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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reflections on Janey's week at camp

We picked up Janey early this morning from her week at Camp Fatima.  What an amazing place it is!  We were truly blown away by the kindness and generosity of the so many people that make their Exceptional Citizens Week possible.  Her counselor, Dawn, teaches autistic kids during the school year, and then takes a whole week of her year to be with an autistic child at camp, and she is just one of the hundreds of volunteers that make the camp possible.  Janey went on boat rides, rode horses, sang in the church choir, went to a dance, shot a rifle, did arts and crafts, had meals served in the dining hall by teenage boy waiters, slept in a cabin, went to a campfire, had her nails done in the camp salon, hung out and ran around with her camp friends---she had a true week of camp.  And we had a week of true respite.

We got great reports from camp.  Janey was very happy there.  Her counselor figured out she does have a tough time every day from about 3-5 pm.  This almost made me feel good to hear, as that is her tough time at home too, and it made me feel less like I'm doing something wrong during that time and more like that's just Janey.  But the rest of the time, she was nearly all happy.  I had guessed she might be.  Janey is a natural camp-goer.  She is in so many ways the opposite of me as a child.  I was a natural get-homesick-and-go-home-early camper.  Camp was everything I didn't like then and still don't like now---sports, lots of togetherness, not a lot of downtime, a place for extroverts.  Janey is not like me.  She loves to be active and busy.  She is not shy or introverted.  That was one big reflection I had on this week.  A lot of Janey isn't her autism.  It's just her, who she is and I think who she would be with the autism or not.  I need to work harder to give her the kind of recreation and activities she craves.

At home, we got a very lot of sleep and rest, and were able to eat out a lot, go on some day trips and watch a ton of "Dexter" on TV---all things we don't do with Janey home. We had a lot of fun.  But I missed Janey very much---to be completely honest, much more than I expected to.  I knew I would miss her, but because we have never, ever before had a week of respite, to say nothing of really a full day of respite, I thought the missing would be overwhelmed by the freedom.  I loved the freedom, but I missed her so, so much.  Somehow, without her, we weren't quite operating at our best as a family.  We argued more.  The boys fought more. We got irritated at smaller things---bad drivers, bad pizza, forgotten keys.
We had a great time, but it somehow felt like a great time with a piece missing.

We eased Janey back into our regular life by stopping on the way home at a friend's camp (camp in the Maine meaning, a summer house) on a lake.  We had a great boat ride and Janey had time to run around in the beautiful yard.  Then the long drive home, and re-entry.  That was a little tough.  Janey ran through all the things she most likes to do at home quickly---some iPad time, a video, asking Daddy to cook things, ordering us to snuggle her on the bed, some YouTube---and then it seemed to hit her and she melted down some.  She was tired and I am sure she was missing camp.

What did I learn from this week?  I learned Janey can thrive away from me.  I learned I need to find a way to get more sleep, because sleeping through the night felt amazing.  I learned I have to find more ways for Janey to be active physically.  I learned that there are many incredible people out there who give of their own time for families like ours.  I learned, as I keep learning in life, that our children are their own people.  They like different things than we do.  They truly do deserve, and enjoy, a life that is at times apart from us.  But I also learned that our family doesn't feel complete without Janey.  She is part of us.  At times, when Janey is very tough, it has felt like she has somehow taken away the family life we were supposed to have, but I know now that our family without her isn't our family.  It's a different family.  We need Janey, maybe even more than she needs us.

1 comment:

Sabrina Steyling said...

What a great post! I'm glad to hear that Janey had a good time at camp, that the rest of your family had some much needed down time, and that, most of all, you all learned and grew from the experience. :)