On Saturday, we were at services at the Beth Israel all morning. On the way out of the synagogue, Sam was walking backwards. We were all going to the car, so it was easy enough for him do it. I reminded him to step DOWN off the curb (because he couldn’t see it), and Marc guided him to the car by telling him to veer slightly to the left, or head right. One would think that one of us would have pointed out the problem in walking backwards is that YOU CAN’T SEE WHERE YOU ARE GOING. But neither of us did, and Sam successfully made it to the car.
We were in the house for just a few minutes, changing, and the kids got ready first and headed back outside. We were on our way up to Green Hill Park for the kite flying festival. By the time I made it out to the car, Sam had already learned the hard way why walking backwards was a colossally bad idea. We started driving, and Sam mentioned, in passing, that he had scraped his leg. I glanced back, and yeah, he had scraped his whole shin up.
Sam is oddly stoic and completely anxious. So he wasn’t at all bothered by the scrape, or the pain of having fallen into a stone wall. No, he didn’t lose it until it started bleeding – at which point, he lost his mind. Sobbing and freaking out – THERE WAS BLOOD!. He went from totally relaxed “yeah, I scraped my leg” to hyperventilating. If I based my reactions on his – I would have assumed that his leg had been cut off, because he was that freaked out.
Learning how to deal with an anxious kid isn’t easy – because what seems helpful isn’t. You have to walk a fine line between validating the feelings and also letting him know that it’s not as hard as he thinks it is. There is no point in jumping in with him, if I freaked out about the blood and the injury (which was a huge scrape – nothing that required stitches or even really needed a band aid, but was about four inches wide, and three inches long, it took up most of his shin, and probably did hurt like hell), it would only have made it worse. But hollering at him to pull it together and snap out of it wasn’t going to work either.
It’s not something that comes naturally to either of us, Marc or I. But the way to handle it was exactly what we did – which was to get some gauze and ointment, and a little tape and bandage up the scrape so that he couldn’t see it, and then distract him with something else. Just at the point where I was started to overanalyze and worry about what this meant for Sam’s future – is he always going to lose his mind when he gets hurt? What can I do to make him stronger and better able to handle the inevitable injuries that go along with being an active kid?, Marc glanced back at his little tearstained face and calmly told Sammy that when Daddy was his age, he was the exact same way. Bleeding made him really tense and anxious too, and it was okay to be a little freaked out.
It was just such a perfect way to handle it. I’m so grateful, because Marc understands Sam on a level that I don’t. He was able to fix my little boy, his little boy, with some gauze and tape, and some understanding and assurance that it won’t always be this hard for him. Because the anxiety is going to be a part of his life all the time, but it gets easier. He gets stronger and better able to understand what he’s feeling and why, and be able to rationalize it in his mind. The more he gets scraped and learns that it’s just a little blood, and it won’t last long, the quicker he learns that he can survive that too.
Marc teaches him that it’s okay for him to be exactly who he is. And that even what seems to be scary and horrible isn’t really that bad, and it’ll get better as he gets bigger. And it worked – once the scrape was hidden, Sam was fine, and we spent the afternoon flying kites. It was perfect.