Weekends are tricky in our house. I still look forward to them, as a chance to escape from the drudgery of my 5-day office week and as a chance to spend more time with my family, since I’ve not been home for as long on weekdays these past few months, but there is also a feeling of nervousness. It may seem strange, but all that togetherness and less structure for most of the day can be, well, a little challenging.
Since about November, we have added some structure to our Saturdays, by Nat having private speech therapy, followed, much more recently, by occupational therapy, both at the same place. This means that counting the drive there & back, we have 2.5 hours of not having to plan or prepare for anything. And Nat is generally a joy to be around during therapy. When I’m in the sessions with him, like I am for his speech therapy, it’s some of the best times I have. Back when I was home mornings and he was getting Early Intervention services at home, plus his private therapies, those times were the absolute best for me. He shines and always amazes me when he’s with his therapists & teachers. He can fuss and fight at times, but for the most part, he really enjoys it and I’m happiest when he’s happiest.
It’s the hours around that for the rest of the weekend that can be dicey. Nat wakes up most days by about 6:30 a.m. and goes to be at about 8 p.m. He isn’t one of those kids who you can put in his bed/crib at a certain time, dim the lights & have him lay quietly and take a nap – and he hasn’t been for most of his life. He fights naps to the bitter end when he’s home – the bitter, throwing everything in sight & screaming until he crawls on my lap & crashes asleep end. Or he doesn’t nap at all, just occasionally flops around like he might, repeatedly dashing our hopes when he rises & resumes being very awake. So unless he spends an afternoon with a relative or the weather is nice outside (which is only for about half the year, between chilly rainy periods, windy winter days & the mosquitoes that have a huge effect on our ability to play outside at home in late summer), we have hours, usually filled with more Play-Doh than I’d ever care to play with, train-related toys, Legos & an assortment of TV cartoons & kid’s DVD’s. When Nat is with Mommy & Daddy at home for too long, he perseverates, tries to make toys do what they are incapable of doing, gets frustrated, throws said toys, screams & spends an inordinate amount of time whining for/demanding milk, juice, certain foods & sensory play activities that almost always result in over-stimulated meltdown. He’s usually way, way more balanced when he has some place else to go for some of the day, preferably not with Mommy or Daddy. I think it’s because on weekdays, he’s always had some other place to be by the afternoon, either a grandparents’ home or his part-time daycare. By 1 p.m. most weekends, I think his reaction is basically, “Why am I still here with you guys?”
We have some routine stuff we do, like hitting the nearby mall at least once every weekend, where Nat checks out the fountains, gets a favorite snack and checks out the Disney Store and the kid’s shoe department at Nordstrom’s. Why Nordstrom’s? By following small children carrying balloons many moons ago, Nat learned that they give out balloons to any kid who wants one (and Nat wants one), plus they have a really big fish tank. A fish tank that lately has become our nemesis, because Nat would like to spend his entire life in front of it & there is no inducement good enough to leave without a fight. But we keep trying!
Anyway. We’ve also been lucky that since about February, we’ve had a babysitter at least one afternoon almost every weekend, as Nathaniel’s been in full-time preschool & his grandparents don’t get to see him afternoons as much, so they want to see him when they can. However, again, particularly on Sundays, when we have no therapy (but are starting an ASD kid’s gym class soon!!!), it’s where our minute to minute existence really plays out.
Every minute with Nathaniel has a sense of suspense to it. Nothing can be taken for granted – except that he’s usually quiet & calm if he’s scored a sippy cup of milk from us (some kids you have to encourage to drink milk – not my kid, milk is his crack addiction). You never know what mood he’ll be in when he wakes up, or how things will play out as activities end or begin. He can wake up in a touchy funk, flipping out & unable to explain to us what he wants, but screaming the same unintelligible thing again & again. Or he can wake up completely happy and sweet. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t suddenly change to the opposite without warning because of some small detail. Even activities that seem like a for-sure thing, are really not for-sure. He can ask to do something or to have something & be really excited that he’s going to get it. And then totally flip out (and not in a happy way) when you give it to him. He seems to always have an idea in his head of what he expects to see or experience – but either cannot express it well enough to us, due to his speech delay, or that thing does not exist, or is simply not possible at this moment. Things like the fact that we are not going to play outside at 5:30am when it’s 20 degrees out & we’re in our pajamas. No, we do not have a birthday cake in the house right now. You can scream all you want – it won’t appear. No, your favorite Dinosaur Train episode is not yet available on DVD (despite it being listed on a website as appearing on a DVD that I just bought) & I can’t conjure it up on the TV b/c you scream for it. Just because you want there to be a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode to match your birthday banner’s theme, does not mean I can make it happen for you now, this second.
But these are the negative things – the things that tend to eat up too much of our minds. In between these challenges are fantastic moments, when he wows us by how much he can do, or how much he knows or when he does stuff that is so dang cute & we just melt. And then there’s those more-frequent-than-not early mornings, after he wakes up, when he cuddles on my lap for a good long time, not needing anything else. No TV, no books, no nothing. Just wants to curl up on my lap, quiet, wiggling around a bit to find that perfect nook to cuddle in until something else gets his attention. These are the moments that keep us going, especially on weekends.