Maya has been ready to jump out of her skin for the last three days in anticipation of camp. Besides obsessively piling up the mountains of toys and stuffed animals she wanted to take with her, with me always playing bad cop and telling her, no, you can only take 3 stuffed animals with you and a couple other little things. She has told me no less than 35 times how all kids going to camp had the day off on Monday while the kids not going to camp had to go to school. And of course endless rattling off of who is going and who is not going.
It's been a pretty long weekend, all things considered.
This is Maya's second year going to school camp so since we are not first timers, we don't have the whole trepidation about her being away from home for several days. She did fine last year and we have no doubt she will do fine this year.
The purpose of school camp is really threefold, one is to culminate the year doing lots of fun activities, since many kids with special needs, like Maya, have a tough time breaking routines for things like sports days, field trips, etc., they figure that they just get it in one chaotic go. The second purpose is learning. School camp offers kids an opportunity to achieve some independence in a secure environment. Last year Maya came home from school camp brushing her own teeth for the first time and also taking a shower rather than a bath but the kids get the opportunity to care for their own things and stuff without their moms doing everything for them.
It is a self esteem building exercise as much as it is fun.
To be honest, Maya has never been all that difficult about being away from home. She actually even as a baby or young toddler didn't have a lot of separation anxiety. Sure there was the occasional clingy ness but it never lasted long. I think largely because her innate happiness blocks out that part of her, she can have difficulty but her nature will not let her stay down for the count for long.
I love that about her.
Last night when we finally settled on the stuff she was taking (and I went and got the bigger back pack to fit it in). We agreed on 6 little stuffed animals, a glow in the dark puzzle/flashlight ball (good for fine motor skills), 2 books, a flashlight, a toy parachute complete with guy all strapped in, a couple of playmobiles and a couple Thomas Trains.
It's amazing how she still connects with Thomas and his friends and how in times of uncertainty, she still looks to Thomas and his friends for security. Although she no longer plays obsessively with Thomas anymore (it was a single minded obsession for a very long time).
When Maya was first introduced to Thomas, I do think it was the first time she really began to understand the concept of emotions, both her own and those of other people. Those little trains taught her the importance of being kind, of listening, of not panicking when you get into trouble and that you can make a mistake without it being the end of the world.
She often looks to Thomas and his friends for security, she often thinks about what they would do and she often comforts herself by scripting episodes of Thomas and his friends from books.
They are so important to her, that yesterday when she was providing me with instructions on how to take care of her baby dolls she told me very succinctly that this is what I had to do:
Day 1: give milk
Day 2: give vegetables
Day 3: teach them to walk
Day 4: teach them about Thomas
Now this was a funny little exchange, but I do think it shows how much importance Maya places on Thomas and his Friends and it is not a mere obsession in that she loves them, she has many other toys and games that she loves just as much. I think what she is saying in the best way she knows how is that those little trains are, in her own head, fundamental to her development, so essential to her existence, that naturally they would be as critical to a baby's survival as eating and walking are.
If you are not familiar with Thomas, they are a group of little trains from the Island of Sodor, each train has their own distinct character and job on the railroad. Some are nice, some are a bit cheeky. Maya most closely identifies with Percy who is described as:
Percy is the junior member of the principal team of engines. This little chap is normally quite happy puffing around the yard. He's always keen to oblige, a fact of which the other engines are apt to take advantage.
Our Maya is a joyful, happy girl who just does her own thing, she loves making people happy and sometimes this causes kids to sometimes get over on her a little, but she just takes it in stride.
Maya is Percy. I can't believe I only realized it just now.