I dropped Wil off on the second morning of his first all-day camp.
He talked about camp for weeks; water balloon tosses, scavenger hunts, a trip to the beach – and parent-free. There were no tears at drop-off; Wil and I were both ready for this leap in independence.
This summer has been the Mom & Wil show. As 17-year-olds, Katherine and Elizabeth have taken trips, worked, and enjoyed the freedom of driving teenagers. As such, this summer has been a sneak-peek into life with Wil when Katherine and Elizabeth are away at college. As close as Wil and I are, we both require a level of time on our own. I knew it was time to find a way to spread our wings — but how and where?
This first all-day camp experience would be an ideal situation for Wil. It is where he takes taekwondo, so he is familiar with the staff and the venue. Master and his staff are very understanding of Wil’s abilities. They know when to push him, and when to give him space. Wil would enjoy time with typically developing peers and two of his taekwondo buddies who also have Down syndrome.
Even so, it would be a long day for Wil. He was focused on the fun; I was focused on preparing him for a full day.
“Wil, you know camp is a full day; the same as a school day. You’ve got to hold it together.”
“You are going to have a lot of fun. But you may get tired. And that’s ok. Just tell someone. Find Master, or one of the helpers in a red shirt. Tell them you need a break. Use your words. No plopping or running off. Got it?”
“Ok, mom. Camp! Yay, woohoo!”
I played my preparatory words on repeat in the weeks leading up to camp. It may seem redundant, but I knew from experience that he’d fly in blazing, only to find that it truly was a long day. He’d then fizzle into an exhausted plop on the floor, or flee overwhelmed out the door. His words, or words by others spoken to him, would be lost. Only time and space would unravel him.
Wil is fully capable of communicating that he needs a break. He just needs to be prepared to use his words before overwhelm or exhaustion overtake him. Therefore, we play things on repeat around here.
Wil focuses much of his life on the fun side, and I’m on a joy-ride with him. The flip side of that is anticipation, preparation, and words on repeat — and I’m on a replay-loop of constant-ness with him. Sometimes I need to step out of the loop and take time for myself, while Wil needs to take a step away from me, and forward into independence.
On the drive to camp this morning, Wil sang his own impressive a cappella medley of Luke Bryan songs — I thought dang! Even Luke would be taking notes on what Wil put together. But then again, Wil knows better than most how a mixed medley works.