A time for learning

One mom shares her family’s ups and downs over the summer break 

By Courtnee Estabrooks

As excited as I was for summer, it brought on a whole new storm of meltdowns from Hunter. Of course, the fact that he can go outside now makes him not want to ever come in. So, when he has to come in, we usually have to have a good purpose or bribe to get him to come inside with minimal crying that doesn’t last at least an hour. 

I usually have to have a bath running, a Popsicle, or a meal on the table to make this transition the easiest. But also have to make sure I cover my tracks once getting him inside, to make sure I haven’t left any outside doors or distractions within his sight or opportunity. There’s also the plus side of how much he loves being outside now, though, and how much more energy he’s able to burn off, running around that backyard all day and playing on the swing set, plus learning new swimming skills as the months pass on as well.  

He absolutely loves water. We were fortunate this past year to meet an amazing lady, Frances, who volunteered her time to us, and other kiddos with disabilities, to teach swimming lessons once a week. We’ve come so far since we started them. It gives me a little more confidence in Hunter’s abilities. We still have a long way to go, but to see what he has taken in, when you have no clue if he’s even paying attention when you’re talking to him, gives me more hope for possible dreams he might have of accomplishing in the future. 

Hunter’s also been showing another side of himself these last two months. He’s always been a pretty easy going and happy kid, despite his hurdles, and his busy factor. But Matt made a trip home after being away for work for a couple months. 

The Walk For Autism is a big event for the Estabrooks family. Mom, Courtnee, and sons, Hayden and Hunter along with friends and family participated again this year, raising more than $1,000 for the event.

During this trip home we had no problems leaving the kids with sitters so Matt and I could have a date night or run errands. Then we were driving to the city as a family and stopped at the airport to get gas. As soon as Hunter saw the airport he started crying and freaking out in the back seat. As soon as we turned around to head back to the highway, he instantly calmed down. We quickly realized that he thought we were going to drop Matt off to fly back out. 

So, come fly day we all went into the airport to drop Matt off, whereas we normally just drop him off outside and go straight home. Again, as soon as Hunter saw the airport he started crying. He calmed while we were all in the airport. But once the kids and I got back out to the car, he realized we were leaving without Dad and started crying again. 

Since taking Matt to the airport he won’t let me go. Now, when I have had to leave him with someone, or even just leave him with my sister-in-law for a minute to go to the store, he melts down bawling until I get back. I’m glad he misses us and loves us, but it’s making it harder to want and be able to leave him with anyone, when you know he’s going to spend the first half hour, at least, screaming. We hope he’ll adjust to this again, but for now we just try to grin and bear it.

Hunter’s succeeded in escaping the house a few times. Thankfully, we have great neighbours who care for him and his safety when he gets out. I started tying gates shut and changing locks. 

Hunter’s older brother, Hayden, held a good old-fashioned lemonade stand at their family home to raise money for their family’s Walk for Autism team. He raised nearly $300.

He also had his first ER visit for the summer months as well, after playing with his brother on the trampoline. He was okay and just had pulled muscles. But Hunter doesn’t relay pain like the average person or communicate. 

He still loves rough housing and play. Hayden’s been doing a great job with this, too. Some days this is good, other days you’re scared they’re going to take the house down with their path of destruction. 

But most days I see Hunter just clinging to Hayden, wanting to be his best buddy and have all his attention, how can that not melt your heart. And Hayden’s been doing so amazing at being that leader for him. Some days he can get a bit annoyed and just wants his own space away from his brother.  

Both of my boys are learning so much about each other, our world, and communities. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe it. This past month our community taught our family so much about caring for and supporting each other. Together, we’re opening our eyes and accepting the challenges and opportunities that come our way. I have to say a huge thank you!  

Editor’s Note: Courtnee Estabrooks writes a regular column in the Enfield Weekly Press. There, she shares thoughts and details on her family’s life, including stories on her son who has autism. Courtnee, her husband, Matt, and sons, Hunter and Hayden live in Enfield. You can follow their story at enfieldweeklypress.com