Sam has some anxiety issues. And he’s really stubborn too, so when he starts to get really anxious and panicked about something, he kind of sinks into it, and it’s wicked hard to pull him out. And apparently, I’m kind of a trigger for explosive tears. He can hold it in and appear to be fine, until he sees me. And then… yeah, suffice it to say that today was not one that I’d want to repeat again. Except for this one moment… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
They were having the annual spring concert today at their elementary school. And by they, I mean my stepdaughter, daughter and son. Grades sixth, fourth and kindergarten, respectively. And in a misguided attempt to prevent overcrowding in the auditorium, and also to make it more meaningful and fun for everyone, the powers that be divided the grades up into two different shows, added a reading off of everyone who had served in the armed forces/fire/police/EMT and then let everyone who wanted to sing/dance/play an instrument/recite a poem perform. So it was LONG day. For me, and especially for a toddler.
Julie was mildly amused at going to see her sisters sing and dance. She was less amused after they read of 300 names and even less so after sitting for an hour or so. I was bopping back and forth between the lobby and the auditorium, because she’d get really loud in the audience and I’d have to leave. And then get really bored in the lobby and I’d take her back in to see the kids.
Jessie and Sarah were on first, so I got there for 10:00. Sam’s portion of the program was going to start at quarter of one, and in theory, I’d be able to swing into his classroom, hang out, read with the kids for a while in between shows. But I knew he was nervous about performing today, and also knew that seeing me would be a bad idea. My goal was to avoid the wing where his class was, to say out of his sight until after the performance. But I didn’t anticipate that he’d pop out into the lobby.
He came out with a buddy on some errand, and once he saw me, he just fell apart. He was so nervous and wound up about the whole thing, and could only hold it together when I wasn’t there. Long story short, I ended up leaving, because he couldn’t calm down while I was there. It’s heartbreaking, because this is my boy, my baby – and the only thing I could do to make it better was to leave.
I know in theory that it’s okay. I know that what looks like good parenting in most kids can be contraindicated in kids with anxiety, so trying to soothe and make it better and reassure him just reinforces that there’s something to be nervous and afraid of. But walking away from my child, while he’s screaming and sobbing for me – begging me to take him home and not make him do it, is absolutely the hardest thing I do.
In the end, though, the books were right. His teacher (who is a goddess and I worship at her feet) is right. Walking away allows him to pull it together. Because I’ve got a strong support system in place, his school is filled with people who love him, and sincerely want for him to succeed. I could walk away, because I knew it was what he needed. He needs to know that he can do this – that he can conquer the anxiety and the nerves, that he’s strong and capable and can do it without me there – and he just can’t learn that if I’m there.
When I snuck back in, after his performance had started, and stood in the back so he couldn’t see me – I watched him on stage. Sitting beside his best friend, singing his little heart out. I cried. Just a little. Because his victories are so hard fought, because what looks so easy for everyone else is unbelievably hard for him sometimes. Because he was so scared and it was so hard for him, and because I’ll always second guess myself and wonder if I’m doing the right thing when it comes to pushing him versus indulging him. But he sat up there, wearing his stupid little hat, singing like all the other kids, and I was prouder of him than I can possibly express.