In a perfect world, summer is about ice cream, warm weather, and bare feet. In the real world, it is sometimes about those things, but also about mosquitoes, sunscreen, and loss of routine. To take it one step further, in our world, it means an easily upset pre-teen with ASD.
Despite all of the wonderfulness of summer, and despite how much we (the Whitehouses) look forward to it, there is always a downside. Jake loves summer, don’t get me wrong. He loves to go swimming, loves to ride his bike, and loves to wear shorts just like his dad. But for us, summer brings a great deal of stress and a whole new list of problems that disappear in the winter. It means more planning, more meltdowns, more frustration.
Sometimes, summer sucks. Here’s why:
- Sometimes bugs keep us from being able to go outside at all…even just one bug.
- Jake is growing up and prefers to be a little more independent. He likes to ride his bike around the block, but I can’t guarantee that he will stick to the approved routes. Sometimes, he wants to go somewhere or see something else. He is doing a great job of looking for cars, but he is easily distracted. So, I have to either run fast to keep up, ask a sibling to follow up, or quickly grab my bike and catch up.
- Jake craves predictability and routine. When you change it, it can be upsetting for him. Take away the routine and schedule that the school year brings, and you have a child that is constantly on the edge of his seat wondering what is coming up next. You can try to tell him, but he needs to process it, so you can tell him what you are going to do today, but he still might ask you about it another 30 times (at least). It is exhausting to think far enough ahead to keep him informed, but we do our best. It is not possible to know everything that we are going to do today or tomorrow all the time.
- Despite the fact that he is getting older, Jake’s routine tells him that he has to be in bed by 8:00. If we leave the house, he wants to be sure that we will be home for him to be in bed at 8:00. Staying out until after this time takes a lot of planning and forethought, and since it’s summer, it happens fairly regularly. Even if he is having fun he still needs to be home at the right time. The glasses come off at 8:00 whether he is in bed or not. That is the time that they go to bed.
- Jake is happiest at home. We travel more in the summer…camping…vacationing. This is just an extra stressor for him. Once we get where we are going, he usually calms down, but he hates the thought of being away from his house.
- Jake spends more time away from us without scheduled or routine time. Because Ry and I both work, the kids have to stay with my mom during the week. There may be more than one babysitter per week and this is just hard for Jake to go through. Once he gets the schedule down he does better, but it usually takes a few weeks for this to happen and he is easily upset and overreacts to everything until he is feeling more comfortable.
- This particular summer brings with it a new challenge. Now that he is older, he wants to know why he has to go to school during the summer and the other kids don’t. I have spent a lot of time talking to him about this. I am not sure that I have any good answers, but given his reluctance to accept his autism lately, I have been praising his efforts and telling him how wonderful he is. This has seemed to keep him interested in the thought of learning new things. Cross your fingers!
- There are times when we can’t take Jake with us (this is not specific to summer). I am not sure that I can relay to you the guilt that is felt when you plan a really cool, fun adventure for your family knowing that you have to leave someone out. It is equally unfair for the other children to not experience something because Jake can’t or won’t do it. So, there are times when we plan something and make arrangements to leave Jake with someone else. The rational part of us knows that it is for the best, but the emotional part of us thinks it sucks and we beat ourselves up.
- June is Jake’s birthday. This is not a sad occasion, generally, but the last couple of years have been harder. It has just worked out that we have had Liv’s and Jake’s parties together. The reason being that the kind of parties we were throwing would be better with more people. One year, we did a food fight…one of the best parties ever! Last year we had a pig roast and huge slip and slide. Almost all of Liv’s friends showed up, but Jake only had a couple. There were so many people he didn’t really notice and neither did the rest of us for a while. When it came time to open presents, we noticed that Jake didn’t have nearly as many as Liv. Now, we know that it isn’t about the gifts, but it was a reminder for us that it is getting harder to foster those relationships for Jake. We are at a loss for how to fix it, but will put our heads together to figure it out.
So that’s a start to our list of why summer sucks. Do you have any seasonal challenges with your child? Which is worse – the school year with it’s responsibilities, or the summer, with less rhyme or reason??