My middle son is a firecracker. He is an amazing 11 year old that loves sports, drawing and reading. He loves to pretend and use to always be in costume no matter where we were. For the first several years of his life he would introduce himself to others as “Monkey Joe” and most called him that. He is sweet and loving and kind until the moment comes when he isn’t ready to transition. That is when we lose all sense of who he is and the rage begins.
When he was an infant, it took a while to realize that his senses were heightened and caused crazy reactions. He would scream anytime we got in the car, unless we could get him to sleep. He hated the sound of the vacuum and my hair dryer. When someone close by would sing off key he would begin screaming. When he was 3 years old, I learned about sensory processing disorder. Thankfully, as he has grown, he has become more aware of his needs and we have a lot less meltdowns.
What this experience taught me is, on some level, we all struggle with the transitions we face in life. The spur of the moment change in plans, the frustration when something doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, the changes made that make us realize we have no control over what is happening around us. These transitions are so hard to explain to my middle. Honestly, they’re hard to explain to myself sometimes.
I was visiting family in another state a few months back. We had planned our day, filling the schedule with shopping and eating out. We got dressed and ready to leave when the doorbell rang. A friend stepped in and made themselves at home. I sat in the chair sipping my tea, enjoying the conversation, yet waiting for them to leave. They didn’t. It seemed they weren’t in any hurry to let us get on with our day. About an hour later, the doorbell rang again. This time it was my nephew and his friend. He wanted to see what we were doing and be a part of it. I could see the day was quickly becoming a bust. We soon decided to all pile in two cars and head out to try to salvage some part of the day. But this outing had gone from 3 people to 8.
I was overwhelmed and frustrated, I didn’t know how to stop what was happening and get back to the plan. I didn’t want to share my time with my family this way, but I went along. As the day continued, at every step, someone else was deciding what we were doing next and our original plans were long gone.
Later that evening, as others started to leave and the craziness died down, I wondered why I had such a hard time dealing with the day. It wasn’t a bad day. It wasn’t what I expected or what I had planned. I didn’t exactly enjoy the day, but it wasn’t terrible. I calmed down and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening.
As I relaxed and thought through all the the emotions, I realized it wasn’t just about the plan going awry or sharing my family time. It was more about questioning if I mattered to those I was visiting. If the people they see nearly everyday could step in and take away the short amount of time they were supposed to spend with me, how important was I to them? I felt like my role in the day was to sit down and quietly go along with whatever was decided for me.
That made me question other frustrating transitions in my past. Each time, it wasn’t about the control or the plan, it wasn’t about getting my way or being immovable from a schedule. It was about how those around me, those involved, made me feel about being there. It made me question myself, asking “Do I matter?”. In each of the transitions where I have found frustration, I find this to be the question. Do I matter to the people around me? Is time with me worth telling a friend to go home, or a nephew to go play at his friend’s house.
Then I started thinking of times I change the plans, times I don’t take into account the feelings of others when I step in with a “better” plan. The times I use excuses to get out of things I don’t want to do, I don’t think of the transition it is creating for the other person.
The next day, we got up and had our day of shopping. It still wasn’t what was planned, but it didn’t matter, I was getting to spend time with my family. It won’t make the next transitional frustration go away. But through it all, I am learning to see what brings that frustration and what questions to ask myself in the moment and maybe even ask others. Hopefully the next time this happens, I can stop and find how I fit, how I matter, and just enjoy the day.