Before last November, DH and I could count on one hand the number of nights we had spent alone together without the boys. As I stated in one of my earlier blogs, we do not have grandparents that are able/willing to watch the boys. We are lucky enough that my sister who lives nearby will take them occasionally, but realistically, they are a lot for any one person to handle so we do that very sparingly.
Then in the summer of 2011 a flyer came for a special needs camp. Figuring that Alan wouldn't like it and they wouldn't like Alan, we signed Joe up for the camp. It is two weekends in the fall and two weekends again in the spring. Joe was very nervous about attending, but ended up really enjoying camp. As a time to be away from mom and dad and deal with other strangers to get his basic wants and needs met, it was a huge growth opportunity for Joe and probably a big contributor to his massive emotional growth spurt of the last year.
One of the counselors who knew about Alan asked me why we hadn't signed him up. When I explained that I thought he was a little much for the camp, she told me that the camp was really designed for kids like him. Huh. Really Joe is the highest functioning kid there by far. So when the flyer came this past summer I had all the paperwork and the deposit check filled out and in the return mail. I was so excited. I really didn't think Alan would do well, but I was so ready to try.
Then we found out that there wasn't enough funding and no new campers were going to be added this year. Well sigh. The first weekend came, Joe went and Alan stayed home. It was still good for Joe to get some independence so we weren't going to deny him the weekend away. Then the coordinator contacted us again and said they got additional funding and now Alan could do the second camp of the fall. We tried to take him to the intake meeting and he refused to get out of the car to come into the building. NOT a good sign. What to do, what to do???
DH and I came up with an elaborate plan. Joe and I would drive to the camp with all the supplies for both boys stopping on the way for French fries and a soda which we would bring to the camp. DH would follow bringing Alan. DH got there and parked next to our van. Alan saw it and said "Get in van" (we've done enough car swaps in parking lots that this is a relatively familiar routine) and hopped out of DH's car. DH promptly locks his car and I already had the van locked. Now there is no place to go but into the camp building. We settled Alan down with the fries and his soda and his counselor and ran like cowards! OK, maybe we didn't run like cowards, but that is sort of what it felt like.
We went home and waited for the "come get this kid -- he is driving everyone crazy" call that ... never came! Late Saturday afternoon we got a text with a picture and Alan was happily climbing a pine tree on the camp grounds. Joe wasn't being forced to watch over his brother and everyone there was happy. DH and I were ecstatic!!!!
So Alan's second weekend was this past weekend. We packed Thursday night and Alan didn't seem to be paying attention but then his teacher e-mailed us on Friday to tell us that he was having a bad day after a great week. Not good. Had he seen the packing after all and known what it meant and was determined not to go? We debated endlessly what would happen if we couldn't get him out of the car or something similar.
Friday after school Joe was doing his usual "I'm excited but I'm not going to admit it" pre-camp thing and Alan seemed oblivious. Moment of truth time. DH lies down in bed next to Alan where he is watching his iPad and tells him "you are going to camp this weekend" to which Alan replies "No!" DH tries a few more times with the same results. OH-Kay! Then DH says, "Remember you get French fries when we go to camp." No more No's. Hmmm.
We even drove two cars again but we also hoped that since the first weekend was so successful that this one would be even better and luckily it was. Alan actually started saying "Get in car!" to us this time. For a little while we weren't sure if he was asking to get in the car himself or telling us, but since he sat quietly while we got in our cars and left, we figured it was the latter. The counselor informed us that there was much less yelling this weekend since he knew the routine and he seemed to have a great time.
Now our only concern is that Joe doesn't really need a "special needs" camp anymore. He even got an award that said "Junior Counselor" this past weekend because he led the cake baking activity and according to his counselor he was great about making sure everyone got to participate and understood their job. Hmmm, maybe next year they will hire him on as a counselor and we will still get our weekends??