Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring has Sprung (A Leak)

Spring. The cherry blossoms, the tulips, the sunshine. It is all that plus potholes, a yard that needs resurrecting and windows that need to be cleaned (but likely won't be in our house).

It is also the time that kids, and boys in particular, seem to have a certain ennui.

Ennui –noun
a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest;


No doubt evolutionary physiologists (if there is such a thing) would have an explanation that has to do with hunting and gathering and the need to provide subsistence for oneself after a long winter. I feel sure that sending the 5 to 10 year old set on a safari to hunt elk and antelope would purge their ennui.

J Boy has allergies which peak in May and June and less sleep and more discomfort contribute to the situation. School has fewer hard academic days, and more playing, which exacerbates the situation.

When J was in preschool at age 4, I noticed late March that he was more difficult to deal with (and that is saying something). He seemed restless and the usual things didn't interest him. When the J Boy is at loose ends, no good comes of it.

Each year since then, we see the same pattern. After spring break, the J Boy seems not just bored (as he has boredness tendencies all year 'round) but restless. And agitated. And at times inconsolable. And decidedly unreasonable.

If I cast my mind back to last year, I seem recall some tortuous after-school pickups, some after-school hunger issues and days like this and this when I just had to go to my happy place.

I remember one morning last May or June resolving to be understanding of J and his issues. We were having a lot of conflict getting the boy to school. I self-talked, saying it would not endanger his education if he got to school a few minutes late. So instead of harping, nagging, sighing and eye-rolling, I sat quietly with him and tried to understand why he had to finish watching Kim Possible before he went to school and why, when Kim Possible was over, he still wouldn't get out of his pyjamas. After several rounds of cuddles, reassurance, empathy and talking logic, he was still not ready to go to school. I got him to school an hour late under considerable protest. And he still kvetched as I quietly and calmly dragged him to the office for his late slip.

The next day, I threatened to duct tape him to his booster seat if he didn't get his bony a$$ to the van. That worked better.

Another hallmark of spring for J is he is even more forgetful. If that is possible. Spring is also the season where I make semi-weekly visits to the school lost-and-found. I always find a jacket, a water bottle, a lunch bag or maybe even a shoe.

One afternoon I arrived at school and saw a green hoodie hanging over the fence by the parking lot. It's a distinctive one, and even money said it would belong to the J Boy. It did. (I know because I label everything not nailed down). A couple weeks ago, J only brought his spelling homework home the night before his spelling test, having forgotten it every day for a week. I don't fully (or at all) understand the correlation between the forgetfulness and the ennui or if one causes the other or both are caused by the same mysterious spring fever.

But, this blog is not another in an endless line of blogs on my inability to copy with J. On the contrary, this year we have less ennui. Sure he is going to bed at 10:30 most nights and some nights well past 11. I have actually had to keep myself awake until he fell asleep and I could turn off his music, shut his door and put out the hall light.

But apart from that, he is learning to cope. Yes, cope... J Boy, same sentence. I am giddy.

I did not think I would see the day but he is finding things to keep his mind active. And the most exciting part about this is I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. As much time as I spend finding the right activities to engage the boy, he has found his own things, such as:

1. Science experiments: This involves Husband, our resident scientist. A few years ago someone gave me a deck of "cards". Each had a science experiment that could be done at home with normal household items. So J came across these and has made pennies turn green, turned pennies from black to shiny, he is growing purple crystals, he discovered that he can drank water while standing on his head.

2. Math Practice : J started keep a journal and was a little secretive about it. So I took a peak over his shoulder one day and found out that he is practicing math. Double digit addition and subtraction. He often likes to work out problems in his head in the car and I've started noticing scraps of paper around the house that read:

29 + 23
30 + 22 = 52

3. Sky Navigation. He found the Microsoft Worldwide telescope website. He tries to figure out how to create solar eclipses and can view the galaxy from the perspective of different planets. Or dwarf planets in the case of Pluto, as J would tell you.

4. Writing books: This is a springtime favourite of his in years gone by. He creates his own books. Just this week he created a Figuring Out series of books. Figuring Out Codes, Figuring Out Strangers, Figuring Out Spys [sic]. He writes, illustrates and binds his own books. We sometimes have a few tense moments when he suggests he'll set up a bookstore at the end of our driveway and sell each book for $10 (what?? he can't sell lemonade like other kids??). But mostly, the joy is in the creation and the pride with which he presents his books to us.

5. Playing Spies: S joins J as they play spy ANYWHERE. The van is a Spy Pod. Their water bottles are spy juice. Any cars where they see headlights are enemy vehicles. Any cars where they see tail lights are friendlies. I of course play along as I am usually driving the spy pod.

6. Reading: J has been reading fairly well for a while. Only since Christmas has he been reading voluntarily when we don't suggest he do it (or must do it for school). He has discovered comics and continues to enjoy reading mysteries. With his bedtime approaching midnight, he thankfully will read in bed. Often with his night vision goggles.

The upshot of all of this is that J is less at loose ends. He does have a bit of a short fuse at times on top of his nocturnal tendencies and absent-minded professorness, but he is not as difficult, unmanageable and I have not threatened duct tape even once. He'll even occasionally listen to a little reason.

I know we're not through June yet and things may take a turn for the worse. But I am enjoying May and the sun, the blossoming trees and a more harmonious home. Now, if I could only get to those windows ...

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