Jak was facing a real challenge at the beginning of this year. He had just finished his first year in primary, and he was loving life as a Sunbeam. He even loved the Sunbeam theme song and would often pick it for our family home evenings. When he did, and we sang it, it was always with vigor. He loved his teachers in his Sunbeams class and he loved his classmates. After a year, he finally had this whole primary thing down. He was finally comfortable. This was both good and bad, and ultimately what was leading to his challenge. Jak likes being comfortable. He likes a routine. He likes when what happens this Sunday is the same thing that happens every Sunday. He does not like when it all changes. We know this about Jak, so we began to prepare him in November for the change that we knew was coming in January, hoping that having knowledge beforehand would help to begin to cope with it all now, and be ready for the change, and maybe even embrace it.
The week leading up to the big change, we really pushed it hard. We reminded him everyday that the change was coming, but that it was a good change, an exciting change. About Thursday or Friday, Jak had had enough. He was tired of hearing about his new class and how great it would be, and he just cracked. He got angry at me when I brought it up again. I asked him what was wrong, and at first he wouldn’t look at me. If I tried to position myself so he was looking at me, he would just rotate himself so he wasn’t. Finally, I asked him again what was wrong, and he answered. In his quiet little Jak voice, he mumbled, while looking at the floor, “Daddy, I just don’t do well with change.” That may have been an understatement, and something we all knew. The important thing, though, was that he knew. He recognized in himself that he doesn’t do well with change.
When I say he doesn’t like when things are different, when things change up all of a sudden, you’re probably thinking, well duh! Who does like constant change? No one really enjoys it when things change, but we all learn to adapt, and sometimes we even appreciate it. That’s not Jak. One might argue that he’s still a kid, so it’s pretty typical, and maybe that’s true too, but I have four other kids, and they all deal with change a lot better than Jak does. Let me give you some examples of how Jak copes with change, or doesn’t.
Jack goes to bed at pretty much the same time every night. We don’t have to put him in bed, he just goes. He walks into his bedroom and climbs under his Superman blanket, the only one he will sleep with, and lays his head down on his pillow pet, the only pillow he will use, and goes to sleep. Jak also gets up at the same time each morning. Unfortunately for us, that time is 5:00. Well, I should say, unfortunately for my wife, because Jak won’t let anyone else get him a drink, or help him get dressed or do anything. Only Mom. Jak only likes to wear Superman shirts. No other superheroes, especially not Batman. And the examples go on and on. He doesn’t just not like change, he lives in a world where change doesn’t happen. Or at least he would like to think he does.
The truth is, none of us lives in a world where change does not happen. We all live in a world where change happens constantly. There is no way around it. Jak has to learn how to adjust, but how do we help him learn that? When he is faced with change, especially sudden change, it isn’t just a grumpy reaction, it can be an all out temper tantrum. He goes into this mode where he almost forgets that the rest of the world exists, maybe even that he exists. He just cries and moans, and he doesn’t stop until, well he stops. You can’t distract him from it or really do anything to make it better. You just have to wait and ride it out. That’s all you can do. That makes it tough.
If we know the change is coming then we can help him prepare for the change, but sometimes we don’t know when the change is coming. Besides that, Jak can’t keep throwing a fit every time something happens. I think on some level he knows this. That’s why he recognizes that he doesn’t do well with change, and he needs to change that. We just get stuck on how. I guess the only thing we can do is just be patient with him and keep helping him through the changes.
Once he accepts whatever is new, he is fine. It’s just getting him to that point. When he mentioned the other day that he didn’t do well with change, it reminded me how special this little boy really is. Sometimes, we as parents forget how special each of our kids are when we find ourselves in moments like temper tantrums. I know I do. But this was a little thing that reminded me that Jak doesn’t quite see the world the same way most people do. And that makes him pretty fantastic.