Janey is watching Curious George, which has become my 7-7:30 morning respite time. She has no interest in it other times of the day, just that morning block! And I am gearing up for the first day of summer.
I've never liked summer. As far back as I can remember, the first day of summer felt like panic to me. I like a schedule, blocks of time filled with predictable activities. I enjoy the weekend, and holidays, but summer---that's a long time. Couple that with my extreme dislike of hot weather, and even as a girl growing up in coastal Maine, probably the ideal summer location in the world, I didn't like summer.
With Janey, that feeling has grown. Janey loves school. There is barely a day she doesn't get excited to head out the door to school. Every time I tell her it's a school day, she looks like I've offered her a huge treat. This morning, I told her that school was all done for now. She'll start summer school in a week or so, but that is never quite the same. This week is open.
I feel sometimes like the worst mother in the world in how much I dread open weeks like this with Janey. It's not that I don't want to be around her. More and more, I love being around her. But unfilled days for Janey are not lazy or idyllic or creative. They are very tough. Janey needs to be watched every single second. She needs to be kept busy, or she either gets upset or retreats into a repetitive activity like seeking out paper to eat or things to spill. Keeping her busy wouldn't be hard if there were more I could do with her alone. But taking her on any kind of outing, like to the beach or a park or a museum, is not a one person job. She is a runner, and I am not as fast as her any more. She really needs at least two eyes on her, and one of them has to be pretty physically fit. I still can take her to the store, but she hates stores except for grocery or drug stores. I plan to do a grocery shop soon, but that doesn't fill up much of the day. The few times I've tried taking her clothes shopping or browsing a craft store or the like---disasters. (read about one trip I particularly remember here) She will tolerate being read to more and more, but not for more than about 10 minutes in a row. She'll play with her iPad, but also, not for long periods of time, and she'll watch TV or videos, but aside from the fact I don't want her electronically entertained all day, she is too restless to do that for much time in a row also.
What do we do? We often spend a lot of the day in the back yard. If Janey has water and dirt to combine into mud, she's usually pretty happy. But today is rainy and thundery, and even on days that aren't, after a bit Janey is soaked and filthy and we need to come in. Often, I then turn to a long bath time, but Janey no longer is as interested in long baths. So we piece together a day. We read a little here, dance to music a little there, snuggle and sing a little, watch a bit of TV, eat, go to the grocery store, bug her brothers, pat the cats---and it's still 10 am and there's a lot of day left.
What would most 8 year olds do in the summer? Well, most 8 year olds would have friends to play with. With older brothers like Janey, they would have gotten into video games and would be playing them. They would know how to read, and we could go to the library every day. They would be able to entertain themselves with drawing or crafts. They would be able to go to camp. We could go to the beach, just the two of us. We could go to playgrounds without the fear of them running away. I feel guilty, as I always feel guilty, that I dread a day alone with Janey so much. But thinking of it that way, I do see that a day with Janey is not a day with most 8 year olds. There is never one adult alone all day at school responsible for Janey. In the course of the day, she might be under the care of 6 or 7 different teachers, aides, therapists, etc. They do a wonderful job, and I am extremely grateful for them. I can't do their job alone.
And I worry I am coming across as complaining about caring for my own child. Although it might sound that way, it's not the case. It is my job to be with Janey, and my joy. But I wish for her that there were more options open for her open days.