Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Not Seamless

The transition, that is, from two-plus weeks of lounging and gift-giving, oversleeping and overeating, traveling and togetherness back to the first, real, down-to-business day of January 2012. There was an hour (plus) of crying last night before bed and another hour (plus) of crying this morning before school.

It was a new experience for us, a child who was expressing this very high level of anxiety about something she'd previously never blinked at, and Jason and I reacted differently.

"Stop it," said Jason, because he, truly, is a person who doesn't really worry, who - aside from one specific work-related event this past year - doesn't have anxiety about things. If his brain starts to worry, he stops. Simple as that. But his advice, given more kindly than I've illustrated here, doesn't work for this particular blonde seven-year-old.

My tack: Walk the fine line between sympathetic comfort and firm instruction. Say, "It's normal to feel like this," and, "Everybody feels like this sometimes," and "I know you're brave and strong and you're going to have a great day!" and "Well, you're not sick and you're not staying home." When those things didn't work and the anxiety ramped up to a level that made me think, Psych consult in aisle four, please, I pulled out a few other things, like this gem of a conversation:

A: "I'm just feeling so terrible!"
Me: "Well, that's weird, because you just had a great day sledding, playing outside, having hot cocoa, practicing your piano, and playing with your sister, so it seems like you're feeling fine."
A: "I'm going to tell Mrs. F. that I'm sick and I need to come home."
Me: "If you call me from school, I'm going to ask to talk to Mrs. F. and I'm going to tell her that you're fine."
A: "But what if I'm sick and I need to come home?"
Me: "You throw up, I'll come get you."

and also the much-avoided, for-emergencies-only "I'll lie in bed with you until you can calm down and fall asleep."

As much as I put a brave face on it and focused on getting her to school this morning, 99% sure that all she needed was one day back in her usual routine, of course I worried about her all day long:  talked about her on the treadmill this morning, kept my phone close to me all day, and gave her the biggest hug when she came out of school smiling and reported that she'd had a good day. Pshew.

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