Settling In

Settling In

Photo by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli

Maybe I came to visit too soon.

“Can I see the mark?” I asked near the end of our FaceTime session.

“Sure,” the assistant said.

I moved my iPad so Madison could see more of my face.

“Hey Missy,” I said using my pet name for her, “I just want to see your boo-boo, Sweetie. Let me see under your pretty bangs.”

“Madison, look at Mommy,” the assistant said, lifting up Madison’s hair so I could see.

“Wow, it’s practically gone,” I said, squinting into the display. “I can’t see it at all.”

“Yes, it healed very quickly.”

“Thank goodness.” I watched Madison tease me with her impish smile.  “And remember,” I prompted.

“I love you,” she replied.

“Always and,” I prompted again.

“Forever,” she answered, smiling her goofy grin.

“See you soon, Missy! Bye-Bye.”

And I let her hang up first, part of the learning process of our “Family Time” session.

Although I try to visit most Tuesdays, sometimes I can’t make it. So, we’ve tried to generalize “Lunch with Mommy,” on the schedule to “Family Time,” teaching her how to use the iPad for conversation.

I rested my chin in my hands after Madison ended the session. Ah, my Madison, my many-mooded Madison. I had thought about her boo-boo all week.

She had just started her new adult services program. Although housed in the same building as the school, there were still significant changes in her daily routine. When we came for our Tuesday lunch outing, I could tell she was unsettled. She was louder than normal and kept giving herself pressure, pressing both hands to her chin, a signal she was trying to calm herself.

We made it back to school with no incident. Ten minutes after I arrived back home, however, I got the call. When Madison returned, she threw herself on the floor and bloodied her head. She was fine, no stitches required.

“I’m so sorry,” I said to the assistant. “I knew she was fragile. Is she ok?”

“Yes, we cleaned her up and she’s back on track. She’s happy now.”

I exhaled and hung up the phone.

Maybe I had visited too soon.

It was the first week of her new day program. New classmates. New teacher. New schedule. Maybe I should have given her more time to adjust.

It felt like the same “no man’s land” I’d experienced when I launched my other kids to college. Do I call or not? Text or not? Will it be supportive if they hear from me or will it remind them of home and make the transition more difficult?

Same questions. Different setting.

With my college kids, structure helped. We set aside time for phone calls for my oldest and Skype with my youngest. And I did give them time to settle in their new routines.

I’d hope our outing would be part of the stability in Madison’s transition, but maybe it was upsetting—a reminder of what used to be.

The fix? As usual—time and effort.

I decided to give her a couple more weeks to settle in. The upcoming 30-day review will be a good snapshot of her transition progress.

And just like the process with her college siblings, I’ll adapt and adjust—and figure out how to be part of my child’s new world.

This column was originally published as part of my “Tuesdays with Madison” series at