October 2002 page 1 of 2
Tuesday 1 October

First day without Dan. Well, not exactly. Yesterday morning Dan went to work extremely early and came home in time to read books to Damian at night. Both days Damian has been relatively okay but a bit volatile. He has fun, enjoys himself. Is apparently quite verbal at school. Yesterday's report was that he had more spontaneous language than he ever has. Today Tania told me that Damian made up a song while jumping on the trampoline. (As always, he does things at home long before they show up at school -- he does love to make up songs and nonsense rhymes.) But he gets out of reason hysterical at the slightest provocation. Insecure, I think, is the best way to describe his state of mind.

Today before we went to the Other School, I told Damian I'd leave after Kahuna got there. When we arrived, the kids were sitting at long tables, prepared for snack and a story. The teacher was asking children what they wanted her to draw on their paper plates. When she asked Damian, he said "A kite." I have to say, I'm impressed that he comes up with these things on his own. He's had such trouble with this kind of being put on the spot before. But then, before he got up to get his snack, he burst into tears. He told me he wanted to leave when I left. I realized my utter stupidity in asking him to deal with this separation at the same time Dan is out of town. I told Damian this and said I'd stay the whole time. Which I did. Damian repeated several times that he didn't want me to go without him, and I told him I promised and that I always keep my promises. He finally accepted this and had a reasonably good afternoon. A few instances of interaction with other kids, but it never seemed like he instigated or particularly welcomed it.

Wednesday 2 October

Long day.

I brought Damian to school at 8 a.m. Checked in with Streak, who now works with him in class on Wednesdays. She said he's making some progress interacting with the other kids, but that it's baby steps. He and Corey seem to gravitate toward each other, though they mostly just play side by side.

Picked Damian up from Mary. She and Colette have formed an ongoing weekly play date with Damian and Corey, their charges for the 11 to 12 hour. I think this is great. I need to talk to Corey's mom about having play dates outside of school too. Anything to get both boys playing together interactively. She told me Damian gets animated when playing Kerplunk. He loves that game.

We went to Toys R Us to pick up some toys for this evening. Damian was enthusiastic about buying lots of toys; I kept having to tell him the toys had to be small for the restaurant and for school.

Next stop: the park to meet Heidi. Who had a very successful session with him. This particular playground really does offer more than most gyms. All kinds of walkways that feel dangerous and unstable. A big open concrete area where Heidi set up obstacle courses -- one for scooterboard and one for hopping. And a lot of kids who are drawn to what Damian and Heidi are doing. So Heidi can incorporate some socializing into the game. She thinks, too, that Damian gets a kick out of the fact that this is his stuff, his person, his game, that he's the cool kid with the cool stuff.

Next stop: dinner. This was problematic. I thought the Santa Monica CPK was south of where we parked but it was in fact north. Which meant a lot of walking in a wind tunnel by the water. Damian did NOT like that. (Tactile defensive around his face.) He kept telling the wind to stop blowing. I took a roundabout way to the restaurant (after I figured out where it was) so we'd get less wind. Nevertheless, it was a long walk after a busy day. Damian kept stopping, wanting to walk slow, wanting to take all kinds of funny steps (marching, tiny steps, not stepping on cracks, etc.) Which slowed us down and I was worried about the time, so I didn't enjoy his antics as much as I might have. And a block away, he'd just about had it himself. I was carrying my computer on my back so I couldn't carry him. Really felt the single mom in that moment.

Dinner went well, though. He was fairly chatty and it felt -- as it often feels -- very intimate to go out to dinner one on one with my four year old son. Somehow grownup.

Finally, back to school for Back to School night. Six p.m., the mandatory floor time meeting. Damian had been talking excitedly about going back to his morning school at night, about being the only kid there with all the grownups, but just before we got to the gate, he balked. Wanted to go home instead. Maybe he got cold feet?

He did well, though. Sat next to me and enjoyed the new toys while the school directors talked to the group of parents. At one point, he was drawing with a marker on a pad of paper. Kept exclaiming things like "I'm drawing a beautiful picture." His voice ringing out in the quiet room. I kept having to hush him.

We headed home at 7:30, twelve hours after we left the house. Got home in time to see the hired car pull away. Dan was home. Damian was delighted to see him, talked a mile a minute, telling Dan everything we'd done and ending with "and then we came home and Daddy was here."

Thursday 3 October

Robin tells me that Damian wanted to play with a pirate ship but it wasn't assembled yet. So he and Robin assembled it -- and he did most of the figuring-out part. They played with it for over an hour. She was amazed at his focus.

When I got there, he burst into tears. Didn't want me to take him away from school! So we stayed half an hour.

Next stop: The Other School. Damian was a bit worried still that I might leave. I had to promise him I would stay. I don't know how I'm ever going to get out of there without a major scene.

Nevertheless, he seemed to do fairly well. At one point, Damian had a plastic toy tiger and was having it climb up Kahuna's lap. Another boy came along with a lion and did the same. And when the other kid roared, Damian did too. Other children came over: one with a tiger, one with an elephant. It was a veritable wild animal park on Kahuna's lap. And Damian was right in there, not shying away. When elephant boy had his creature munch grass, Damian had his tiger do the same. There was much roaring, naturally. Not exactly interactive -- the creatures weren't engaging with each other -- but it's justthisside of truly interactive. Very encouraging.

Late in the afternoon, Damian was alone by the play stove. He held two creatures and was having them argue with each other ("I want that!" "It's mine!" "Can I have it?" "No!"). That he could do that in this environment? Good news.

When we left, I had Damian say goodbye to the teachers by name. Then at the door, he turned and said "Goodbye, schoolteachers!"

I've been extremely spacey the past few days -- forgetting things left and right. Forgot his snack bag in his cubby. So we had to get out of the car and go back in for it. Damian was wrought ("You forgot my snack bag!!") but quickly recovered. When we came back in, he announced to the teachers, "We forgot my snack bag so we had to come back and get it." I mention this not because this is a new skill, talking like this, but in a still-new, still-intimidating place, yes it's new. Though I'm sure it helps that the other kids had gone home by then.

He wanted to go back to school afterwards. In fact, he specifically said "I want to go to my morning school and my afternoon school all the time." IE: never go home or anywhere else, just school. And both at once.

Friday 4 October

Kahuna was pleased with his session with Damian. Said Damian and Bobby played together for a bit (they overlap session times by a half hour). Bobby used to overwhelm and scare Damian when they were in the same class but apparently now he's calmed down and Damian has in turn grown more self confident. So the boys played with cars and made car sounds and riffed off each other. Streak was Bobby's floor timer, and she told me later that the two floor timers could even step back for a little and watch the kids. The boys were doing that well interacting. She also said Kahuna has a wonderful gentle way about him but knows when to get involved. He expanded what the kids were doing with car sounds, had them make up nonsense words to rhyme with the noises. Damian loves this. Apparently Bobby went for it too.

Kahuna also said that Damian lied to him. The scene: Damian was eating his lunch. Noticed his shoe was untied. Demanded Kahuna tie it. Kahuna, wanting to teach Damian patience and the ability to keep his cool, said he'd tie it when Damian was done eating. So of course Damian was immediately done. Kahuna asked to be sure, Damian said yes, I'm sure. And then of course was upset when Kahuna took him at his word and put the food away (after tying Damian's shoe). I can't say I'm surprised. I'd have done the same thing in Damian's position. Kahuna can be a tough taskmaster. Though I think to good effect: Damian needs to learn more self-control before he'll be ready for a true mainstream environment.

Saturday 5 October

Dan worked today. I was struck down by a medium-bad cold this afternoon. Damian let me lie on my bed in a semi-doze. He joined me, declaring that a hug would make me feel better. It did. Then he left. Came back with his play tea set. Mousie set up the tea things and poured me "Get Better Liquid." That pretty much made my day.

Sunday 6 October

Damian's become fascinated with directions. He wants to know where we're going, how we'll get there, etc. He's learning left and right, north and south as a result. I could be wrong but it feels early for this. I'm fairly impressed.

Monday 7 October

Tania said Damian and Lucas had fun together playing with airplanes. She said Lucas is very active, probably a good match for Damian because he can get him revved up. Hmm...I've met his mom once; I may suggest a play date... Either Lucas or Corey. If Lucas has the higher affect, which I think he does, he's a better bet.

Rivka came out into the waiting room and Damian greeted her warmly, but when she said "Okay, say see you later, Mom," he buried his head against me and said he didn't want to be there, wanted to leave now. I asked him which he wanted to play with first, the trampoline, the tire swing or the ball pit. Sudden transformation: "The tire swing!" And off he went. Rivka told me later that she'd talked with Damian as he was taking his shoes off and he told her he hadn't wanted to say goodbye to me, that's why he wanted to leave.

He apparently had a good session, though. He came trotting out afterwards with a cut-out heart glued on paper. Rivka told me that he had decided he wanted to make a heart for me. And then when he presented it to me, he added, "I wanted to make a heart for Mommy because I love you."

This must be loving day. Later he told me, "I like you and I love you. I love you because you're a sweet person."

I could get used to this.

Tuesday 8 October

Jules' dad brought a video camera into class this morning and taped the kids. The class watched during goodbye circle. They all loved it. Damian, in particular, kept exclaiming, "There you are!" when various kids showed up on screen.

In addition to the coolness of Damian's social moment at the Other School this afternoon, something else sticks with me: after circle time, the teacher called kids to the art table by saying "If your shirt has a train on it, you can go draw an apple." And the kid with the train on his shirt would get all happy and go over. When she said "If your shirt has a ladybug on it, you can go over," Damian was thrilled. "My shirt has a ladybug on it!" He didn't quite get the connection that this meant she was telling him he could go do his art project, but his pleasure at fitting the description was touching.

Also of note: I left for half an hour. We'd discussed it and he was ready for it, but Damian still cried. Just for a minute, apparently. And he was pleased but not clingy when I came back.

Wednesday 9 October

Mary told me she and Colette devised a scavenger hunt for Damian and Corey today during their joint session. It forced the kids to talk, to confer, to go into classrooms and offices and ask for paper clips and pencils and goldfish crackers. And that Damian went right ahead and did it. What a brilliant idea!

We had an hour and a half to kill between school and Heidi. Damian wanted to go straight to the park where we meet her. I thought he wanted to play and enjoy the place. Apparently he had this notion that if we got there early, she would too, because he asked me every five minutes if she was there yet. So I taught him how to tell time -- not really, but the basic concept that the big hand travels from here to over there and then Heidi will be here.

Every day now, we talk about directions -- we're going to drive east and then north to go home -- and also about where the other cars are going. They could be going to the store or school or work etc. He doesn't yet volunteer ideas of where they might be going but he's clearly intrigued by the fact that each car has a different destination. Hell, I still find that a mind boggling concept, that every entity in the sea of cars has a conscious mind inside who has a life and a full agenda. It's never too early to think about that, and it teaches theory of mind, to boot. Is in fact the essence of theory of mind. Everyone you meet has a soul, a consciousness.

Thursday 10 October

Robin was suprised when Damian went over to a group of girls from the typical class in the yard and wanted to join in their activity. They told him to go away, unfortunately. He later joined another girl at the bench and they played side by side at a tub of water for a bit. She flicked water on him when she was done playing, and ran off. Each time Robin talked to Damian about the rebuff, but each time he apparently shrugged it off. I don't like the typical preschool class in his special needs school -- I've noticed this sort of attitude from the kids before. Maybe it's a Santa Monica thing. But the good part is that Damian both wanted to join the kids and he wasn't thrown by their rejection. Skills he needs.

Good day at the Other School, too. Damian and I talked in the car about how I was going to leave again -- he brought it up, actually. He told me I could leave for a little tiny while. When we got to the school, he checked to make sure I was still there. I asked if I should leave now or wait till circle time. He decided I should wait.

But then an odd thing happened: ten minutes later, he came over to me and started to cry. I asked him what was wrong. He told me I could leave now! I think he wanted to get it over with. So I left. He didn't cry and apparently did quite well without me. Got upset briefly when he expected me to come outside and join them as I do every time but of course this time I wasn't there.

I was gone an hour. Came back to find Damian on the turtle-shaped teeter totter with two other kids. Kahuna was shaking it and pretending it was a boat on a roiling ocean. Which worked well briefly, but Damian became too entranced with my presence and that was that (the other boy on the teeter totter announced, "Here's your mom!" so I couldn't hide).

Still, though, I saw some good interaction with a little blonde girl. They climbed up the slides, slid down them, toppled on top of each other. Some conversation there, though I was too far away to hear. Later, they took each other for rides in the ride-on cars.

The best part of the afternoon, though, came at the end. A girl came over to me, plopped down on a beanbag chair, said she was hiding. I said I could still see her, so she got another beanbag and covered herself up. "Much better, now I can't see you. But wait, is that a foot? Is that a knee?" She giggled, I tickled. Treating her like I would Damian and she responded the same way. So of course Damian came over to see. Roughhousing ensued.

Kahuna tried to get the two engaged with each other; it didn't quite happen. Damian got sidetracked by a plastic egg in my bag, filled with silly putty. The girl wanted some silly putty too, so he split it in two and gave her half. He made his into a hissing snake. She did too. Their snakes hissed and kissed my cheek and Kahuna's cheek and even each other's cheeks. Other children were attracted to the fun. The silly putty split and split again, lots of hissing snakes. Damian was in the center of the fun and, though not exactly making overtures to the other kids, was very aware of them and liked the groupness of it.

On the drive home from morning class, I tried to get Damian to think of what to bring to share day tomorrow. He wouldn't answer, then said "my forklift." Which is what he brought last week. His next choice? Lock puzzle. Which, of course, he brought the time before. We agreed we'd look around his room when we got home.

So when we got home from the afternoon school, we looked around. He chose a doctor's kit. Then decided I was sick and proceeded to doctor me. When he'd checked me over and given me medicine, he told me I had to wait and then I'd feel better. He said he'd read while I was waiting. So I lay down on his bed and he brought board books out of his basket and... well... read to me. I love it when he does that; he doesn't memorize the words, he paraphrases or makes up his own and it's a chance to see how he perceives the book. After he finished the book, he asked if I felt better yet. I said no, I needed another book. Heh.

Friday 11 October

Kahuna said they had fun together, also that Bird was pleased with her session with Damian. Apparently he talked a lot about what he did yesterday. It's an emerging skill, being able to talk about the past in a fluid way. Still not that fluid, come to think of it.

So today for the first time, Damian joined in with his ideas of where people might be going in their cars. He was repeating things I'd just said, mostly, but I encouraged him anyway. I think it's his way of testing the waters in this new kind of imaginative game.

At home, Damian picked up a toy helicopter. "I found my helicopter!" I didn't know it was missing but acted pleased anyway. He added, "Lucas has a helicopter." He does? "Lucas had a helicopter in share day today." So yes. He's starting to talk more about his experiences.

Monday 14 October

Damian got sick over the weekend. Just a cold. He was much less fussy than he usually is. He truly understood this time that it was no big deal. We kept him home from school today, though. He was a pleasure to be around, though I think he was sad that he didn't get to go to school.

Tuesday 15 October

Last night sucked. Damian came to bed with us around 4 am and bumped heads with me several times, pushed me into the position he preferred, shoved me with his feet. Etc. Then he decided he wanted juice and had to sit up on my lap to drink it. Finally he lay down and went to sleep. For maybe half an hour. Repeat above sequence. Around six a.m., I got pissed. Was complaining to Dan about how he had it easy since Damian was stuck like glue to me, therefore mauling me. Damian immediately apologized for what he'd done and said it was a mistake. And when he settled down again he was much better behaved. What you'd expect, really, I guess, except that I keep forgetting to expect that kind of in-tune reaction from him.

Slept in, stayed home from the special needs school. Damian was excited to go to the Other School this afternoon but reluctant to have me go. And when we got there? Tears and whines. And he never really recovered. So after half an hour, we came home. I asked him to say goodbye to his new friend, the girl with the curly dark hair. He not only said goodbye, he told her why we were leaving (that he was still sick) and gave her a half-hug, putting his arm around her as he talked. I was surprised.

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