This year this guy is participating in ESY. 

That’s a fancy navy-sounding acronym name for Extended School Year. Why would this endless summer dreaming mother want her child to go to school in the summer? Well, where do I start?

It is supposed to prevent any regression in what he’s learned while helping him with social skills and providing him with a much needed structured day through the summer. Yeah…about that. 

Jack craves structure. It’s not just any kind of structure. He loves school, but his school where he knows exactly what is happening every second of every day and very little ever changes. Summer school is sort of that but not. He rides the bus by himself to a different school with a shortened program full of things that he isn’t used to like…(shutter) breakfast at school. He finds it confusing as to why I would feed him breakfast and then he would go to school to eat breakfast and then have a snack and then come home for lunch. Newsflash… I find it confusing too except to say the meals at school might be the only meals some of classmates have. I can’t explain that to him. 

As school came to a close Jack’s teacher (who is quite literally a gift from God) sat down with me an asked about summer plans. Our plans included church camp where Jack would have a jr. counselor’s support, maybe swim team and family visits. Around this time I started having problems with the clinic where Jack gets speech therapy. Actually the problems started as early as January but at the end of the school year I hit my wall. Jack’s teacher and I discussed how great it would be to fill Jack’s summer activities with things that would have him push out of the box socially but always, always with support. She also told me that she wanted to recommend ESY and explained it but said it would be totally up to us. 

This was a big decision. I really wanted Jack to participate in swim with Bria. I thought it would be great for him. Of course his strokes are horrible. I wanted the swim team structure for him. Everyone wanted to go back to Camp Idlewild. Arleigh and Hanan were campers there when we lived in Virginia Beach. Arleigh would be in China but Hanan and Bria were pushing to go. Elementary week was also the first week of ESY. ESY’s schedule might interfere with morning swim schedules. I was so confused and up in the air. Jack’s teacher told me to just go to the meeting and let him go to school the weeks he could go.

Well… Bria broke her arm. Swim was cancelled. We went to Vacation Bible School instead. I decided that Bria’s broken arm was God’s way of saying slow down and refocus. I’m just going to keep it real y’all. I thought I was going to be at swim practice. I didn’t sign up to help. Hanan and Arleigh were group leaders on stage. Bria was set to go so we threw Jack in with his friends. This is a safe place with people he knows. Let me just tell you how it went…

A couple of days in one of Jack’s leaders pulls me aside to let me know Jack started spouting off in frustration that no one loves him. He made a mistake. His mom would be so mad at him. It gets better. When they tried to draw a heart on his hand to represent God’s love, he started yelling. “No! I’m a bad guy! I make mistakes. God doesn’t love me! Nobody loves me!” To say that was a awkward conversation was putting it mildly. I don’t know who I felt more sorry for, the leader, Jack or me. Then… even after talking about it at home he continued ALL WEEK. The children’s pastor very sweetly pulled me aside to let me know Jack doesn’t think God loves him. Sigh.

We packed up the next week to take a little family getaway and then we threw Jack in the car and drove to camp. In hindsight, I could’ve done some other things to help prepare him and to help prepare the people who were trying to support him. Over all it was an excellent week. Jack participated in lots of things with lots of kids.

There are two things that happen in these situations. I want to break down and cry because Jack is not like everyone else. I also want to break down and cry because if I think right now what life would be like for Jack as a nine-year old boy in China… I can’t. After being in China for two weeks, Arleigh has a better understanding of what I’m talking about. You can’t know until you are there. All I can think about is him being locked off by himself and aging out of the system for maybe an institution at 13. If you know Jack, think about that for a second. He really is happy and wants everyone else to be happy most of the time. 

We got home and Jack started his first day of school on the second week of ESY. I got a note that said it was a “pretty good” day and went on to explain. Let me translate special education for you… Jack was a freaking handful but his teacher is sweet. The second day I met Jack at the bus. He told me he thought he might have left his glasses at school he wasn’t sure. Then he started to tell me his day wasn’t good. I reluctantly read the note. “Jack did not have a good day.” Again, the translation would be, “Thank goodness this kid is about to get on the bus because he was a hot mess have fits throwing things and guess what, HE BROKE HIS GLASSES.” Sigh…. Transitions are hard. 

When we adopted Jack I expected for things to be hard. I expected to make sacrifices. One of the hardest things for me is asking for help or seeing someone else, a teacher, an aid, therapist or a camp counselor struggle to help him because I know how hard it is. 

Why am I telling  you all this now? Maybe it’s because Mom left this morning and she reminded me that I haven’t been posting. I haven’t. We went from the last day of school to VBS to celebrating Hanan’s birthday to camp to a visit from Grandma to Arleigh and Hanan going back to camp. I also threw in sending Arleigh to China somewhere in the middle of all of that. I feel like our summer never got started and I feel like we’re done. There’s still so much to do.

Jack is going to ESY. I need to find a new speech therapist and consider outside ABA appointments. That is a whole other blog post. I have to say I am so disappointed with the center he was at and haven’t had time but I am going to let Tricare know how horrible our experience was. 

Anyway you look at it, I’m going to try to adopt Jack’s Tuesday attitude. He said when he got off the bus, “It’s like Grandma says, ‘tomorrow will be better!'” At this point, I’m pretty sure it has to be.