The Spiral: Parenting a Child with Anxiety

Today was one of those days. You know…. THOSE days. The kind of day where anything that could possibly go wrong, has. The kind of day that the only direction it can possibly go is… More wrong.

After making the kids breakfast, I noticed that my 7-year old appeared to have a few spots on his face. Upon further inspection, I realized he had a full-fledged rash. Covering his entire body. 30 minutes before his bus came on a SCHOOL DAY. Eeek. I quick called the doctor to get an appointment that was able to be squeezed in between preschool drop-off and pick-up time for his younger sister. Whew. I rearranged a few things and set forth with my new morning agenda. I got this!

Because my preschooler isn’t used to having her elementary-aged brother in tow at her school drop-off, her drop-off was hard. Her normal sunshine-and-rainbow exterior was a little sad, but she walked right into her room and was a champion! As I left, I did overhear her telling her teacher, “It isn’t faaaaaaaair. My bwuther gets to stay home and pway and I don’t!!! Not a total mental success to start her day, but once Koo Koo Kangaroo comes on the smart board, she’ll forget her family even exists 🙂 One down….. two to go.

The baby and I took big “bwuther” to the doctor next. All was fine and dandy… Up until the second the nurse came walking in with a choke stick expected to kill my firstborn the swab to test for strep. “Take it like a man” you say? My child did not. He shriveled his 7-year old body up into the fetal position, slowly sank off of the exam table, and assumed his cowering position under the deepest and darkest corner in the office. This is what we as moms call the moment. This pivotal moment was meant to test moms and see what we’re really made of. Do we use our calm bodies & quiet voices to use our words and soothe (as we’ve instructed our offspring to do hundreds of times) or do we let the gasket blow and pay no regard whatsoever to the mandatory reporters in our presence? I tried to do a combination and (thankfully) the doctor walked in at that exact moment so there was another pair of hands – and calming personalities – to do my “mom job” for me. Did I mention my one-year old had scaled a wall and was sitting atop the window at this exact moment?? What a shit show I’ve created in my day.

The gagging stick had gone away to be tested, but the ridiculous amount of snot and drool and screams from my 2nd grader had stayed in the room. The doctor tried to talk to me – and tell my son to knockitoff (he found a way to turn it into a somewhat joke, but he meant it – All one word, now in caps, KNOCKITOFF). To summarize the visit: My son tested negative for strep, he had an unknown NON-INFECTIOUS VIRUS, and he could go back to school.

Did I want my son to have strep, that would eventually be spread to his two sisters before knocking his parents out? NO. Did I hope that he would be diagnosed with something scary and awful? DEFINITELY NO. Did I at least want the doctor to kindly suggest I keep him home for monitoring the rest of the day? FOR SURE. Did I know that no good would come from taking him to school mid-day after throwing him off of his routine and all that he’s ever known about a school drop off? ABSOLUTELY.

Ehhhh. Here it is – Another pivotal mom moment. I won’t lie, 90% of me wanted to chalk the day up to a loss. I would lie to my son and tell him he had a slight fever and had to stay home for today and that he would return to school tomorrow. Unfortunately, he’s a pathological truth teller and would assuredly go to school the next day and tell him classroom teacher that “the thermometer said 97.9 so he was well below the 100.4 threshold of school acceptance.” Sadly, this isn’t our first health scare rodeo so my little number man has retained the info to memory and knows what each number on the scale means. No, no, no. I can’t give into his anxieties. He’ll never learn to overcome if I don’t give him opportunities to succeed.

Welllllllllll, an opportunity he got…. A success he did not achieve!

It’s all too harrowing to describe in full detail, so I’ll summarize via bullet points:

  • As he left me in the office, he was hysterically crying and his face was one of fight-or-flight panic. He was in full on distress mode and I knew that.
  • I saw him duck into a nearby adult bathroom and heard him lock the door. While I know he was taking the time to breathe and calm his body down before (gasp) a friend saw him acting like this, I also wondered if he was looking up to the ceiling boards to plan an escape route.
  • I touched base with the nurse to “assure her everything was fine and what he had was non-infectious” (SAID THE DOCTOR!!!!!)…. But more importantly, to let her know that my 7 year old may be suicidal due to not getting on bus #1601 at exactly 8:57am from our corner of Valley View & Valley View. You see, all of these numbers and stats swirl around in my son’s brain each morning. These are the stats that he has on repeat & loop. It drives me crazy but keeps him sane. It reminds him that he knows what is happening, that he expects the expected, and that he’s got this crazy thing called life under control.
  • In total, it took SEVEN adults, TWO peers,THREE trips to the nurse’s office, ONE extended stay in an adult bathroom and 75 minutes before my son made it to 2nd grade. To start his day. Which began, for him, at approximately 1:30. An hour and a half and he’d be done with the school day that took SO MUCH to get him to start.

If you’re a mom of a child with anxiety, you know that your day doesn’t improve once your child leaves your side. For the rest of my day, I focused on the what if’s, the what-could-I-do-better next times, and the many MANY questions of how did it go sooooooooo wrong.

I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally drained. I feel like I failed at 7,000 things and did well at ZERO.

Eh. These feelings can be summed up with one sentence – I am a mom of a child with anxiety.

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