I sat across the table from my dear friend a few weeks ago as she told me about the problems her son was having in school. A shy, sweet boy, he doesn't fit in with the other boys and is painfully introverted. 'I just want him to have friends. I just want to fix it.' she said. And then my very capable, very level headed, very loving friend started to cry out of frustration and desperation to just make everything okay.
When Katie was in second grade, she had a period of crippling anxiety. It was triggered the very first week of school by a little boy suffering from his own form of anxiety. Every time they had to do a particular task, he would stand up and vomit. Very graphic, very voluminous, projectile vomit. Katie has a severe vomit phobia, so seeing this boy hurl every morning just ruined school for her.
Here was a kid who had always been completely in love with school, now feigning illness to stay home. At first, I was incredulous. Really? I'd say, Stop being silly! He's not going to make you sick! Not the most empathetic response, especially considering I have my own issues with anxiety.
As things got worse, as they progressed from faking illness to calling home in a panic, to lying in the floor crying hysterically, begging us to please, please don't send me to school, so our responses changed. We talked to her teacher, the principal, the guidance counselor. We talked to the pediatrician when she refused to eat because she was afraid she'd get sick, and again for a recommendation for a therapist. And we talked to the therapist. We talked and talked until, slowly, things righted themselves and life returned to normal.
Through the process we had the care and concern and support of doctors and teachers, but no one could do the one thing I wanted done instantly. No one could fix her. Worst of all, I couldn't fix her. What good am I as a mother if I can't magically solve her problems?
When they are very small, fixing is so easy. A kiss or snuggle or clean diaper or warm milk. It gets progressively harder with age until it reaches the point where you wonder if there's anything you can do at all. As parents, we're willing to explore any option, with careful consideration, to help our children. My friend sat across the table from me, had a little cry, then carefully outlined what she was going to do to help her boy. She told me all the things they were going to do to give him the tools he needs. Then she said 'And I just keep telling him that he's a great kid and we love him.'
While we might not be able to fix all their problems, while we might not have all the right answers, we can do that. We can let them know that they're always loved, and never alone.
2 weeks ago