Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shifting Gears: A Reflection from Summer

Carefree days. Sleeping in. Reading a good book. Sipping iced tea on the back patio. Sounds great. But that's not what summer looks like at my house. Nope. Not gonna happen.

Before my son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, I didn't know why our household felt so crazy in the summer. Why did he struggle so much with the unstructured days? I knew he missed school. But why was it so difficult for him to find his groove? 

And as the last day of school approached each year, I would feel panic. I didn't like to admit it. But summer meant trying to survive getting through the day without a meltdown -- mine or his or both!

Tourette Syndrome is on a spectrum and usually has other symptoms that accompany the vocal and motor tics. For my son, the other symptoms make it difficult for him to be flexible. He can be easily frustrated when things don't go as planned. So when life feels open-ended or unpredictable like in the summer, he gets frustrated more often.

When he is at school, these tendencies are lessened by the predictability of the day. He thrives in the school environment, in part from our amazing school and teachers, but also because he loves to learn. He loves the schedule on the board. He loves being surrounded by peers. But also because he is an amazing, courageous, bright kid who doesn't let his disability get in the way of living life. 

As his mom, I realized early on that he needed a schedule for the long summer days. But life is not like school and you can't plan every moment. Sometimes you have to be flexible. And for kids with Tourette Syndrome, that can be feel almost impossible. Summer days can feel really long for all of us.

So for years I just survived summer. 

This past year I've been given the gift of connecting with other moms who have felt like me. Moms with kids who don't fit the mold and make life interesting and keep you on your toes. I asked these friends who "get it" to pray for me. I asked them to pray with me that God would show me what to do differently. I felt like I had tried everything in the past.

This year I wanted to thrive not just survive.

Then one day I was with an acquaintance who homeschools her kids. She mentioned how she was looking forward to the summer. No more lesson planning. No more schedule. Time to just relax with her kids. I smiled and thought, "Not at my house."

But something clicked. My son loves to learn. He loves school. I thought, "This summer I will homeschool my kids in the things they love. Art. Science. Nature. Cooking. Reading." I have always tried to do fun things in the summer and be creative, but not with the mentality that I am not on vacation. I suddenly switched gears and thought, "It's time for me to get to work!"

I got online and discovered the world of Pinterest. I really didn't need another social network of sorts, but it was an amazing resource. I had a blast getting ready. The days began to fall into place. My favorite day was Georgia O'Keefe Day. Both kids were inspired by this amazing artist to create larger than life works of art.

For the first time in years, I was joyful and excited about summer. It became an answer to my heartfelt prayer. I had shifted into a new gear.

Did my son shift gears too? Not exactly. He still gets stuck, and we had difficult days. But that's a big change from difficult weeks!

This afternoon he had no idea I was writing about my summer. But as I watched him swing in the backyard and we chatted, he said, "Mom, you teach me a lot of stuff. You teach me about art and science and about God."  A gift beyond words to this mom.

I love our public school. I have no plans to home school my kids. But I love that my son got to enjoy his summer in a new way because his mom shifted gears.

And this summer, I discovered once again how I can be thankful for what I am learning because my son has Tourette Syndrome. Life is meant to be lived one day at a time. I need to be gentle with myself and not expect so much. I can ask for help and look for support from those who can truly give it and let go of those who can't. And I am discovering how to live life with open hands.

And I am thankful for a summer to thrive more days than not! Truly thankful. I was actually sad that school started last week. Now that is a miracle!


  1. Beautiful, Kim. So nice to see you back in this space, friend.

  2. We all homeschool our children... it just changes in the amount of time, and the amount of outside school that they attend!!! Parents are the primary teachers of their kids... even in the teen years when we feel they only listen to others!!

    Bless you for seeing a different way to feed your son and manage summers for your family!!! He is blessed to have you as parents as much as you are blessed to be his parents!! Your blog is encouraging and challenging....