I had an English professor at Kenyon who liked to comment that I wrote the best transitions of any undergraduate he’d ever taught. So maybe that’s why I laughed a little in one of Archie’s first I. E. P. meetings when a therapist noted that my son sometimes struggled with transitions.
Of course the sort of transitions I wrote in college and the sort of transitions Archie’s therapist was talking about differ greatly. Kind of. Or maybe not?
The transitions I once wrote signaled relationships between ideas, and established logical connections between sentences, paragraphs and sections of my papers. They provided my readers with directions for how to piece together my thoughts into a coherent argument.
But the transitions Archie struggled with were the ones he was required to make between activities during his daily classroom schedule. Archie was being asked to finish one activity and to begin another one, but he become frustrated or irritated when he was told to stop working on something in order to begin focusing on another thing so instead he’d protest by refusing to cooperate. “He’s very stubborn,” that therapist told me. “He just wants to do what he prefers to do.”
I didn’t doubt that the therapist’s observation was at least partly right, but I decided way back then to make Archie’s developing ability to transition effortlessly between activities a priority. How would I do it? I’d teach Archie to focus less on moving physically between activities, I decided, and instead encourage him to bridge the gap with a rational and thoughtful correlation.
Today Archie can tell you everything we’ve planned for the day from the moment he wakes up in the morning until the instance he’ll go to bed at night. He’s able to string together transitional expressions with the finesse of any English major: “First we eat breakfast. And then we get dressed. After that I’ll watch Max and Ruby while Momma takes a shower. Later we’ll go outside and play.” He’s unraveled the logical relationship between time and the events of his day.
Now Archie may be able to deftly maneuver our daily routine, but the signposts marking the structure of our days are changing. Kit’s ballet lessons have ended. The twins’ preschool classes concluded two weeks ago. Jack’s gymnastics spring semester was over last week. Archie’s school year is finished. Kit and Jack’s last art class before summer camps begin was on Friday, and this Thursday will be our last swimming lesson at the YMCA.
In a few weeks the twins will be taking vacation gymnastics and art classes, and Archie will be back at his alma mater for summer school. We’ll have a schedule guiding us as I do my best to keep the time between activities. But right now… Well, right now Archie, Kit and Jack are upstairs in my bedroom on the oversized ottoman at the foot of my bed, watching Imagination Movers.
After I got home from the gym, after I took a shower, I helped the kids pick up their toy room and change out of their pajamas and into their outfits for the day. We don’t have to be anywhere until later this afternoon, and I won’t have to rush to finish our laundry so I can put it away and pick out three new school day outfits to lie out on the counter separating our kitchen and family room by bedtime tonight.
I’ll tell you that if I had to operate at this pace for a long period of time I’m sure I’d stagnate, but for now slowing down feels good. This time of transition between what we used to do and what we’re going to do next, it is Archie, Kit, Jack and my recovery period. It turns out they’re right when they say you’ve got to rest before you can move forward, both actually and astutely.