Summer is usually a happy time. Most kids love not having to go to school and being able to just play all day long. Parents often dread it because they have to keep the kids busy. In this house, it’s no different.
I was actually looking forward to summer this year. Both my boys are now home-schooled and I had many grand ideas: we’d keep our schedule with at least an hour for school work first and then go play for the rest of the day; we’d spend days at the lake, the beach, go hiking, go places like the zoo and aquarium, maybe even camp. Yay for summer. “This will be fun,” I said. I was so wrong.
My smarty-pants kids decided that summer meant no school and they refuse to do any. They are afraid of bugs so it’s a constant fight to get them outside. If they do go out, I have to go with them because, heaven forbid there is a fly near them or something. So the days are warm, and we’re mostly inside. All they want to do is play video games.
We’ve tried Geocaching which gets them outside, but we’ve already done the easy ones in our area and the boys don’t want to keep going to the same ones over and over. The “harder” ones would be a challenge even for me so, I’ve determined that’s all there is.
What else do we do with these kids? We’ve made “calm down” jars, dug dinosaur toys out of ice, baked treats, made popsicles, even had water fights that were loads of fun (until they weren’t).
A couple of weeks ago, we did a short road trip to my parents’ home. They had recently moved and we wanted to visit and see their new place. We had a fair amount of dread, wondering how the boys were going to do on a six-hour drive but, the boys were amazing. We went the whole drive with no movies and they rarely time spent on their tablets. We did “old-fashioned” road trip games like finding license plates, try to identify the crops growing in the fields and so on. We stopped at road-side stands for fresh fruit and veggies and tried to teach a little along the way. So far, a highlight of our summer.
The problem is, now that we are home, the weather is warming up, the kids won’t go outside and they won’t stop arguing with each other! I don’t know if it’s that they are bored with the no-routine life or what. Seriously though, everything is an issue with them. Things that should be a nice side-by-side or cooperative activity are now competitions to see who can do it first, better, or with a higher score. I’m not joking: they recently discovered a cross-stitching game on their tablets (yes, cross-stitching). You sit and virtually stitch patterns, earning “coins” or “points” to use to unlock new patterns. It’s a solo game that should be calm and relaxing. How can that be a competition? Well, with comments like: “What color are you working on?” “What pattern are you doing?” “Oh, well I already did that one…” What is their deal?
I grew up as the youngest of four siblings. Two are older and were mostly away from home by the time I was playing and creating memories. My next older sister and I, just 5 years apart, fought often. However, girls fight differently. But, I don’t remember this constant bickering and competition. Maybe we did and I don’t remember it but, I don’t think so. She never liked me following her around and “bothering” her but, I adored her and did it anyway. So, yes, we fought, but we were also friends. We played together at times and I have good memories of those times.
What makes my boys different? I’m leaning towards their special needs. I know that kids fight. I know that siblings fight. That doesn’t bother me. My boys are often closer than any brothers I’ve ever met but, I think they fight harder too.
Both of them deal with thought and behavior rigidity and poor communication skills. E has been diagnosed with ODD , and we suspect C suffers from it as well. We (parents and doctors) struggle with diagnoses on C’s issues because some of what we face may be learned behavior. He may have symptoms of ODD, or may not because he may have learned the behavior from his older brother. We have finally gotten a doctor to agree that there is something going on with C but, it’s being masked by these defiant, possibly learned, behaviors. We have to work on fixing those before we can proceed with helping him with the actual issue(s) and that equals a very complicated mess.
Anyway, these boys argue hard and often. My day often starts out with breaking up a fight before my morning coffee, then things calm down through mid-afternoon with only mild disagreements. Come evening though, the big fights are back. Especially right before bed. Oh, they are so done and over-stimulated by the end of the day that anything sets them off and nothing is forgiven! We often hear one say to the other that they want to stay away from them for the rest of__ (day or life are both often used!) Dad has a pretty good routine down to get them in bed and get their stories read, but it’s still hard on him.
What got me thinking this morning was C’s third or fourth meltdown of the day. Granted, he is fighting some illness right now. He has a low-grade fever and feels achy all over, but still wants to play. Not much slows him down. So, he manages to get E to agree to play with him, rather than play on his tablet. He has this idea of a “game” to play and is struggling to explain to E how it goes. He tries three or four times and E just can’t understand. He can’t make sense of it any more than I could. I was in the other room, and I heard the explanation. So, E’s getting frustrated because C just keeps repeating his explanation which makes no sense and E just can’t get it. He is trying hard to express that he doesn’t understand in a calm, friendly way but, pretty soon, he gets frustrated and he gets verbally aggressive. He’s not using mean words, but the tone has changed. Right away, C storms off crying into another room and slams the door. E is apologizing all over the place because he just couldn’t get it. C is crying because he can’t express it properly and Mom is stuck in the middle, not knowing which kid to soothe first. Not a major issue in the grand scheme of things, but an average snapshot of our day. We have multiple breakdowns in communication in this house daily. Often, it’s the result of the boys’ rigid thinking and lack of communication skills. Maybe that’s why I feel like there is constant fighting in the house.
So, we have these two sweet boys that are so thoughtful and loving but, are so often angry, upset and crying. It’s only the middle of summer and I’m over it. I’m longing for school to start again. Once school starts, our therapies come back into play and a fairly routine schedule; that always makes a difference. It will be interesting to see how having both boys home-schooled from the beginning of the year is different from last year when it was both for just two months. Only time will tell, but for now we have another month of summer to get through.