At daycare, he was the one I brought in clinging to my leg. The one crying, asking me not to leave. The one the teachers said would stand outside the circle of kids, watching, until he was ready to join in.
In preschool, he stayed next to me and the other parents while his classmates ran around on the grass, chasing each other before school started. Eventually, he’d join in, but stopped immediately when the teacher came to the door, calling the kids inside. He was also the one reading the books aloud with the teacher at circle time. The one who brought in a globe for show-and-tell.
In kindergarten, he was the one who cried when he was the last one to complete a paper because he had to get it just right. He was terrified of raising his hand for fear of giving the wrong answer. But he was also the one who gave the right answer all the time. The one who had the glowing report card from the start. The model of good behavior for the other kids.
In first and second grade, he was the one who wowed his teacher with his knowledge. He read every book she offered to him, and encouraged his love of history and science. He mastered every subject with ease. But he was also the one who obsessed on his handwriting and not the content of his work. The one who played with a friend or two at recess but didn’t join in the group. The one who needed his dad to coach his baseball team to build his confidence.
In third grade, he was the one who was happy about the extra work sent home from the teacher. He did math puzzles and read extra pages at night and wrote about them in his journal. He was the one who taught the other kids how to make origami Yodas during inside recess. But he was also the one who had an anxiety attack about the school’s standardized assessment tests, to the point where he needed to meet with the guidance counselor. He obsessed over not getting every answer right. And he was also the one with a just few very good friends. The one invited to only a few birthday parties.
He’s shy. Brilliant. Quiet. Sensitive. An old soul. The kid every parent wants their kids to be friends with.
We are now here in fourth grade. Things are a little different.
Last night before bed, Gerry told me he couldn’t go to school. I have a stomach ache, he said, and my leg hurts.
Having been there before, I asked him what was really going on. Every night since school finally started, there has been something new keeping him awake. Up four times a night. Hot and cold. Worried about this and that. Confidence in the toilet. Unsettled. Unable to complete his homework or piano assignments unless either Tim or I are in the room with him.
I’m bored in school, he said.
I pressed him further, knowing this was far from the truth.
Sigh. I can’t focus, okay? I sit there. I want to pay attention but I can’t. I start to daydream and I’m thinking about the Star Wars Clone Wars website, and then about Open House night and then picture day. I go deaf. I don’t hear the other kids around me anymore. When I come back, I’ve missed the whole math lesson. I can’t tune in to anything around me. I have a very full life and my brain can’t shut it off to concentrate on magic math squares.
And up go my red flags.
I know the kid has a lot on his plate. To say things around here are anything but stressful would be a lie. Back to school has been a challenge for us all. His brother is in his school for the first time. Rides in on a different bus. Runs in different circles – literally. Our house has become a revolving door of therapists for both his brothers.
His anxiety about everything is not new. If I can be honest, he’s a lot like me there.
But the focus thing is completely new. This is the first time he’s expected to really pay attention in class. There’s no hand holding anymore.
I had a brief conversation with a neighbor about it this morning. Her middle son started having his attention issues in fourth grade as well. He was so smart, she said, that he had been able to get by on his intellect up to that point. But fourth grade, everything changed. Add in hormones and friend issues…these kids have a lot going on. We’ve started now with anger management problems too. He thinks that his youngest brother gets everything and he gets nothing.
Yes, my neighbor’s youngest son is on the autism spectrum. Just like in our house.
I don’t know where this will all go for Gerry, but I know that I owe it to him to find out. He needs a safe space to go to get it all out. To figure out what is real and what is perceived worry. To get his focus issues under control before they throw us all out of control.
My friend wrote about worry in her post over at Diary of A Mom. It hit home. Hard.
So today we have an appointment with our pediatrician to get things started. And tonight’s at his school’s Open House, I’ll feel out the teacher to see how she can help in the classroom. Immediately.
I worry about all my kids, but Gerry… I need to take his troubles away. To get that shy, brilliant, amazing kid back out.
I’ll help you figure this out, I told him last night. Don’t worry.
I love you, Mom. Thank you.
“Let me have a look inside these eyes while I’m learning.
Please don’t hide them just because of tears.
Let me send you off to sleep with a “There, there, now stop your turning and tossing.”
Let me know where the hurt is and how to heal.
Spare me? Don’t spare me anything troubling.
Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Speak to me and let our words build a shelter from the storm.
Lastly, let me know what I can mend.
There’s more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see.
Trust is what I’m offering if you trouble me.” – Trouble Me by 10000 Maniacs