The Return To ROUTINE – which side are you on?
Perusing my friends’ posts on Facebook and Twitter, I’m struck by the wide variety of emotions evoked by being done with the holidays. They range from “the kids are back to school! Hooray!” to “not motivated to take down the decorations, because it means the return of routine.” Some even go so far as “I didn’t think I’d make it through, I need to sleep for a few days.” Even though this sounds comical, when it comes from a parent or caregiver of a child with special needs like autism or a mental health disorder, they are probably not joking.
My own son with autism is now 19, and is residentially placed year-round at a school that can handle his behavioral and intellectual challenges. He comes home for weekends and the holidays. It’s been a few years now, but the memories of school vacations still bring me chills. The utter and complete fear that can be evoked by the idea that for up to 2 weeks, I would have to manage my son’s needs devoid of any routine, assistance, ability to access help, and in the midst of everything around me thrown off by the holidays and all that they bring, was paralyzing. Most of the time the very few sources of help I had were unavailable. My husband couldn’t take the entire time off from work. It took weeks of planning, because I had to have a plan for every moment that he was unstructured. Unstructured equals disaster much of the time for our kids. One of the only things I could count on was friends who could take my young daughter for playdates, which at least would leave me with just one child to manage, not both.
Oh yeah, and it was Christmas. There’s that.
So getting back to my Facebook and Twitter friends…like I said, everyone’s a bit different. I love Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We had our son home for 2 days, which right now is the best he can manage. I had my usual rollercoaster ride – Christmas Eve I cried for my son, his suffering and the sadness of it. That’s the one day a year I allow myself to do that. Christmas day I was overjoyed as my daughter leaped and screamed with each gift she opened. I hosted my parents and other family members with joy, and my son was there and behaved beautifully – a true blessing for us. I played a little hooky from work a couple of days last week and focused entirely on my daughter and husband.
And now it’s back to routine. I am relieved, frankly. I don’t consider myself a person who relies on routine, but when it’s gone entirely for more than a few days, I do miss it. I was up at 6:00 this morning, making breakfast and lunch to pack. It felt really, really good. How about you?
PS – that bit about playing hooky from work…don’t tell my boss here at HMEA. HAPPY NEW YEAR!photo courtesy of http://www.curbly.com/users/chrisjob/posts/7803-ten-alternative-uses-for-your-christmas-tree