Starting this week for a while, Tony has arranged his schedule at work so he can do the afternoon pick-up of Janey. That is so wonderful it's hard to describe. The drive back and forth to school has become increasing tough over the years. I'm into my 14th year making that commute, through busy parts of Boston, with crazy Boston drivers, and lately, more often, a passenger that is disruptive, my Janey. I feel myself re-energized just knowing I don't have to do that drive twice in a day.
I've decided, when Janey does get home, it's going to be Total Janey Time. I've always thought one of the most important parts of the day as a parent is when kids first get home from school. It's one of the reasons I haven't worked outside the home. Kids need to reconnect after school, even older kids. They need someone to listen to their stories, someone to take their complaints, someone to feed them. I've loved being able to be that someone for the boys, and I've realize that has been missing with Janey, mostly because by the time I get home with her, I'm done for. I often pass her off to Tony and rest a little, and she often gets crazy. So as a trade-off, now she's going to get my best when she gets home.
What is Total Janey Time? It's doing things with her that she loves, without trying one bit to make it a teaching time, a molding social skills time, a time for anything but fun and comfort. It's what I've realized Janey is requesting when she constantly requests to "snuggle on Mama's bed" And it's what I often don't do. I seize on time with her to try to either teach her something or work with her on behaviors, or just try to do something with her that's MY thing, not hers, like reading a book or coloring. Total Janey Time means snuggling her, playing the little games she loves with her, singing to her and just letting her be her. We play Creep Mouse, we put our faces close together until it looks like we only have one eye, and I say "you only have one eye!" and she laughs, I sing clips of songs I know she loves, like "I went to the animal fair" or "John Jacob Jingleheimerschmit" I don't try new songs or new games. I clap her feet together and sing "chicks and ducks and geese better scurry", which I did once when she was about 3 and which she instantly loved for some reason. We say our little routine "Let's talk about how much I love you! I love you a..." and she says "million" I say "I love you more than..." and she says "chickens!" It makes no sense, but it makes her happy. It's bonding, it's fun. It's also about like you'd play with a toddler, and that is why I sometimes resist it. It seems like it moves nothing forward. But why shouldn't she have a time each day that's for HER? She lives in a world she often doesn't understand, a world that I am sure is startling and stressful for her so often. We all have things we do to center ourselves, to get back to feeling relaxed, and Janey needs that too.
After the first few days of this routine, Janey came in the door, and raced as fast as she could to "Mama's bed", a huge smile on her face, waiting to start the routine. That was wonderful. It's a huge reminder that we all need a time and place to feel completely accepted as we are. It is what I think often gets left out of the day of a child with special needs. We all want to help them learn, to help them understand and relate to the world around them, but that's a lot of work for them. They need as much as any of us do to just have downtime. I'm going to try hard to give that to Janey more consistently.