Summer has always had the awkward two week transition that feels like hurdles and potholes as we negotiate the departure of the school year. It is a struggle that both me and the girls face. Come the 4th of July, it seems to be ironed out and it is relatively smooth sailing for the next eight weeks. Not this summer. No. No. Definitely not this summer.
School started last week and for the first time ever, I can honestly say I was glad. Truly at peace and unbelievably relieved. Relieved to have regimented and structured routine kick back into gear. Full of hope that my child’s needs would be met and her brain and body stimulated in the ways I was not able to over summer.
Here is the thing. The big thing. Pepper is the barometer for our household’s energy. She is our starting point and we, as both individuals and partners, can sway it and move it. This does not mean she is driving the ship. Heaven help us all, if she was. This does not mean that her energy is not positive and uplifting as often as it is exhausting and tumultuous.
She is a force.
A 70-pound, 52-inch maelstrom who’s gravitational pull could rival small galactical objects.
Pepper needs structure and routine. They are the reins that hold her back. The rigid wall that surrounds her and creates a predictable barrier she can trust. The structure is hard and solid. It offers security and clearly outlined expectations. For a child who pushes the limits in every way – physically, emotionally, sensorially and behaviorally – this routine is absolutely necessary.
It’s so clear. So obviously and painfully clear that summer would throw this routine out the window. For me and V the free form that summer takes on is a lovely respite from the rigidity of the school year. Lazy mornings that stretch into slow afternoons. No plans for the day and fly by the seat of your pants adventures. Long outings and bedtimes that push the limits so that more fun can fill each day. I love summer. V loves summer. Thor loves summer. Pepper loves summer.
But, summer does not love Pepper.
Another reminder that this child that I made, grew and am raising is not me. She is not wired like me. At all.
Every single day was a struggle. Like a beat your head against a brick wall struggle. It was the minute bits that told me she was “off” and the major explosions that topped the richter scale. Body movements that were out of control. She would rebel against the invisible forces that held her like a rubber band. Upside down. Deep, pressure into furniture. Pushing, pulling. Feeding the need but never satisfying the hunger.
Incredibly magnificent tantrums that are usually a few-and-far-between occurance were happening on a daily basis. If not multiple times between sunrise and bedtime. This type of exhaustion will effect you. It will pull you into the vortex of turbulence and spit you out bleary eyed, edgy and nauseous.
So, we strapped on our boots, loaded our tool belts and hit those hurdles with full force. Every goddamn day. It was brutal.
I sat down with Pepper last week, in a moment of parenting clarity and tried to get to the heart of the issue. I prefaced my questions with “This isn’t working. For any of us.” And, then I asked her “What is going on for you? What are you feeling? How can we help you?”
Her response was so clear and concise. “My brain is not getting the information it needs. It is doing things I don’t want it to do. I need that. And, I get that at school. I am sooooo ready to be back in school.”
That started the dialogue. And, it gave me a deeper understanding of what this – all of this in the dozen paragraphs up there – is like for her. My heart ached and my deep love for her magnified and grew. My brain felt like a lightbulb went off big and bright.
We re-centered and reloaded our tool belt. We extended our reach out to different Team Pepper players and resources. And, tried to weather the last days of summer with as much grace and love as possible.
It was not a pretty summer. It was hot and agitated – literally and figuratively – and it will go down in the record books.
I will never forget the lesson I learned.
I cannot be and do not want to be the “only” for Pepper. I am her greatest momma. A love that is wholly and completely hers. But, I do not have to be her only teacher. Or her only therapist. Or disciplinarian.
I am one of the loudest cheerleaders, but there are a lot of people who can help wave the pom poms.
And, never ever underestimate the importance of structure.
I have endless thanks that we have nine months to figure out the plan for next summer.