The Inadvertent Gift

It’s an inadvertent gift

An inadvertent gift, passed along without the joys of festive wrapping paper and over-sized bows. Though the present isn’t so much a gift as it is a curse and there is no option when it comes to passing it along – it’s given and received long before you realize what’s happening. It hits you like a freight train, barreling over you with no remorse for the injuries it will induce. It’s the ultimate surprise you never wanted.

As I stand watching my four years old scream “No┬ámommy!” through a tearful voice I don’t recognize, I realize I’ve passed it along – the gift no one ever wants.

As I stand watching the teacher drag him away, while trying to reassure him it will all be okay. I realize she’s calling him by the wrong name. Any other mother would speak up, she’d scream out his name, correcting the situation…but not me.

Instead I stand outside myself, willing my body along from the sidelines, fighting back an impending flood of tears. I feel the panic rising up in my throat and the tightness spreading in my chest.

I fight the urge to run back, to swoop him up and pull him back into his safety – his comfort zone. Instead I hurry myself along to the car, in long strides – hoping the tears will hold off until I reach privacy.

In all honesty, I spent the car ride home crying and rationalizing. “It’s okay you didn’t say anything. You were fighting an anxiety attack in the moment and it’s more important to take care of it than to correct a teacher. Besides, he has to be able to speak up for himself and say ‘this is who I am.’ I can’t always be there to do it. No better time to start learning than now, right?” I agonized, playing the mornings events on repeat until I’ve over-analyzed every aspect.

It happens when you least expect it.

His first week of school went flawlessly;

He was excited, he walked in like he owned the place by day two and I had no concern as to how he’d do. He was killing it and there were no signs of dislike or disinterest. He had been waiting for this moment in great excitement, as he watched his brother attend the same school and he was more than prepared for his turn.

Here we are, two weeks In and I’m chasing him through the school yard as he attempts an escape for the car. Once caught, he clings to me, squeezing me with a pythons strength – all while whimpering he wants to go home. He throws no fit in form of tantrum, he’s not stubborn on the subject and in the mornings he happily gets ready for school.

It’s the in-between that gets him.

He is overtaken by a wave as we step in front of his classroom and the joy he carried from the moment of waking is washed away. His eyes change, filling with a fright and confusion – a feeling I greatly understand. He becomes tense and pleas to stay with me until finally, he refuses to speak – he shuts down, leaving his requests to return home to no more than three before a shaking silence befalls him.

It’s a terribly heartbreaking moment when you realize you’ve passed on your dreaded anxiety like hand-me-down genes. Is it my fault? Did I cause it? No, likely not but the fact still remains that I can see the hesitation and worries running through his head. I won’t say any thing’s wrong with him as he’s fairly close to perfect in my eyes but he’s an anxious type and changes in his routine or daily life can highly effect his tiny anxieties.

On the morning in question, when the battle of going inside began, he had arrived to a pitch black school – not usual. Then he was greeted by an unfamiliar teacher – who unfortunately for both of us, had forgotten his name or mixed him up with another. As he went through the fears of unfamiliar things, in a place he had so quickly become familiar with only a week before. I was going through my own panic as I tried to manage his uncharacteristic behavior. We both shut down on some level and were equal in the aspect that we each had no idea as to what we should do but both certainly wanted to run away screaming.

Looking back, he’s always been this way – not to an extreme degree thankfully but as I watch him become more persistent and assured of his own fears. I can’t help but wonder what struggles he may face in the future and what parts I have played and will play in his ability to cope with overactive anxiety. You never know what the future holds and I’ll always help him to adjust and cope the best I can. For now though, I’m just going to be thankful he’s adjusted to the new teacher and back to entering school like a big boy instead of an octopus clung to my leg.

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