Our vacation to SUUSI (Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute in Radford, VA) was amazing. We all thrived in the presence of over 1100 incredibly accepting people, plenty of live folk music, and vast amounts of good food that I didn’t have to cook (mom bonus). I’d anticipated meltdowns from Bryce, either due to heat, too many people, or just anxiety. While he had a few brief snits about scheduling, he had one of the more easy-going, social weeks of his entire life. Really.
Then we came home.
We should have stayed in Virginia. Bryce started going hinky by the time we hit West Virginia. Each rest stop, brief as they were, seemed to stir him up. While he held it together for most of the driving, by the time we reached Columbus to spend the night, he was clearly losing his SUUSI cool. He was anxious, oppositional, louder, and just plain out of sorts. Nothing we haven’t survived before many times, but watching him come undone after so much joy, peace, and happiness saddened me as much as it unnerved me.
Turns out our very quiet stop for the night was be just the start of reentry pains for him. We were all missing SUUSI, and I was bummed about returning to kitchen duty three times a day, but Bryce was suffering the most. And when Bryce suffers, we all suffer.
As soon as we left SUUSI, his appetite plummeted. After a week of three meals a day instead of his usual grazing, I hoped his system would be more in sync with mine. This was not to be. Food at usual hours went (and still goes) largely uneaten. Perfectly able to wait to eat (tons) when on the Radford University cafeteria schedule, once home, his eating was in fits and spurts, as it had been before we left. Perhaps his system thrives on pancakes, tater tots, cheeseburgers, and at least one vegetable a day that mom made him eat. Perhaps all the whole grain, fruits, veggies, rice, and beans he eats at home are really toxic compared to the white-bread and fat fest he had on vacation. Makes a generally sane woman wonder.
His appetite wasn’t the only victim of reentry syndrome. He’d amassed a bit of sleep debt on vacation, but once home, he couldn’t fall asleep. A week later, he’s still struggling to fall asleep in his own bed (no success yet) and falling asleep in mine without me by his side. He’s not my favorite sleeping companion, given his predilection for sleeping parallel with the pillows. I’m short, but I don’t fit on a queen-sized bed in that direction.
The sleeping and eating difficulties would be tolerable if he just weren’t so overall miserable. He won’t (or, more likely, can’t) tell me why he’s so angry and frustrated, and multiple attempts to help him dissect out his angst were met with anger. He was delightful when left to his own devices. Kinda. It didn’t take more than a Magic the Gathering card to be misplaced to throw him into a tizzy. On the long car ride, he’d rebonded with his Nintendo DS. Toward the end of the ride, he began wondering about the whereabouts of a particular DS game, one of the Pokemon series. Have you seen a DS game? It’s about the size of a Wheat Thin but costs good deal more. And he was sure it was somewhere in the house. That would be fine if it meant an organized search with perhaps even a bit of sorting. But no. For four days, he’d have bursts of searching for this tiny item, no matter what else was going. Time for dinner? Time to go to a piano lesson? Want to play with a friend? No to all of those if he was mid-search. Demands that his brother and I search, too, tipped me over the edge. After looking in the places where the game belonged, I bailed. We’re talking a Wheat Thin,here.
I’ll spare you the explosions about computer time, errands to run, thank-you notes to write, and chores to complete. If it wasn’t his idea, it wasn’t happening. He even took the grief to his father’s, which hasn’t happened in quite a while. He’s honest about saving his vitriol and angst for me, and to have it spill over their meant his distress was far greater than his usual transition struggles. I’d like to say that news put it into perspective, that I summoned the patience and peace to parent him through the time with love and compassion. Nope. I did feel a (highly inappropriate) bit of glee that he’d vented on his father, too, but that was soon dampened by his mood at home.
Somehow, we made it through the week. By Friday, while his sleep and appetite were still off, his mood had improved. He’d returned to his normal. And I was relieved. The mystery of it all is what flummoxed me. I know transitions challenge him, but somehow the transition there was so smooth. Admittedly, the schedule was regular, and I was very accommodating. Since my older could experience SUUSI without me if he wanted, the trip allowed us a vacation where following Bryce’s needs didn’t impact my older son’s vacation. That’s part of why I decided to try it. And, in that way and many others, it was successful. But home, demands are more variable, and we have places to go that aren’t his first choice. That’s as much as I can figure out, not being in his brain and he not being able/willing to share what’s there. That’s what challenges me the most as a neurotypical mom raising an Aspie kid. We have very different operating systems. I tell him tons about how neurotypical minds tend to work and look forward to the day when he can tell me more about how his mind operates. That will bring joy to both of us.