Last Saturday was the first in a long time that we awoke without a plan. After a busy summer I was happy to embrace it! Pondering our options, I must admit that a ‘pajama Saturday’ felt like a pretty good idea. My husband had a more adventurous thought – “let’s go for a bike ride!”
Hmm… okay, quick mental checklist: “where are we today?” as in – what’s the mood? has everyone had enough sleep? what were the triggers last time so we can prevent the meltdowns this time?? The last few days had gone ‘okay’ though… true, there were some edgy moments that came along with the transition of school’s first days, but generally things were ‘okay.’
There was a thrill in being spontaneous at that moment. This is something relatively new for us… embarking on an ‘unplanned’ event, that is. But we’ve been in a good place for everyone, finally. Over the summer we’d successfully traveled (far!) several times by car and by air, swam regularly (a very first for us) and even went bowling as a family. We take our baby steps as needed, but we always keep trying. While the smile spread from inside me, I was vaguely aware of the thought that the outing might be too much – and I swooshed it away. It was a crisp, cool morning with plenty of sunshine and these kiddies – all of us, really – needed to become one with the outdoors! So we quickly scoped out a departure plan… well, by quickly I mean as ‘quickly’ as this family of five can pack up and go anywhere!
Ready, Set… Ready yet?
- “are we late?” “no, sweet pea.”
- “are we late yet?” “no, it’s open all day.”
- “are we going to be late??” “no, sweet pea, we’re leaving soon.”
- “when?” “in about twenty minutes.”
- “I have to go to the bathroom!”
- “okay… go ahead.”
- “can you come with me?”
- “I’m right here, sweetie… you’re okay. I’ll be right here in the kitchen.”
- “okay.” “Mommy?”
- “yes, sweetie?”
- “can you come with me??”
- “Mommmmy!” (this time from my daughter in the hallway)
- “yes, ladybug?”
- “can you put my hair in a clippie?”
- “sure, honey, bring it here.”
- “by the bathroom, of course…”
- “Mommy? (from the bathroom) You’re still here at the bathroom, right?”
- “yes, sweetie… I’m right outside the door.”
- “good – I need privacy.”
- “okay, sweetie.”
- “but don’t leave.”
- “water, me?” “Mama?” toddling into the room with his cup was our 21-month-old, wanting in on this act…
- and then from Daddy, “are we ready yet??”
- hmmm… count to ten. Okay… maybe 30!
- repeat and return, or return and repeat… say it with me – Today is going to be a great day for our family!
Check, check and re-check…
With breakfast and personal hygiene completed, we were almost out the door.
- “Mommy?” asked our eight-year-old.
- “Yes, sweet pea?”
- “Where’s my bike?”
- “Daddy just put it in the car…”
- “All the bikes?”
- “Yes, all the bikes.”
- “Oh.” “Mommy?”
- “Yes, sweetie?”
- “Is my bike in the car, too?” he asked again, to be sure.
- “Yes, sweetie.”
Repeat above conversation with my daughter… for another twelve minutes… you get the idea. And finally, we were on our way to the Rail Trail. Once we arrived (with several rounds of “are we there yet?” “is my bike in the back?” and “what about my helmet?” along the way), we readied the troops…
- helmet, bike, brake test – check.
- joint compressions for everyone in the parking lot – check.
Good for the senses, good for the soul…
As soon as we hit the trail, we all fell into our comfort zones. My husband and daughter were off on the two-seater – she was tickled to find that her feet finally reached the pedals! Our eight-year-old wanted to “hang back with Mommy” on his bike while I walked the baby in his stroller. “It really is a good day,” I said out loud, feeling good about our adventure. We chatted happily as he demonstrated a variety of turns and “safety moves” on his bike. But after only a few minutes, the effects of the week’s transitions for my son were evident. He began wavering from side-to-side, unsteady on his bike… clearly his balance was ‘off.’ Getting progressively more edgy, he became testy and loud …and then louder – just on the verge of losing it. Hmm…
Unlike many times in the past, we didn’t need to pack up and leave at that point. These days we shift and move along with the moods and feelings of everyone – all three kiddies, that is – from a sensory standpoint. But our oldest was the one unraveling, quickly… so we needed to change gears. Knowing where we’ve been and having a handle on what works (for the moment, anyway) I marvel at the magic that happens when a sensory diet falls naturally into place. Just as amazing to me is the powerful shift – the aha! – that occurs within me, by simply remembering to take in the experience through his eyes. So after the heavy work of bicycling (input for his body), we all spent some time on foot – while gauging whether or not we could/should continue or turn back…
- discovering new paths (“waking up/connecting” muscles by climbing and hiking).
- exploring hidden trails (finding quiet places).
- watching and listening carefully to the flowing stream and waterfalls (calming).
- with deep, long, squshy-hugs… (deep pressure).
As we moved through nature’s built-in obstacle course, his anxiety dissipated and my sweet, chatty boy returned. With a warm smile he happily leaped onto my hip (feet skimming the ground since he’s only a bit shorter than me now!). Taking a moment to breathe it all in with my arms around him, I was filled with that familiar joy. Overwhelmed that afternoon with love by this tender soul – just like in his fragile, early four-pound days – I am thankful for the gift of him in my life; grateful for the role I get to play in his… still learning from him every day. His strength leaves me in awe… his ability to overcome challenges – that some can take for granted – to get through his days… his smile warms the soul.
After another deep breath on the way back down the trail together I thought, “I’m so proud of us as a family… we’ve really come a long way.” Gone (for now) are the days when every minute of every day held the perfect storm for a meltdown or ten. Having said that, I’ve long ago accepted the fact that those days can still (and have!) come back on the ‘turn of a dime’… so I’ll take today – our biking day – with a smile. Our family did, indeed have a great day!