Schooled by My Child’s Anxiety
The call from the school where my son has just started junior kindergarten came on Monday, barely an hour after I had settled into a busy day at work.
“We have Graham here in the office,” said the voice at the other end of the phone. “He’s not feeling very well and I think you’ll have to come and get him.”
“What?! Is he okay?”
“I don’t think it’s serious,” was the reply. “Here, I’ll let you talk to him.”
There was a shuffling noise and then, Graham’s voice, so thin and tiny that I instantly felt my chest ache as my heart swelled and pushed against it.
“I throwed up in the trash can Mommy. Are you going to come and get me?”
I went and got him.
I took him home and tried to catch up on work emails while he lolled on the couch and watched cartoons. I fed him chicken noodle soup and buttered sourdough toast and anxiously inquired about his well-being.
He appeared to be perfectly fine.
He appeared better then fine, actually: he appeared buoyant and, in retrospect, perhaps just a little relieved. That evening I even took him to the park and let him run off an obvious surfeit of energy.
Yesterday morning I walked him into his classroom where we were greeted by his teacher.
“Graham seemed fine at home yesterday,” I told her.
“Well I think it was probably just nerves, but he looks way better today than he has since he started,” she said. “I mean, he’s just seemed so anxious.”
I decided not to make a big deal of it: when I spoke to Graham after school yesterday he was happy as a clam and assured me he had a “great” day. I decided not to say anything about it at all.
And then this morning, as I buckled him into his car seat, a look of pure panic flashed across his dear, wee face.
“I’m gonna be sick Mommy, I’m gonna be sick,” he wailed. “I need a sick bowl.”
I handed him the car’s waste paper basket and stood there for quite a while, rubbing his back and trying to reassure him.
“It’s okay. It’s normal. Everybody feels a little nervous sometimes. Even Mommy when she goes to work. All the other kids at school probably feel a little nervous too.”
After a few minutes he seemed okay and off we went.
I walked him into his classroom again where the morning story was already in progress and apologized for our lateness.
“Graham had a little attack of nerves,” I whispered to the teacher, as discreetly as possible.
She smiled kindly.
“Yes, that happened yesterday as well.”
And so it seems that perhaps my darling boy is not quite as confident as he seems or as I so proudly asserted he was following his first day of school last week.
And so it seems that I must come to grips with the painful realization that the child I thought I knew better than my own heart has anxieties and fears that, for whatever reason, he feels he must keep hidden from me.
The heart, it breaks.
Originally published on DonMillsDiva
Photo courtesy of Don Mills Diva