A few weeks ago a friend posted a sweet picture of herself and her two girls on facebook. They’d spent the week together on spring break and the caption read something like, “I’m really gonna miss these two next week.” So sweet. So endearing. So utterly triggering of insane jealousy and bitterness.
See, I was a few weeks out from Spring Break and I was already having nightmares and anticipatory panic attacks. And it’s not that I’m the type of mom that doesn’t want to spend time with her kids. I homeschool two of them for crying out loud and would gladly homeschool my daughter if it was actually the right fit for her. It’s that Spring Break sucks for my differently wired daughter. So, I was spending countless hours wracking my brain for just the right combination of events, schedule, fun, routine to try to make our spring break be at least tolerable. I was consoling my daughter as she was counting down to spring break saying things like, “I really hate breaks from school mom.” “I just feel icky when I can’t go to school.” “Why does it have to be a whole week?” And while I was glad my friend had such a loving and connected experience with her girls, I know that my loving and connected looks extremely different with mine. And so much of me wishes it didn’t have to.
My daughter is twice exceptional. She’s autism-y, or “autism lite” as she calls it. She craves and thrives on routine. And we all dread breaks from her routine because she becomes dysregulated and when she’s dysregulated the whole home is dysregulated. Yes, it’s improved significantly over the years. Yes, she has the awareness and ability to let us know that she “feels icky”. But, that doesn’t entirely change the fact that I dread having my daughter home on breaks. And I would sincerely give anything just to have a break I could look forward to without intense planning and mental preparation. I would sincerely give anything to miss my daughter when she headed back to school.
This is a reality that so many neurotypical families with neurotypical kids just have a hard time grasping. Just today, on our first day of spring break, we saw a neighbor who excitedly looked at my daughter and said, “Yea! It’s spring break for you! I bet you’re glad to have no school?!”
My daughter stared up at me unsure how to respond, but shook her head. I said, “Yeah, actually KBear misses going to school.”
“Ahh,” said the friendly neighbor, “But it’s good to have a break, too, isn’t it?”
To which KBear stared at me for help again and I said, “Well, the routine is really helpful for KBear, so she’s probably one of the only kids who actually hates school breaks.” And we left it at that.
See, it isn’t a break, really. It’s extra work.
It’s trying to find a new routine that will work.
It’s trying to provide enough brain stimulation that she doesn’t get bored, while also providing enough rest that she doesn’t get overwhelmed.
It’s hearing all the fun things that other kids are doing and knowing that our family fun has to look different and is often bookmarked by meltdowns.
It’s planning every day and writing a schedule so she knows what to expect.
It’s working overtime to regulate herself.
It’s being 30 minutes into the first day of spring break and already having Chimp cowering in a corner, KBear screaming, shouting, and hitting her head, and me wanting to run away and thinking, “F*@$K This! I’m not doing another full week of this.”
It’s trying for weeks to plan days that will be easier for my daughter only to have everything I’ve ever tried still feel like it backfires.
It’s hearing my daughter cry in the backseat as we drive past her school and tell me she’ll just paint pictures of all her classmates on paper plates, set them on their desks, and sit in the empty room all week on her own with her dixie-plate friends because that would be better than spring break.
So, I hate spring break. And Christmas break. And Thanksgiving break. And teacher in-service days and snow days and summer break. And it kills me that I hate them so much. It kills me that I would rather only see my beloved daughter a couple hours in the morning and a couple hours at night than have her with me all day. My core feels all sorts of gross as I continue to confront the reality of my daughter’s life, the reality of my life, and the loss of what I thought having a daughter would be.
No words of wisdom in this, just sharing how heartbreaking it can be to have a fringy kid.
If you are a parent of a fringy kid, hopefully this helps you feel less alone. It’s okay to dread days off. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, it means it’s hard on everyone.
If you are not the parent of a fringy kid, hopefully this glimpse into the world of fringe helps you understand why your fringy parenting friends look so bedraggled and worn out before, during, and after school breaks. When they say they aren’t looking forward to their kids being home, it’s not because they’re bad parents, it’s because it can honestly be painful to have a break in routine. Painful for the parents. Painful for the kids.
Do I have many, many cherished memories and sweet pictures with my daughter? Absolutely. Do I love her to the ends of this world and beyond? Of course. Do I dread having her home on school breaks. 1 million percent. And do I hate that I feel this way? 1 million and 1 percent. Because really,
I just wish I missed my daughter.