Thursday, August 24, 2006

The traveler returns

We picked our eldest up from the airport yesterday after a 2 week whirlwind tour of Greece. He seems at least an inch taller, his voice is a pitch deeper, and he carries himself with more confidence.

This child with AS who at age 5 had such violent tantrums we were afraid he would inadvertantly hurt himself or one of us. The boy who ended up curled in the fetal position in the corner of the dentist's office when the hygienist tried to brush his teeth with a different flavored toothpaste. This sensitive child who used to run from his classroom and out of the school when he was overwhelmed by the sensory and emotional demands of a group of 20 other 2nd graders.

"Things change and so will you."

The quote I vividly remember from a children's book called "Seeing Eye Willie" by Dale Gottlieb.

At just shy of thirteen and standing 5'6" tall, with broad shoulders and feet far larger than his dad's, P. is a far cry from the wide-eyed kindergartener I took to school for his first day 8 years ago.

Although he had been excited about the trip to Greece all year, when the departure date got closer, I know he was nervous about handling the social demands of two weeks in close quarters with a group of a dozen 7th and 8th graders, some of whom he'd had social 'bumps' with.

And this was the first time he'd been away from home (with the exception of visits to grandparents, which is a different ball game). Traveling so far in space and time (Greece is 7 hours ahead of EST) meant that I was not easily available for him as a touchstone.

The day I packed his suitcase, I imagined folding myself in it between his shirts and shoes.

He managed his money, dealt with different hotels every night and only lost a hat. (Well, he left a pair of sneakers in the hotel at Delphi, but the group returned there for a night on the way back to Athens and they had the sneakers for him.)

And along the way, he learned that other kids felt homesick and vulnerable. That the social dynamics were fluid and the who's in/who's out also affected his companions. That other kids had their own issues. That he could call me anytime of the day or night and I would tell him that I loved him. (He did and I did.) That he had the resources to problem solve without me.

Am I proud of my son?

You bet.

He is growing into a fine young man with a loving heart and a good head on his shoulders.

"Things change and so will you."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Busy, busy, busy. . .

Summer is a paradoxical time. The days stretch out like a languid cat and in the morning it seems as if there is time for anything before nightfall. And then we try to cram in several days worth of experiences in the finite hours between dawn and dusk.

For the first time in my years of parenting, our children are traveling for an extended period without us. Our 10 year old, E. left a week and a half ago for 4 weeks in an RV trip out West with his best friend's family. So far, he has hiked and horseback ridden in Yellowstone park, soaked in mineral springs in the Grand Tetons, and yesterday did a river rafting trip on the Colorado River.

My nearly 13 year old, P., is flying to Greece for a two week trip organized by his 7th grade social studies teacher. If, several years ago, you had asked me whether this would be possible, I would have said no.

Those were the years when P. would spin into intense tantrums if he missed an episode of a favorite TV show, or if we imposed a change in his treasured routines. When a substitute teacher would send him into a tailspin for a week at school. When stress in the classroom would send P running out of the school building in a panic. When I needed to hover at every social interaction and run interference with our extended family at the few family events we couldn't say no to.

So much has changed in 8 short years. He is turning into a young man right before my eyes with more resources and more confidence that I had dared believe when he was 5 and newly diagnosed.

The trip that was months away, the Bar Mitzvah that was years away, have arrived with frightening speed on our event horizen. 8th grade looms and then one giant step to Highschool a year later.

But for now, I have 2 days before my precious boy flies overseas, passport and euros in hand for a two week trip that will also fly by.