Camping in the backyard was the big event this weekend. As soon as J was awake Saturday morning, he was asking if it was time to put up the tent. He was excited, naturally, but he also had a lot of expectations. We proceeded to have an irritable morning of increasing impatience. B and L took it in stride, waiting till Daddy did his morning work and ran some errands. They just did other stuff. But J couldn’t. Every ten minutes he was back to it – it was camping day and they should be camping now, but they weren’t. He paced. He whined. He complained. He growled.
At least Daddy came home from the store with regular-sized marshmallows, because camping had marshmallows. Camping always had marshmallows. If it was camping day then there must be marshmallows. I could not help but think of the show “Parenthood.” We just had to tiptoe around the little problem of building a fire in the backyard.
The tent finally got set up, and the boys played in it. In and out, in and out, rolling around, screeching and giggling. All afternoon they were outside, which was important, because when you are camping, you are outside all day. This was a contention that came up during the morning of waiting.
Tent – check. Play outside – check. Marshmallows -check. Campfire – thankfully we got past that one without too much issue. We did have issues in the evening, however, when it was time to load up the tent with all the gear for the night. J hates pajamas. That’s fine. Except that it was going to be quite chilly and he needed something on. The clothes he had been playing in all day were coated with dirt, mud, grass, and unidentifiable blue dust. Whatever. I suggested he change so that his dirty clothes weren’t all over his sleeping bag. But it’s camping!?!? You just….it’s CAMPING!!! You can wear dirty clothes when you’re camping! I HATE pajamas!!!! Again, the show “Parenthood” popped into my mind.
Ok. Yes. Yes, you often do wear dirty clothes when you’re camping, but you don’t get into your sleeping bag with them on. We compromised, finally, on a change into clean play clothes. He wanted to get out to the tent, but changing in front of his brothers would have caused lots of yelling. Daddy had to force him into the laundry room before going outside. And I see, still this morning, he has the same dirty shirt with mud across the shoulder from yesterday, so apparently it was only the pants that Daddy succeeded in getting J to change. Explosion very narrowly averted.
Another near-miss was when I took an armful of things out to the tent and asked J if he had used the potty yet. He hadn’t, but proceeded to climb out to the yard and prepare to pee in the grass. Um, no sir. But it’s CAMPING!?!?!?! Yes. It’s camping. But this is our backyard. We don’t drop our pants and pee in our backyard. Daddy had to step in and help get J into the house to use the bathroom instead. J was not happy about this at all. Apparently one of his expectations for camping was to be able to pee outside. Go figure.
The night went without too much drama after that. I was inside, texting to Daddy’s cell phone for updates. They had popcorn, marshmallows, cheeze-its for B, and watched a movie on Daddy’s laptop. L munched his popcorn and then cozied into this sleeping bag and went to sleep. B played his DS till he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer (this is modern camping I guess). J was tired, but restless, and Daddy made an excursion inside to retrieve the bedtime CD from J’s room. I heard the deck door open a few more times for potty trips, and then finally got a text that they were all asleep.
Quite early in the morning, they came inside and got set up in the living room chairs with blankets and snack breakfast and cartoons. This is the usual start to the morning, a habit that makes us cringe at times, but….well….it’s our own fault for fostering it into what it is. Anyway, Daddy came back to bed to snooze and warm up.
Not long after that, J was next to our bed asking if he could go outside and play. It was *maybe* 7 am? No, buddy, we’re not going outside to play just yet. This is when the full-on explosion/meltdown finally hit. J was screaming, about it being camping of course, and that it wasn’t fair because when you’re camping you play outside in the morning after you wake up. True, real camping is like that, but this was practice camping. Daddy tried to reason with him. Reasoning doesn’t work with J, usually. There was much yelling and crying, slamming doors, throwing things around his room, banging and swearing at the top of his lungs….by the time Daddy got out of bed to intervene, J was near that point of being unresponsive, crying that scream-y cry so hard that he was coughing and gagging. He didn’t know how to stop. It’s been a long while since we’ve all been through one of these.
Finally Daddy succeeded in holding J tightly and coached him through some deep breaths. He shushed him calmly, and spoke low and soft to him till he eventually settled down. I have to say here – my husband is really amazing. This is not something a parent is prepared to deal with, and even if it does become a reality that you are desensitized to, it still takes something special to be able to tap into tenderness in those moments, and he is able to, over and over again. He can flip a switch on his frustration. I know how much effort that takes. I’m so grateful to have this man as my partner.
J asked if we could sleep in the tent again tonight. But it’s a school night, and Daddy said “it’s just too different.” So it all got packed up this afternoon. We will probably need a few more backyard practice runs before we take the whole family to a campground. This has been something I’ve been looking forward to being able to do with my boys, camping that is…but I’m reminded now of the planning that will need to be done beforehand next time – A chat about expectations would probably be a good idea, maybe a checklist, a Plan B or two to have up our sleeves, possibly even a visual story/visual schedule.
There is a woman that my hubby has met at several trade shows/demos lately who has a special needs child with very similar issues as J. They have had the opportunity to chat about their experiences a few times. She is the one who told us about DAN doctors and the DAN diet, because it worked well for her son. Anyway, she told my hubby that they have S.A.D. days sometimes in their house, and explained it as Super Autistic Days. There may be someone offended by that…but I understood where she was coming from. It made sense to me, and I could relate to it. Even though J isn’t on the spectrum, there are days where that conclusion seems questionable.