A new semester rolled around at our house: the start of the new school year and our co-op. You’re probably thinking “what!? School already?” Yup, for whatever strange reason, our school district started on the first week of August. Since co-op loosely follows the school calendar, off we went.
The anxieties roared up into massive flames threatening to derail our day. Week, even, because the Engineer and I both battled it for a while before the actual day.
Everyone is different
I find it interesting in a philosophical sort of way how differently our anxieties manifest. It’s highly dependent on personality. The Engineer and I build up our anxiety until our bodies are jittery balls of energy tense with fear. He says his stomach aches. My digestive system revolts and sends me into a downward spiral towards another colitis attack.
My daughter’s anxieties spike during the event. She’s blithely happy until the “thing” actually happens, and then she panics and goes into blind fear mode. My youngest builds anxiety into mountains of fear that I’m not around, culminating in a meltdown or eloping incident.
Since I was actually teaching 4 different classes while my kids were in their classes, it made the day interesting. My anxieties stem from self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and overt fear that I’m going to screw up. Once I get into the swing of things I’m usually ok, which is why I’m used to forcing myself to go DO the “thing.”
How my kids handled it
The Engineer struggled with anxiety, worrying excessively about his shirt. We talked through what he could say if someone didn’t like it. He and I discussed why he was worried about the shirt. I helped him list how many friends he already knows from the summer semester and how that should make the first day easier. Once we were there and he connected with people, he was fine. More than fine – he had a great time!
The Princess wasn’t fine. Her first class was with me, and she slowly spiraled down into a meltdown. She ended up hiding behind one of the barriers while her other teacher kept an eye on her as I taught her class. After class I took a quick break and checked on her in the quiet area she had retreated to. We worked to calm her body down so that she could rejoin her class when it was time for playground time. For the rest of the day she was irritatingly normal, and scared her teacher by blithely disappearing.
The Destroyer started off well. He was so excited about the play area that I had no trouble dropping him off. He knew where to find me and he was itching to get to the train table and play. He’s my kid with severe separation anxiety, so I knew I had to check on him or risk problems. When I popped my head in the door after the first class, he dropped everything and came to me, upset that I wasn’t with him.
I took him with me to the next class. He sat happily at an empty table and colored while I taught, perfectly content knowing that I was within reach. After lunch and the playground, he calmly walked back into the play area and spent the rest of the day there. Right up until he announced that he needed to find me and strode out of the play room.
Of all the weird things to be thankful for
I’ve never been thankful for my anxiety. It’s always messed up perfectly good times, ruined anticipation, and stressed my body out. This week I was thankful – because I knew what my kids were going through. I understood how to reach them. I knew how to help them cope. If someone who didn’t understand that critical information was in charge of my kids, there would be fireworks.
The Engineer would dig in his heels at insistence that his clothes were fine. The Princess would have completely lost it if someone had gotten frustrated or angry with her. The Destroyer would have been traumatized if I had insisted that he stay in the play area. I navigated this entire field of emotional landmines because I’ve been there. I know.
That’s the only thing that makes it bearable. Being able to help my kids cope. Being able to understand them more.
Thanks, anxiety. I think?