There are those moments in life when you not only realize your mistakes, understand the real consequences of them, and know without a doubt that you are, at the core, a bumbling idiot; those consequences are presented to you in such a way that makes them so palpably and undeniably real, that you wonder how on earth you could be such a bumbling idiot and know that there are some mistakes you can't go back and really fix. It is in those moments that you know that people do really depend upon you, and that sometimes, you let them down; and it is in those moments that screaming is probably the only appropriate response- even those in that moment, that is the one thing you can never do.
One of those moments came at us on highway 50 on the way home from Ocean City. We're damn lucky it didn't come at us at 55 miles an hour, because somebody would have been seriously hurt.
When Joey's ESY meeting was held, and we saw the options, we saw no good ones. We settled for placing Joey in the summer enrichment program designed for regular ed students with an aide, with the "everything's going to be fine speech" tossed in, and then 2 weeks of OT tacked on. We could have sent him to a camp an hour away with a trip home in heavy traffic. That was kind of our only other option, and that would have replaced the OT, not the Summer Scholars. They were dead set on putting him into that summer scholars thing.
We weren't comfortable. We had been told there might be 40 kids in the class, but "everything will be OK, because there will be two teachers, and we'll transition Joey to the new school and new teachers" by having two weeks with the old para, then two weeks with one of the new special ed folks each week. The realities of the program were that it was a large, noisy group with two field trips a week- one in-town, one in Richmond- our para got usurped by another special ed student who was put into the program as a regular participant, most of the kids seemed to shun Joey whenever I saw him and were unfamiliar to him. We already were having increased anxiety issues as Joey realized he was going to be in a new school and not have his same teacher and para anymore- the point of putting him in the program was to decrease that anxiety, not increase it. The reality was instant and dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, and the associated behaviors such as bolting and self deprecation.
When we saw the increase the first week, we were told he was getting settled, give him more time. I should have pulled him.
When he really freaked out the second week, we sang our own praises in figuring out the CD player and getting him through the long field trip and the noisy days. I should have pulled him.
In the third week, when I got the note from the new aide that Joey was having trouble, but that she was sure "Everything would be OK", I should have pulled him.
By the fourth week, it was too late. I should have pulled him anyway. By then he was bolting almost daily, sometimes multiple times in a day. At any frustration, he was saying he was a bad person, he couldn't be a good boy, and that no one liked him. He was saying that people thought he was ugly and mean, but he was really a nice boy. He was saying he was stupid and clumsy and he waned to die so Andy could have a little sister. He wanted to break things, he wanted to kill me (when I didn't give him his way), he wanted to kill Andy (when Andy was annoying him), he wanted to die. Everything was most definitely not OK.
The beach trip he looks forward to every year was a series of struggles to get him to do anything new, sprinkled with familiar favorites to coax him out of the hotel room- some of which failed to do so. He was bolting there, too. Do you know how hard it is to lock a hotel room door from the inside, to keep someone in?
Then, just before the bridge on our way home, it happened. He was frustrated, tired, annoyed, hungry, cramped in the car, feeling the anxiety of heading home and who knows what else was exploding in that head of his. He was done, he was leaving, goodbye! And he opened the door.
Fortunately, we were in a traffic jam, so the car wasn't moving very fast, but folks, it was fast enough. A sharp cry from me got him to close the door, and JoeyAndyDad found a place to get off the road pretty quick. We engaged the child safety locks, got everyone calmed down, and started off again.
I dont think I need to go into the "might have" situations here. Thank God, none of them happened, we just got the door shut, the locks engaged, and no one was injured in the process. The tacked on OT turned quickly into a blessing these lat two weeks, as Miss Lisa got to see what has occurred, and put together a brilliantly clear letter about the issue of bolting and that this is a dramatic and new behavior, as well as the self- deprecation issues. On Tuesday, I get to sketch out the consequences of not providing Joey with appropriate ESY.
I get to look straight into the face of the consequences of not holding my ground and fighting, every single day. This is what happens when I fail him.