I opened one eye this morning and waited for it. Opened the other eye, jumped out of bed and waited for it. Brushed my teeth, combed my hair and waited for it. Went to the top of the stairs, called my son up to get dressed for school and then it came.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I am not going to school today. I don't want to go. I'm too scared!"
Here we go, I thought. Brandon had been saying since Monday that he was absolutely not going to go to school on Thursday because he did not want to be in the Hoedown. He was too scared to get up on stage with the other kindergarten students and sing for the parents. I'd been helping him to think of other more pleasant events during the week and distracting him to make him feel better, but now it was showtime. Time to perform - him at the 'hoedown' and me at 'what was about to go down' to get him on the bus.
As Brandon began to scream and cry and slam the door - oh wait. It wasn't Brandon who slammed the door. That would be my husband who heard what was about to take place and quickly snuck out the door to go to work. I really can't blame him. At that moment I really wished I had a job outside of the home that I could escape to as well. (Or that it was acceptable to have a glass of wine at 7 in the morning!)
I first tried talking to him about why he was afraid. This did not work at all. He didn't care why. He just knew that he was scared and the solution for him was simply not to go. Now of course, at this point I could have saved myself and him a lot of aggravation and tears and just let him stay home. I mean it was just a kindergarten performance, not high school graduation. But I know my son, and I know that if I don't help him to face his fears, he will never get over them. Every small step he takes in overcoming an anxiety makes it that much easier the next time.
I realized that I was not going to be able to get him to change his feelings - he was scared and that was not going to go away. So instead I focused on how he could best handle that fear and get himself to face it by going to school. We started by focusing on the task at the moment. "Brandon, you don't need to go to school yet. I just need you to get dressed."... "Let's have breakfast." ..."Brush your teeth." And when he started to get upset between tasks, we went back to breathing deep and focusing on what we were doing right then.
I chose not to talk with him about being scared anymore, because I realized that it was just feeding the fear. I validated his fear and gave him lots of hugs and kisses, but I did not try to get him to not be afraid. Talking about it was making him more upset and irrational. Sticking with our routine as best as we could calmed him down.
Then it was time to pack up to go to the bus stop - definitely the hardest part. I have had to make the choice before of whether to send him crying on the bus or drive him to school. Not easy, but again the change in routine from bus to car usually does nothing for his anxiety but prolong it.
Brandon loves sea animals and has a manatee stuffed animal that is very special to him. I had him get the manatee and he and I asked the manatee to hold all of Brandon's fears about today in his heart and mind so that Brandon could get on the bus and go to school with no worries. I told Brandon that he could take the manatee to school with him to give him strength and to keep all his yucky feelings for him. Somehow this worked and Brandon got on the bus with only a little hesitation. After the bus left, I sat at the top of the driveway, closed my eyes, and prayed. I sent positive thoughts, courage, and peace to Brandon and then waited to see what would happen at the Hoedown.
I saw Brandon's class march on stage with their happy little chick hats (and at that moment understood why Brandon kept telling me he didn't want to wear the hat - kind of looked like a pilgrim woman's hat that had been attacked by a flock of birds!). Then my fear set in when I did not see Brandon up on stage. Friends sitting nearby didn't seem him either. I had visions of him having a nervous breakdown in the nurse's office. But then my neighbor spotted him. He had put his chick hat so far down in front that you couldn't see his face! A few seconds later he picked up his head and looked around. I gave him a big wave and smile and he smiled and waved back - and then proceeded to sing and act with the rest of his class. Ahhhhhhh...he did it!
On our way home from school I asked him if he was glad that he went today. He said yes and that he was proud of himself for doing a good job. It was really only just a little scary he said. So I suggested that next year's performance in first grade would now be a breeze for him. To which he replied, "I'm not going to first grade mom. It is just going to be too long of a day. I want to stay with you." Oh well, one step, one day at a time I guess. At least it is now after 5pm. Perfectly acceptable to have that glass of wine now!
May your heart be at ease,