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Sep 04

School refusal

Sam’s got an anxiety disorder – and while we’ve got it pretty much under control, it still flares up at various times and feels just as challenging as it ever did.  Especially around the beginning of the school year – some years are better than others (they range on the spectrum to his horrific first year of kindergarten and his transition into first grade which was AWESOME).  This year isn’t the hardest one he’s had, but it’s pretty close.

He’s come so very far – and we’ve all learned a lot about how to handle the anxiety in a way that really minimizes the duration and difficulty.  Sam’s worked exceptionally hard, I’ve worked exceptionally hard, and even the school has changed the way they approach anxiety.

On Wednesday, we had his first school meeting – and those are hard.  They’re team meetings, me and a whole bunch of people I don’t know very well trying to suss out what’s going to work for my son as we go thru the year.  Just before the meeting, I was waiting in the lobby.  There was a mom and a little boy struggling with separation – he was just a little thing, maybe first grade, and he was straight up horrified at being dropped off at the school.  Screaming and begging his mother not to leave him – and it was like being transported back three years to Sam starting school.  He was so scared, and so desperate to be rescued, to have his mom save him from having to go…. I was wiping away tears and a little shaky before we started the meeting.

Everything went well, and I think he’s in a good place for the rest of the year.  It’s so confusing – trying to decide what to do and how to proceed.  With Sam, he struggles academically, but it’s hard to tease out how much of it is the anxiety, how much of it is actual trouble understanding the academics vs being afraid that he doesn’t, whether it’s emotional or a learning disability, or actually a physical matter of not getting glasses until the end of second grade and how that impacted things.  Do I have him pulled out of class to be formally tested for a learning disability, when that might reinforce the anxiety – which might be the real problem?  I looked at getting him evaluated outside of school – and that’s literally thousands of dollars, all out of pocket and none of it reimbursed by insurance.

Suffice it to say that I was a little raw when it came to yesterday morning.  Completely confused as to what to do, guilty because I still blame myself for the fact that he’s got the anxiety in the first place, and then not knowing how to proceed – if I need to have him evaluated or not.   He’s been really good about going to school – even if he really didn’t want to go – he still got up every morning and got dressed with a smile.

Except for yesterday.  Yesterday, he didn’t want to go – and it quickly escalated.  I blame myself (shocking, I know).  I was already so stressed about school and him, the idea that we were wading back into school refusal and he hasn’t even been going to school for a week… I lost it.  Screaming at my little boy, who’s clutching his stomach and screaming that he’s SICK and NOT GOING.  Thank God for Marc –  because he was calm, and rearranged his schedule to stay home with him.  I insisted that he had to go to the doctor – because by God, I was going to get a note to excuse this absence, but I knew that there was nothing wrong with him.  Nothing physical, anyway – the problem is that he hates going.  I was a mess – a screaming, sobbing disaster, and I yelled at my little boy.

Only… he really is sick.  He had a stomach virus last weekend, and damaged his stomach lining.  He’s on a two week course of probiotics.

There’s nothing like the guilt you feel as a parent.  There’s literally nobody else to blame when things go wrong, and I still like to assume that I’ve got total control over everything.  Which helps me to feel a little bit more like nothing is really that bad, because if I’m in control, I can fix it.  But the reality is that I’m not, in control or capable of fixing everything just by trying.  I can’t magically fix the anxiety, and I can’t always know when it’s school refusal and when it’s an actual physical problem.  I can’t control the amount of snow we get, or how many days that he’ll miss because of it.  So I freak out when I think he’s missing school and shouldn’t be – and end up screaming at a poor kid who’s got damage to his stomach lining.

In other news – the girls are both doing well in school.  Sam is doing well too – and that’s important to note.  I might not be, I might be hopelessly confused and baffled about what to do next – but he’s getting up and going to school with a smile on his face, and wearing his glasses and trying his best.  His teacher seems lovely, and he’s at grade level across the board, ahead in math, ever-so-slightly behind in reading and crap at spelling.  But he’s gorgeous and brave and bold and cheerful, and maybe third grade will be a lot better than I think it will be.


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