Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Long Family Tradition of Weeping at School

There are lots of things I hope my kids inherit from Groom-boy and me. Groom-boy's relaxed attitude, his sense of decency and his ability to imitate any foreign accent you can think of are some examples. I'd love it if they had my sense of humour, my stunning good looks and modesty, and my eagerness to bring out the best in people.

There are lots of things I wish my kids would not inherit, too. While Girlchild looks absolutely gorgeous with those blond locks of hers, I sure hope she has a better time of taming the unruliness of naturally curly hair than I ever did. I hope my kids don't get that annoying red-dotty skin on the backs of their arms like I have. I hope they're not as shy as I am and that they are less likely to let people stomp all over them.

Worrying falls into the latter "omigod please don't inherit this" category. (At this point anyone who has the prefix "psych" in their job title should be prepared to say, "You, my dear, clearly have some unresolved anxiety issues." But we'll get to that in a moment.)

I was the classic Kindergarten Crybaby(TM). Yes, ladies and gentleman, I was "that kid" who blubbered throughout the day for no real discernible reason and probably added more than a few grey hairs to my poor mother's head - not to mention the teacher, who had to send home a little sticker with me every day for a few weeks that had either a happy face or a sad face to let my mom know how my day went.

My mom tells me they could NOT figure out what the heck the problem was and I, of course, don't even remember anything about it, other than waiting around after school for my sticker. Apparently school started out well, but then part way through autumn I hit some sort of snag and suddenly didn't want to go. Since they hadn't invented bullies way back then, at least not until Grade 1, that wasn't the issue. Near as Mom could figure I was convinced I was missing out on some terrific fun at home with her and my baby brother. (Yeah, Mom watched the Y&R while Brother napped.)

Can you guess where this is going? Do we know a child who is in Kindergarten and who has lately shown a distinct distaste for school for no discernible reason? Why, yes! Yes we do.

Day 6 of 7 did not go well. Not only was the 24-hour preamble to the drop off a nightmarish sequence of blubbering and excuses, but the drop off itself very nearly involved a crowbar (not to whack me over the head, which would have been less painful, but to pry my child away from me, silly).

Then Boychild's teacher called at lunch. Still crying (Boychild, not her). Not eating (Boychild, and probably not her, either, since she was on the phone to me). What to do?

Well, we LIE to him, of course! Tell him there's no point in going home because Mommy's not there. She's not watching Y&R while Baby Sister naps, she's at a meeting!


Boychild thrives on routine, and this alternate-day Kindergarten thing interspersed with holidays, vacations and illnesses makes things, well, hellish - I mean difficult. And to make it worse, I know he comes by this naturally. I remember feeling anxious about changes in routine (it still happens). I remember worrying when my parents or another adult weren't around. I remember dwelling on the strangest things. I was a weird little kid. I still am.

Once when I was talking to a friend about Boychild's anxieties she said it must be helpful that I know how it feels. You'd think, but it's not. I didn't know how to deal with my own anxiety then, and I'm still not sure. [Cue the "psych" folks here.] So now I just sit around and worry about worrying, which is very helpful.

Anyhoo, next week we're getting back to a steadier week of school and I'm hoping that will help. Routine, blessed routine. Does anyone else out there have an anxious child? Do you have any tips? Does hitting yourself over the head with the crowbar help at all?

(Incidentally, my own Kindergarten crying ended famously when one day, as the neighbour girl who walked me to school waited at the kitchen door, my mother slammed down a wooden spoon on the counter and hollered something like, "That's enough! I've had it! You're going to school!" Apparently that was all it took. And it probably made the neighbour girl want to get her little butt to school, too.)


momma's heart said...

My six-year-old boy comes by his anxiety from my side of the family, for sure, although the way the anxiety manifests itself is unique to him. He is fearful of firecrackers, fire (even pilot lights in heaters), any conceivable chance of explosion, loud noises, air shows/plane crashes, our car breaking down/exploding, loud machines, lawn mowers, etc. We have to monitor everything we say. We can never have the news on in front of him, and we can't let him watch anything other than PBS kids.

He does fine in separating from us, but will talk about his shyness and fearfulness before going to new social situations.

There are no absolutes in how to handle it all, and it is hard to have patience with it in every situation. We went on a maple sugaring field trip recently and he almost lost it over the wood-burning stove that is part of the sugar house machinery. Sometimes, I am embarrassed by his fear and it can make me feel like a failure as a parent.

Emily, my fifteen-month-old, will not let us have a peaceful date. She won't go to anyone, and we hate to put anyone through that, even for a quick two-hour dinner date. It may have started because we left her in the church nursery and they didn't let us know (via the pager they gave us) that she was having a really hard time. Somehow, she seems to remember that anxiety and now fears me leaving her. My two boys loved church nurseries. They never wanted to leave them. lol

They are all so different.

I, too, hope they get my husband's laid back personality, as opposed to my type A. Except that, in my husband's case, it translated in to a low wage job, which takes its toll on the family. My husband and I are two extremes. Hopefully, our kiddos come out with balance. Maybe God's plan all along, in bringing us together?

Hopefully, as I continue to read your blog, your talented writing will rub off on me. lol I would have a hard time meeting any deadlines, but it would be nice to make some extra money. I love writing, and sometimes my words flow out smoothly, but other times they seem so stiff and contrived.

You really DO wear a lot of hats. You're exceptional, although you probably don't see that yourself.

Steph said...

Thank you for your insight and for sharing. It certainly can be frustrating to see little ones suffer with anxiety, especially when it seems so, well, "unreasonable" sometimes. Of all the myriad of hats I wear, parenting is - without question - the hardest one of all. Heartbreaking and heart-lifting all at once. I suppose we should remember that most parents, even the very best ones, learn as they go and everything turns out okay.

Thanks also for the very nice compliment. You're right - "exceptional" is not a word I would necessarily use to describe myself. These days "idiot" springs to mind....

Keep writing. I have learned it can take a long time to find the exact voice or subject that makes the words come easily. You're doing great!