Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Understanding "You Were Late"

Nathan's first day of camp went well.  I didn't get a chance to speak with the counsellor, but the others said it looked like everyone was having fun. (And frankly, Nathan is loud enough when he has a fit that everyone in that building would have heard it.)

The only issue was that Nathan was expecting me right at 4 to pick him up, but I wasn't able to get there before 4:30.  I thought I had told him that was when I would be there (since I had to wait for Alex to get home first) but apparently I hadn't and he was getting worried.

He met me at the door of the camp with a scowl and his backpack all ready to go.  He immediately told me that I was late.  One of the supervisors started to correct Nathan (obviously not wanting me to feel bad) but I stopped him.  If Nathan was expecting me at 4, then I'm late, regardless of whether or not I was expecting to be there at 4.

This is one of those tricky social situations.  Nathan needs to have his discomfort and fears acknowledged.  When he says "you were late" it's less about the time and more about him having the experience of being anxious and wondering when I'm going to be there.  I have to let him know that I understand that feeling and that I'm not going to try and take the experience away from him.  I hate to use the term "validate" since it's overused, but that's basically what it is.  I demonstrate that his feelings are important and I don't dismiss them.

For the rest of society, there is an understood blame attached to "you were late".  We are saying: not only did I have to spend time wondering when and if you were going to show up, but I believe that you did so in a deliberate fashion with either intention or complete disregard of my upset.  That's the part that the supervisor was trying to off-set.  But Nathan doesn't see beyond the literalness of "I thought she was going to be here by now and she's not."

We had a long talk about the fact that he wouldn't be picked up before 4:30 most days and that it would be okay.  Once he understands what to expect, he'll be fine.  And hopefully that's the worst experience for his camp.

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