is structure to our unstructured time. So, as I blogged yesterday, as much as is possible we plan out the week on paper, with rain plans if we can’t be outdoors, and the last two years it went reasonably well. Last year, I only felt the pinch of stress near the end of our week home alone together, and then Dad was home and BOOM another change which we navigated well, the family vacation. But more on that in another post. 🙂

What also makes me excited is that I have finally figured out something my wonderful previous therapist said, “what do you need to do to be at your best.” What I need to do is meditate, exercise, have time alone and time out with friends and my partner to stay focused, calm, there for Michael, me and everyone else. Now that I am whole, I see things so much more clearly. I see how Michael and I can handle challenges, behavior and anxiety better, and what he needs to feel calm and in control. I have found the following techniques work to help from the transition of day camp to Mommy camp as I call it.

How To Transition from Day Camp to Mommy Camp:

  1. Start talking about the end of structure: I always start talking with Michael about the end of organized camp mid week of his last week. We start brainstorming for activities.
  2. Actually talk concretely then write out the week: This has helped Michael and even me to structure our home time. For example our week next week looks something like this for the first few days: Monday- Mom works 8:00-10:30/ Mom and Michael play tennis 11-12/ Lunch 12-1/ Cleanup 1-1:30/Pool or  park and shopping 2-5 pm/Home to cook supper 5-6.
  3. A week or so before start organizing play dates or formal activities: I called up two friends. One booked a play date with us, and the other one is getting back to me. Michael also reminded me of two friends we could potentially see. I will call the Moms up this weekend and see if they are free to get together.
  4. Involve the child with helping with chores: This is a toughie, but I am trying now that Michael is older to involve him in helping me around the house so things go faster for our mother/son time. We talk in advance about it, and if he really wants to chill out, I tell him it means we’ll have less time to do stuff as I need to finish the housework AND my writing and other business work since I work from home.

Exceptional Parents, how hard are transitions for your Exceptional Children? It’s a challenge for all of our kids, but something necessary they need to learn to navigate. The best way parents can help prepare them, is to structure activities by writing things down, asking the child what he/she would reasonably like to do, and delivering what you reasonably can. You also have to allow them personal downtime, as well as making sure they understand that you need some downtime as well as time for your work. If you are honest, start in advance BEFORE the change occurs,  and you make sure your child is aware of what is coming, your chances of a successful transition from an organized activity to home look much better. Until next time.

 

 

Making Friends At Camp And Stretching Boundaries

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I’ve mentioned before how I held my breath while Michael started at a new non-adapted camp last week. It went beautifully, and as a result I am not worried about this week, his last week of camp. As a super bonus, I am thrilled about something else. Michael made a friend. We got her Dad’s cell phone number and will try and get the kids together later in the summer or fall. Yes, it is interesting that he clicked with a girl, but then Michael has had some female friends when he was younger. Now, I find that girls tend to have more patience with him when he talks a lot, and though he is active, he is not a rough and tumble little guy like other boys his age. That is why it is sometimes hard to forge friendships with boys off the spectrum.

Michael reminded me the last two weeks how I need to learn to let go of worry a little bit and trust my  intuition. I also need to learn to trust him that he will be able to go with the flow of trying different things, making friends with new people, and even with challenges, he will overcome. He has repeatedly told me he likes camp, he likes his companion/shadow, and he likes the busy structure of the day. They do crafts, play games in the park and swim. This works perfectly with Michael and helps him regulate best. The kids here are also very understanding about autism and various challenges. There have been a few boys who attended who have had autism, so different mannerisms that Michael has are not shocking. The next thing to do is to get a dialogue going in camp about differences and embracing them. That will come in the future, I hope.

Exceptional Parents, do you trust in yourself and your child in new environments? How do you feel about risk? Interestingly, your child probably will take after you or your partner in one way or another, being fearless or fearful, or a mix of the two. Michael is pretty much a mix of his Dad and I. The important thing for you to do is to teach your child resilience in the form of risk taking combined with some calculated caution. Teach them that everything, good and bad, is an experience that they can learn and grow from. They don’t need to regret anything, but do their best and learn from their mistakes to become stronger in the future. Until next time.

Camp and Mom Connections

 

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So the first day of camp yesterday was a great success. I knew it would be, both due to the camp’s reputation, and Michael’s maturity and love of organized activities where he can interact with peers. Today they are going swimming to the local pool and he is very excited. There is a calmness about him this year going to  camp, an assurance that I can do this. I am noticing this more in all facets of his life, even in his interactions with his father and I. He is making connections, talking, negotiating, oh yes, always negotiating, and asking for what he needs and wants very clearly. He is also better able to go with the flow of changes than he ever was before, though there are some challenges still. He will tell me he is swearing at me in his head when he doesn’t like something I say or do.  It is funny in one way, yet still concerns me when I see how invested he is in having things unfold a certain way. The good thing is though, I can gently redirect him to his strategies to calm down, and slowly he is starting to do them. He sometimes even does them on his own right away.

For all the times he will tell me that he is bored at home and that he wants to be alone, he will also approach me to play with him, to be in the same room as him, and will ask where I am in the house. He is self-sufficient, insists on making his own breakfast and making his own lunch (most nights) :), but wants to know I am still there in the background to help him if he needs it, to catch him if he falls. I get that. I feel that way too as an adult. I want to know my loved ones, my close friends are there for me too in the tough challenging times in life, in the transitions. After all, what is life if we don’t have those connections, if we are not making a difference, or make a difference, in someone’s life?

Exceptional Parents, how are your Exceptional Children’s connections with you and others? How do they differentiate themselves from you and other people? This can be a tough one for our kids who often feel that they are you are the same. They need to be taught to respect boundaries, theirs and yours. The most important thing is that they are out there making connections to others in their own way though, however they can. Don’t push. Let them go at their own pace and, as with many other things, they will surprise you I’m sure. Until next time.

Exceptional Excitement for Summer Camp

 

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Michael is nervous/excited for summer camp. This is completely normal, and I am so glad he is able to share his feeling so openly with me. This has given me the opportunity to share with Michael times when I have been nervous/excited too. I know he will have a great time at summer camp. He always does. This year he will be doing two different camps than in previous years, but I know he will sail through it. I have made sure to talk with him about what he will be doing. We even had a chance to visit the camp he will be at starting tomorrow, to talk to the coordinator, and to hear about what his counselor will be like. She sounds like a great match for Michael!

I can’t believe a few short years ago I was so scared to send him to summer camp. I knew he needed to be active, but wanted to make sure he had the emotional maturity to be away from home for a whole school day. We are there now, and Michael looks forward to this as much as I do. We both get our break from one another and get to be around people our own age, then meet up, talk and play after camp together. I know he will share all the stories, and after his six weeks of camp he will enjoy a less structured schedule with me and then with me and his Dad when Dad will be home.

I think back to what a Mom once said to me, how we start teaching our babies to move away from us pretty much from the second they are born and come out of our womb. Loving a child is like no other feeling in the world. It’s wearing your heart on your sleeve, open for all the world to see, and staying strong at times when you want to fall apart. It’s about teaching said child, challenges or not, to fly away from you as soon as possible, because that is the natural order of things. It is learning to say no for their own good, nursing them through failure, heartbreak, sickness and celebrating every joy with them. When Michael succeeds, I succeed, when he fails, I fail. I know he is separate from me, but I feel him and his spirit in every way. The bond you have with your child is never gone and always remains powerful. That is why seeing him move away from me, becoming independent, mumbling at times like a teenager fills me with joy. My little boy is flying solo and doing great.

Exceptional Parents, what are your plans for your Exceptional Child/dren? Are they in structured summer camp, at home or are you doing things as a family? Whatever you choose, go with what works for your child and your family. And remember each day to help that baby bird fly. Until next time.

 

The Exceptional Return Home

I am so proud of my little man. And I could call him that now, a little man, as he did so well for his first ever sleep away at Winter Camp for three days two nights. He loved all of it, mostly the food. Those were his words. 🙂  From the time I picked him up at school with his luggage, he talked in excitement non stop about his three days of adventures. He recounted tubing, roasting marshmallows, the great food, playing in the cabins with his friends, and several times made me promise to “sign the forms” next year to send him back again. He never once said he missed me or his Dad which told me that he truly was ready for this experience, though of course he did say he’s happy to be home and hugged me extra hard at bedtime.

For me when I saw him in the classroom for the first time in two days, I had another emotional moment. My throat closed up for a minute, and I silently reminded myself, don’t cry with joy that you are seeing him again. You don’t want him to see you cry and get confused. He’s growing up, spreading his wings, and this is something to be celebrated. Being a parent is such a strange experience. I truly enjoyed the little parental “rest” I’d gotten over the last few days. I enjoyed watching a movie with Michael’s Dad, our couples massage, our dinner out, and, though it was hard, talking about things other than autism, bills and house stuff, though we slipped up a few times. We need more practice, more days and nights like this.

Once you are a parent there’s no going back. I was never totally away from thinking of my little boy. How was he enjoying being at a nature camp? How was he coping with sleeping away from his bed? How was he eating, toileting? Ah, the things Moms worry about. Mind you, even when he is at school, at his grandparents’ house, at an activity, he is never far from my mind, my thoughts. My own mother said to me when I first got married about how having children was the real deal breaker that changed you. You could never “unbecome” a parent though you could have a do over in any other area in your life, a job, a marriage, a friendship. But becoming a parent was forever. Another Mom friend who I spoke to totally getting what three adult days without Michael in the house said, “It’s quiet without him there,eh?” And then she smiled in that knowing way. She had experienced that too when her daughters slept away from home.  You’re always a parent first, even when your kids are elsewhere. With each passing day I see what my Mom meant. There’s no going back. I personally think you are changed for the better, but it is an awesome responsibility all the same.

Exceptional Parents, what experiences have you all had when your Exceptional Children slept away from home, if you’ve experienced this with them yet? Was it a positive one for you, for them? Michael’s Dad and I had a weird moment going for a late dinner the other night. We remembered back when we used to do this before Michael was born. It seemed eons ago, not nine years. Parenthood is a growth experience. It opens up your mind to a different kind of loving, and if you let it, to a different way of experiencing the world. So let it change and mold you. Let your Exceptional Child be your Exceptional Teacher. Until next time.