cross-country,  empathy,  middle school,  milestones

The unexpected things

J also went to his first church dance Friday night, and had a really great time. Which is also huge.

Monday night I found myself in negotiations with J over something in a million years I never thought I’d be negotiating over.

Two weeks ago, I had plans to drive up to Winnipeg and go to lunch with a friend from high school, but we had to change plans last second so we decided try again for Tuesday. Steve and I had it all planned out–he was going to be on call for the kids all day and take care of W’s piano lesson, morning/after school pickup, and homework so I could leave around 9 am and come back whenever I wanted to later that night.

I really needed to have this time away, but because of a minor glitch in communication between me and Steve I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it after all. J had a dentist appointment scheduled Tuesday morning and it turned out Steve wasn’t going to be able to take him. Since we didn’t figure out our communication glitch until after business hours on Monday, I couldn’t reschedule J’s appointment. And this was a big deal because J has been excited to go to the dentist for the last three weeks.

Yes–you read that right–J was EXCITED to go to the dentist.

J has a tough negotiation stance when it comes to a change in routine-especially if it’s a cancellation of an activity he really wants to do–and I knew my chances to making it to Winnipeg were almost non-existent. I knew I would end up cancelling off my lunch date with my friend to stay in Fargo just to take J to the dentist (I wasn’t willing to farm that one out to a friend, J has had historically rough times at the dentist office) and I was pretty upset about that. Because, ask anyone else in the family, we sure do a lot of cancelling, tiptoeing, and giving things up for J just to avoid epic meltdowns. He can be a high maintenance kid who, when you deal with it on a daily basis, can seem pretty selfish to the outsider who doesn’t struggle with daily anxiety issues.

I came into this negotiation grouchy, because this month I’ve felt that I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments in my schedule and cancel things I’ve wanted to do because of the tough things J’s been going through. Most relationships are give and take, but with J, it’s mostly give on my end and take on his and it gets exhausting. And that was the very reason I needed to leave Fargo.

I explained to J that there had been a mix up and that he might not be able to go to the dentist on Tuesday, which he immediately interjected, “No, I’m going to the dentist tomorrow.” I then explained to him that I had a friend that I wanted to visit who I hadn’t seen for a very long time and that her baby was sick last week and so we had to cancel our lunch. I said I was going to try again to visit my friend tomorrow, which happened to be on his dentist day.

“No, I’m going to the dentist,” he repeated and I could tell he was getting anxious.

“J, how would it feel if you really wanted to see a friend you hadn’t seen in a long time. Wouldn’t you really want to see that friend?”

He thought about it for a moment and to my surprise he looked at me and said, “When is my new dentist appointment going to be? Is it going to be next Wednesday?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “The dentist is closed. I can’t call them right now for a new appointment. But is it okay if you miss your dentist appointment so I can see my friend?”

He seemed really concerned and I was thinking that he wouldn’t give in until he knew exactly when his new appointment would be. Then he surprised me again. “Okay. But I want my appointment to be on Wednesday next week.”

“I can’t promise you Wednesday, but I can promise I can try for sometime next week. Can I go to Winnipeg, will you be okay with missing the dentist tomorrow?”

He paused for a moment and answered, “Okay.”

The next morning I was able to change his appointment before school, which was great, because he was really anxious to know when his new appointment would be. The only time I could get him in was for next Thursday. When I told him the new appointment and time, he seemed satisfied.

That is one of the first times I’ve been able to get him to negotiate and compromise on something he really wanted to do without a huge reward or star on his behaviour chart for compensation. He decided  he was going to be okay with being okay with it on his very own. For one of the first times ever he was able to think about how he would have felt in my situation and give back to me. That’s huge!

This week has been full of little, surprising moments of maturity. Monday night J had his XC recognition night, which went WAY overtime (which J got anxious about–he really wants everything to run on schedule) but he handled it really well. The last senior to give his speech got really emotional, and when the other teammates went up to give him a hug J leaned over and whispered to me, “can I go up there too?” and he joined his team in the big group hug. It was really amazing to watch him that night. I feel like he’s getting to that point where he feels comfortable and part of the group, which is also really huge.

J and some of the XC team pose for pictures.

Saturday we carved pumpkins and J was scooping out pumpkin guts and drawing on paper how exactly he wanted Steve to carve the pumpkin–with specific details with what the eyes, nose, and mouth should look like. Which is also huge because J (with his visual/spatial issues) has never really been able to draw something as easy as a stick person. Maybe all of those mandala colouring books he does is paying off? It’s been really fun watching J these past two or three years finally settle into Halloween. For most of his life it has been a huge anxiety and stress-inducing experience. Saturday night it felt like he’d been loving Halloween all his life.


J really thought the boogers in the nose were cool. And apparently this is his cool pose.

It’s these little steps forward, folks. Sometimes these little unexpected things end up being some pretty great things.



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