Category: Camp experiences

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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā¬† 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.

Winter Carnival Fun and Important Exceptional Activity

It’s great to see Michael having so much fun at school with Winter Carnival. Not only is he happy that he is having fun at school with winter sports like hockey, snow fort building and other such activities, but is glad to have a break from homework for a few days. I have to say though, that he is getting so much better at doing his homework, and is improving in his reading and writing skills. I think it is mainly the need to be active that’s so important for Michael, for all exceptional children, and when you think about it, all children.

In today’s world kids don’t move enough. I’ve seen so many articles on the rise of children’s obesity, stress and anxiety levels, and recently read a great article on why there are so many preschoolers showing signs of Sensory Integration Disorder. They are not moving enough inside at gym or outside at recess. Kids need activity as much as food and rest. They also need free time to cultivate their imagination, the creativity. This is something that is lacking in today’s fast paced industrial world. I try to remember when Michael is asking me to go on adventures and roam around our neighborhood, that it is so good he wants to explore. I am equally proud he loves sledding, skating and is interested in hockey. I look forward to the day he may play with friends from school.

As parents we get so caught up with academics, with making our kids learn more, get smarter. As Exceptional Parents, we are so worried that they are behind with milestones, walking, speaking, fine motor, gross motor, then academics, reading ,writing, math. Yes, all those things are important, but I am really beginning to see how important movement is for the brain, for reducing anxiety and opening up learning in different channels. This goes for myself as well as for Michael. When I don’t move with stretching my body and exercising, I don’t think as clearly. I¬† think better though when I am in balance physically. Thanks again Michael, for reminding me of this life lesson.

Exceptional Parents, when was the last time you praised your child for being active and having fun? Try it next time they come in from dancing, swimming, skating, sledding or plain old winter fun. You won’t regret the message you are sending, which is that winter carnival fun can be all winter long, and that physical movement belongs up there as a priority right alongside academics. Until next time.