Summer Purgatory

Thursday is the last day of school.  And it’s not even a full “day” – it’s all of two hours for hugs, yearbook signings, assemblies, slide shows, and then they get back on the bus and are home before lunch.

And then purgatory begins.

In the middle of other parents posting on Facebook and on other blogs about kicking back and enjoying the break, without having to listen to an alarm clock to get kids on the bus in the morning – or if they homeschool, cutting down the work to enjoy more fun things – it strikes me just how isolating this time of year is for me, and for other special needs parents.  Summer vacation for me, at least, is not “fun.”  It’s not a time for me to “just kick back and enjoy” the free time.  In a household like ours, where structure and schedule are absolute, this becomes my yearly personal hell.

I’ll try and explain.

Every single morning, Tad wakes up and says, “It’s (day of the week).  What do we do on (day of the week)?”

On a typical school day, I will say “You’re going to school.”

Tad will then reply, “And then what?”

If it is Wednesday (speech therapy), Thursday (swimming lessons), or Friday (ABA therapy), I will remind him of what is planned after school.  If it’s Monday or Tuesday, we may have something in the evening, or we may have to take Ane to math tutoring (Mondays).

“And then what?”


“What are we having for dinner?”

Keep in mind that he is asking this at EIGHT O’CLOCK in the morning, and if I tell him specifically what we are having and then it changes, I am in trouble.  So usually the answer is “I don’t know yet.”

“And then what happens?”

“You’ll go to bed.”

“And then it will be (the next day of the week).  What do we do on (next day of the week)?”

If I let him, Tad will cover the next week’s ENTIRE schedule.  And during the school year, his routine is safe.  Predictable.  Reliable.  On the weekends, Saturdays can be unstructured, but it is one of the few days of the week that the kids are allowed to play on the Xbox, and it’s still a risk.  Sunday means church, which is always a reliable routine.

You can imagine how our conversations would go over the summer, if I tried the “we’re kicking back and relaxing” routine.

“It’s (day of the week).  What do we do on (day of the week)?”

“Today?  We’re doing nothing?  We’re just going to read books, ride bikes, lounge around in the backyard, maybe run through the sprinkler.”

“And then what?”


Because Tad would go through that list, check off each item, and it would only be lunchtime.

Tad at the preschool playground

Remember the old saying that “idle hands are the devil’s playground”?  Well, if you give Tad too much unstructured time, there will be…. trouble.  For the exact same reason that one of his biggest issues at school continues to be recess.  You leave him to his own devices at your own peril.  He HAS to have a schedule.

Of course, because he needs a schedule, Rerun needs one, too.  His teacher and I discussed how his desire to know EXACTLY what is happening in a day is patterned after what he hears Tad ask every single day.  And it’s double the trouble if both Tad and Rerun are left to entertain themselves together.  There might be blood spilled.

And don’t forget Ane – though it’s easy to when she goes in her room and locks to door to keep her brothers out.  She would only emerge if the wi-fi got cut off.  We’re going to be making her earn every minute of her time on the internet this summer that isn’t homework-related.  She wasn’t really happy when I informed her of this change (and demanded to know when she was “allowed to have fun” this summer.  Not the smartest thing she’s ever said).

Oh, and Thumper.  While he could spend all day outside in the backyard, he will be seeing his therapist weekly and his speech therapist monthly during the summer – and they come to the house.  That also means that I need to keep the older kids away/occupied while his therapists are here.  (More on that in later posts.)

I do my best to keep the kids busy.  Tad is in therapy all year long, so those are always in his schedule.  We keep our swimming lessons at the same time all year round.  Ane is going to swim camp again.  I’m planning on taking Thumper to Toddler Story Time at the library this summer (which will give the older three time to choose books at the library/play on the computer there).  Auntie, bless her, will be working with the older three kids on different subjects.  Ane has both math lab at school and math tutoring through the summer.

All of this, and it still isn’t enough.  The boys will still beat on each other.  Ane will still antagonize her brothers.  Thumper will still be unplugging the phone and taking things apart.  And the second Tad is remotely bored, he will be asking me, “Mom, what’s next?”

It’s never enough for him.  It’s not relaxing for me.  This is not a vacation or a break.  He needs school.  I need school for him.

I love Tad so very much.  I know he loves me back.  But unless he has my undivided attention, we cannot just “hang” out this summer unless there is a TV screen, a video game, or an iPad involved.  And that’s not a good solution.

So, we have to have our days scheduled out.  And our weeks.  And pretty much the entire summer.  For my sanity.  For his sanity.  This is how it is for us.

I can’t help but be slightly envious of the families with neurotypical kids at this time of year.  During the school year, it’s different.  We all choose to be busy with different things.  During the summer, it becomes more obvious.  The friends who “get it” and arrange to see us anyway are treasured jewels, even if their kids are neurotypical and at significantly different stages of life.  I appreciate them because it makes me feel slightly less alone.  As Tad gets older and taller, there’s going to be less tolerance out there for him.  Behaviors that might get a pass in someone half his age look far less attractive in an almost-ten-year-old body.  So to the friends who continue to reach out – you are so very valuable to me.  Thank you.  And then there are the friends who live too far away for play dates, but offer immense moral support.  Thank you, too.

Only 11 more weeks until the first day of school.

One Response to “Summer Purgatory”

  1. linda
    June 18th, 2015 08:24

    We love You, admire You and send Big hugs to You!