The Adventures Of Fatherhood-September 6, 2019

First days of school are memorable no matter the age, but there’s no question they have changed over the years.

Mention school to Carson, 9, and the result is a big sigh followed by a grunt merging frustration, disappointment and resentment into one sound. We spent most of last week talking up the prospects of school and all the fun things that come with it. We did actually get a small smile from him when Pam reminded him fourth grade is not a standardized testing year. We hammered that point home consequently.

For Carson, our non-verbal kid who falls on the Autism spectrum, school brings him anxiety. When he’s stressed, things do not go well. He makes bad decisions and poor judgment results in erratic and unexpected behavior. We start every year with optimism, but we fully expect and understand there will be challenges along the way we must confront. That’s why the first day of school is stressful for his parents, too. I didn’t get a lot of meaningful work done myself because I was preoccupied by how his day was going and hoping for the best. It was a relief to learn he had a solid first day.

Overall, he had a smooth first week. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s not a reasonable goal. We knew the first week back would be a major adjustment. Changes in schedule never go well for him, as is the case with most kids on the spectrum. There is no greater transition for him to overcome than going from summer to a school routine in one day. He’s aware enough to know not everything about school is enjoyable to him and that simply makes him not want to go initially.

Overall, despite a few tears the first couple days walking into school, he did well and continues to adjust to his new normal. That’s good enough for us at this point. I think for him the adjustment to the new schedule and new people are daunting at first.

It takes Carson time to warm up to people. He’s shy and introverted by nature, which is compounded by the fact he’s different because he doesn’t speak, but once he gets to know people he comes out of his shell. He shows people his sense of humor, his math prowess and his general fun outlook on life.

On the drive home from school the first two days, the wear of a school day was evident. He was asleep within a few minutes.

For Beckett, he’s incredibly laidback about school, confirming we have kids on two opposite extremes as far as their approaches to school. While Carson takes it overly serious, his big brother clearly does not worry enough about it. Beckett was disinterested this week. He says he’s just learning the ways of middle school and going through an adjustment. However, it’s interesting that doesn’t explain his approach to completing his summer work last week.

Throughout the summer, we reminded Beckett about his summer reading requirements – read at least three books assigned by his school and finish book reports on them. Despite our constant encouragement to divide the load up throughout the summer, he procrastinated, resulting in him spending every night of August reading multiple chapters and almost all of Labor Day writing his three book reports. School started the next day, of course, so he couldn’t have put it off any longer. He likes to say he enjoys working on a deadline, but there was still a lot of moaning and complaining, reciting often how his friends don’t have to do school work in the summer. There were no receptive ears in the house to the whining.

As far as Beckett’s first day of school, the days of walking him into school are no more. After the traditional first day pictures at home on our stoop, it’s basically like any other day. Drop him off and watch him roll into school, hoping he looks both ways before crossing the parking lot.

This is a big year for Beckett. He’s in the sixth grade now and middle school means a rotating schedule with less emphasis on homeroom teachers and more on the various subjects of the day.

Anxious to hear how his first day back was, I remembered he’s 11 years old now and sharing details is not really his thing. After the first few days, we got next to nothing out of him about what’s going on at school. One night he did finally say something and described it as “confusing.” He also added he was getting better at opening his combination locker. It wasn’t a lot of information, but it was something.

Though he’s not falling asleep on his way home from school like his brother, I have noticed a definite need to relax and unwind after school. That’s why I’m done asking him immediately at pickup about his day. I might circle back later in the night or maybe not. It’s part of growing up for him to be more independent. Part of that process is keeping some things to himself. It might be a bit frustrating at times for his parents, but it’s a natural progression.

All in all, with one week down the start to school went about as smooth as expected for both kids. Homework comes next week and that brings its own set of challenges.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.