Always set them up to win!
Whether you choose to home ed or not. Whether you have a special needs child or a neurotypical one. Heck, even if you have no children, this is still a good motto for your partner, your friends and especially YOURSELF.
But what exactly do I mean? What am I talking about? Set them up to win?
I am referring to limits. Knowing our limits…and not setting unrealistic goals. Things that are simply IMPOSSIBLE to achieve given our resources.
It is a lesson that I have learned…the hard. And sometimes over and over again.
My most recent ‘lesson’ was the time that PanKwake and I attempted the horse care lesson with the home ed group. Although we got there all right and she loved the actual lesson, it ended in what I sometimes to refer to as a ‘double meltdown’…hers and mine. Let me tell you that story as an illustration of what NOT to do.
PanKwake LOVES animals. Well except for mice and spiders. But especially she loves ponies. It might have something to do with the My Little Pony cartoons. Horse riding was something that I had investigated even when we were in London. But I quickly discarded because it was over an hour away on the Tube.
But when we got to Swansea our home ed group arranged a ‘taster’, i.e. one-off session to determine interest, at a horse and pony sanctuary. We had not been here very long so I really had NO idea about distances and just how rural and inaccessible some places could be. Cookie Monster tried to warn me, of course. But Google said it was only 12 miles…and that looked so close on the map.
I did ask her. And I even warned her that it would be a long ride in the cab. But even I had NO idea how long. Over half an hour…and PanKwake starts to complain of car sickness after about five minutes. The journey was not pleasant for me or her…or the taxi driver, who got lost a couple of times. But we managed to get there…one of the firsts.
The session was scheduled for an hour and half (or perhaps two). PanKwake did surprisingly well considering her attention span is more like 15 or 20 minutes. But this was right up her alley. Running about the forests, muddy fields and through streams. Chasing after horses and ponies. Then feeding them and rubbing them down.
But one thing I must ALWAYS remember with PanKwake…
That which goes up…Must come down!
And she has not yet learned the art of soft landings. Her mood modulation skills while much improved cannot yet manage to de-stress from such excitement. And that usually means just one thing…
And so it was this time.
To make a bad situation worse, I had not had my usual foresight. I had not packed well for this trip…not realizing how far away or isolated it would be. I had not brought her special needs buggy and all that running about that was so exciting had worn her out and over-stimulated her. Her Maclaren Major serves the dual purpose of being both a means of transport and a safety zone…and now she had neither. I had not even packed a bag with her favorite foods and cold water.
Now she wanted a jacket/baked potato and nothing else would do her. She was starving…but that was the only thing she would eat. Miles from stores, restaurants and especially home. She was intractable.
It only got worse from there. She did not want to get into a cab to go back…even though that was the ONLY way to get to her potato. And when I finally…after almost an hour convinced her…I had to call for a taxi…THREE times. The same company that brought us to this location three hours later said it was not in their system…not on their maps.
We were only a quarter of a mile or so from a road that had a bus stop. But we could not get to it. You see this was one of those extremely narrow country lanes with barely room for two cars to pass…sometimes not even. AND no shoulder. No place to walk except the side of the road. And I had not brought her buggy…I would have had to carry her piggy back for a quarter of mile down that VERY BUSY country lane.
Finally after an hour and three phone calls, I see a cab…going up the wrong drive-way. The same one that we had gotten lost upon getting there. I am doing my best to jump up and down, waving my arms and screaming. All the time, I am having to keep my eye on this sulking little girl just feet from a busy road with cars going way too fast for the conditions.
Thankfully, the cabby finally saw us. But our troubles were NOT over yet. She started to kick and scream, melting down once more for her jacket potato. In the end, we only made it half way. I had the poor man pull over and let us off at what looked like a promising restaurant. It was! We got her potato…and a small prize from a bubble gum machine.
But she still was not up to another cab. Still to overwrought to manage being cooped inside such a tight space with a stranger, strange smells and motion sickness. Luckily, there was a bus stop right in front of the restaurant. It went to Swansea at least…but not directly to our home.
It was over half an hour ride. With her being too loud, too talkative and too fidgety. People were looking…always my own hot button. At this point, I was almost as distraught as she was…though mine was internalized.
In the end, we got off at the first familiar stop. We had to stop at her favorite ice cream shop of course. And that calmed her a bit too.
Though we were less than half a mile from home, our ‘adventure’ was far from over. That half a mile was almost completely up hill. With a too tired to walk PanKwake…and a Mommy that was more than at the end of her rope. Still I carried her much of the way…piggy back. Stopping often to rest.
By the time that we finally made it home…four hours later than we should have…and at a substantial more cost than I had planned…I was in tears. Of course, she had FINALLY come down and went straight to the comfort of the couch and her iPad…something else I should have packed as it always makes the cab rides easier.
BUT I had learned my lesson! Never since I have set us up for failure…which is exactly what my failure to plan had done.
Now before we do anything…with the home ed group, any other or even on our own…I do a bit more research. I know where we are going…I have an exit strategy should things go teats up…and I pack more carefully too. Do I get it perfect every time? Nope, we have had other hiccups. But none like that one.
Of course, that means we cannot do all the activities that the group offers…or even very many of them. But that is all right because the ones that we do do are a success. And there is something to said for quality over quantity.
Now I am more careful to set PanKwake and myself up for SUCCESS and not failure.