Thursday, July 11, 2013

Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in my Heart!

Dear Mommy, Daddy and of course...Bert!
I miss y'all sooooo much but that's not gonna stop me from having a lot of FUN! I have friends too!
I love y'all! 
Having a great time! SA

Summer Camp. I remember it with such fondness. Meeting new friends, camp fires, hokey songs, cafeteria food, and the outdoor adventures. Even the bad parts hold fond memories: scorpians in my shoes, a homesick friend, bug spray, and not wanting to leave when Mom and Dad came to pick me up. Seems like camp is just a typical rite of passage for most kids.

But for kids with invisible disabilities, camp can be a scary place. Both for the kid and for their parents. Counselors who are often young and don't understand the nuances of our children's differences, as well as cruel judgement by peers are valid concerns for families of these children. It is important to research the camps and their philosophies before sending our kids off on this summer adventure.

This year, I treaded slowly and carefully into the camp waters. After speaking to several friends who have sent their own girls to this particular camp, I began to feel a level of comfort about letting Sara Ashley go. Then, as I read the medication dispensement instructions, I felt even better. Blister packs were required (no possible mix ups) and medications were given by a nurse each morning and evening. Finally, after receiving a very detailed questionnaire asking me about my child's personality, likes, dislikes, and pretty much anything else that I could possibly impart to them about her, my comfort level went from a 5 to a 9. This camp truly seemed to care about my child and her ability to have a positive experience!

After these findings eased my mind, together Sara Ashley and I made the decision for her to go to camp. She was both excited and apprehensive. Making preparations for the week brought an intentional process. Although the camp suggested packing in several small duffel bags, I knew that this was a recipe for disaster for my child. I could visualize clothing from both bags scattered all over the floor of her room as she searched for that perfect shirt she wanted to wear. Instead, I packed her in one large and very organized suitcase. Once opened, everything could be seen at a glance. We reviewed everything in the case and how it was to be used, stored and discarded until we picked her up. We talked about the logistics of taking her medicines, the use for each toiletry item, and every other detail I could think of to prepare her for her week. Although she seemed exasperated with my demand that she slow down long enough to listen to this information, I know that in the long run it was helpful to her.

For the first time ever, I dropped her off into her dorm without having a long conversation with the staff about her ADHD and dyslexia. This transition is due,  in part, to her age, and to the preparatory efforts of the camp. As SA matures, I am beginning to rely on her to voice her own needs and reveal her own differences if she feels that she needs to do this. In the past, I don't think she was mature or verbal enough to advocate for herself. This is a scary but necessary step for us.

Despite the comfort level that I had attained prior to camp, I did worry. As each evening approached, I worried about her ability to fall asleep. This is often hard for her active mind and body. Each morning, I awoke to concerns about her ability to make friends who would accept her for who she is (wonderful, energetic and playful!!). And each day I prayed for her well-being, both physically and mentally.

By the end of the week, I was very ready to see my sweet girl! Arriving at camp, she quickly introduced me to her new friends. I was overjoyed to see that they sincerely liked Sara Ashley. I was also thrilled to hear from some of her counselors who told me of her positive attitude and sweet nature. 

Driving home, I asked Sara Ashley if she had shared her learning differences with her new friends. Not that she needed to, but my curiosity just got the best of me. This is what she said:

"They asked me why I was so wild. I told them that I have ADHD," she shared. "They told me they were so sorry for asking." This she said with a bit of amusement in her voice and a cute smile.
"I told them, 'No, it's OK! It's part of who I am, and it doesn't bother me at all!'"

Thank you Lord, for this child who accepts herself just the way she is. I know that she will face future challenges that may cause her to doubt her self-worth, but for this moment in time, I am thankful. May you continue to use her to teach me and humble me. Because of your works in her life, and in mine, I've got the JOY down in my heart. . .to stay!

1 comment:

  1. Christi, you have nailed it as far as describing how it feels to let your child go... for a night , a week at camp, a semester in college... or even at the altar on her wedding date.. Although I do not have a child with SA's disabilities, each child does have their own set of issues and "hidden" challenges and weaknesses that we as moms, with our "superwoman" insight, are fully aware. As we let go of our children's hands we turn our back and walk away with faith that God still has the other hand. When my children were young at those moments when I dropped them off or let go of their hands I would say, "Now it is between just you and God."
    God bless you for your wise words and gift of story telling.