This past week was tough, let me tell you. Do you struggle with anxiety as an adult? If you do, you know how tough it is for us. At least as an adult, we can put a name to it. We can explain the way we feel, and most of the time we have figured out hopefully healthy ways to cope with it. But as a child, ugh it hurts my heart to think about what they are going through. I’m sure if you have anxiety as an adult you had it as a child, so I feel like we are even more empathetic to children going through it. When I was younger, I had anxiety about school. I was a shy kid, as I said before, and I don’t know if you’re shy because of your anxiety, or you have anxiety and that makes you shy. Either way I was both. So, I think it first started in third grade. My teacher was an older lady and her name was Mrs. Roach. I mean how can you not be anxious about school, with a teacher named Mrs. Roach. Now thinking back at it, I think I hated that class so much and never wanted to go to school, because we had to go up in front of the class and answer questions on that old school projector thingy, you know the visa-v markers. Is that what they are called, the little skinny ones that you can wipe away, but they aren’t dry erase? Anyways you know what I mean. I honestly think that must have been why I hated it, but when you’re a kid you don’t understand where or what the anxiety is coming from, or what feelings you’re having. You just know you feel panicked and scared and don’t want to go. It really had to have been that because I loved kindergarten through second grade. Oh that, and my best friend was a huge bully. She was a bully to me. I just remember riding the bus and her just being mean, and I vividly remember her saying that my mom was a B one day at recess. I remember even more vividly telling my mom that night as she tucked me in my top bunk before I went to sleep. Like what the heck, where do kids even get this from. She never even met my mom, so how can she call her a B. So, I am sure that probably also caused the anxiety. The worst part about my anxiety is that my poor grandma had to deal with it. She would drop me off at school every morning and I would throw a tantrum. I just wanted to stay with her, she was my safe space, I felt safe with her. Imagine this, my tiny little grandmother with her hijab, dragging a screaming yelling 8-year-old (I think that’s how old I was) that is half her size, into class. I would grab onto the metal door frames and hold onto them, so she couldn’t take me. Ugh I put her through it, I am so sorry Sitty. It was hard, you would think a child would be more nervous and embarrassed about screaming and yelling and crying in front of their whole class, then about going to class. But nope, anxiety doesn’t think rationally lol. Okay, now that we know a little about my anxiety as a child, we can get to why I am writing right now, it’s not about me, it’s about Maz.
I am sure every single child right now in the world is dealing with some sort of anxiety about the current state of school. Everything looks different. You can’t see anyone’s face. Everyone has a mask on, we can’t see the teachers smiling, they can’t see their friends. Nobody is easily recognizable, and that’s just a lot for a child to handle right now. That alone can cause tremendous anxiety. So not only is Maz dealing with the new Covid rules and a new look in school, but he started a new school. He has been in private school from pre-school up until this year for fourth grade. He has always had some separation anxiety, which I think is natural for a child with divorced parents, I was the same way. But he is a little bit more extreme than I am. He won’t sleep over at anybody’s house without me. Like you know those old school sleepovers with all of your cousins, at your grandparent’s house? When your cousin asks your parents if you can sleep over. Mazen will not! He won’t stay at his grandparents’ houses; he won’t stay at my sisters’ houses. And if anyone asks him to sleep over, he says NO. He just wants to stay with mom. I am not complaining, I love it, and that’s just how he is. So back to school. He started at public school a couple of weeks ago. He was so excited to go to public school the big reason was, he gets to go to school with his uncle (my little brother), and he doesn’t have to wear a uniform. That kid is all about his shoes and clothes, well mostly his shoes and sweatpants lol. Also, same! So, we got all his school supplies, some new school clothes and he was all excited and ready. The first week was the introductory week, where it was only one grade all day by themselves in the school. That went well, he made a friend, he liked his teacher, he was all good. The following week was the start of a “normal” school day, as normal as a covid school day can be, I guess. I picked him up, and he was just kind of blah, didn’t say much about his day, but said it was good. I didn’t think much of it and we went about our day. Later that night he ate dinner and said his stomach was bugging him, I figured he just ate too much and told him to get ready for bed, so brush his teeth, you know bedtime routine. He goes to the bathroom and comes back and goes “Mom, I just threw up in the sink.” Let me tell you something about Mazen he is very notorious for throwing up in anything but a trash can or a toilet, so it’s always a clean up process, welcome to motherhood haha. But I thought to myself okay no big deal, he probably just spit up in the sink. Noooo, it wasn’t spit. He full on threw up all of his dinner in the sink. So, I start cleaning it up, he starts gagging again reaching for the bathtub, duddddde the toilet, use the toilet. He gets cleaned up I clean up and I tuck him in ask him if he feels better and he said yeah. I checked to make sure he doesn’t feel warm put the trash can next to the bed and he went to sleep. The next morning, I ask about his tummy he says he’s fine, I check his temp it’s normal, so I am like okay cool he just ate too much last night he’s all good. We get to school at 7:40, drop off is between 7:45-8:00 so I park the car and he wait. Then the panic sets in. He says my stomach hurts, he starts crying, I try to calm him down, we try to do breathing exercises, I can’t get him to calm down. Now it’s 7:45, I am telling him okay we need to get out the car now, I will walk you to the door. Nothing, he won’t move that sets him off more. The only thing I can get out of him is that he is going to miss me. I re-assure him I will be there after school, everything will be okay, you’re fine, you have to get out. Nothing, it’s now 7:50, I call my mom. She talks to him; she can’t calm him down. It is now 8:00, the bell rang, my mom hung up and I don’t know what to do. Should I take him home and try again tomorrow? This is literally the third day; we have been here for 15 minutes, I need to get him into class. I get out of the car compose myself open the back door and continue to try to rationalize with him. The only way I could get him out was convincing him, I would have to go get one of the teachers or the principle to help me, he has to go to school everyone has to go to school. We finally get out start walking to the front door, he walks halfway, then breaks down again. I drag him to the front door, ring the call button and she says to send him in. I open the door, he won't budge. Again, I have no idea what to do. I can’t go into the school; I can’t convince him to go in. He’s balling his eyes out, I have been holding tears in for about 30 mins at this point, because it is now 8:15 and we still aren’t in class. Luckily, one of the office ladies runs out and gets him and takes him in. I turn around start walking back to my car and start crying. The day goes by, I pick him up ask him about his day and the panic starts again. He wrote me these little notes, telling me he misses me, and he loves me, he told me he didn’t eat lunch because the teachers remind him of me, he can’t stop thinking about me. I don’t know what to do. We tried to have him write down his fears whatever is making him anxious in his notebook, the only thing he writes is I miss mom. Like I am right here, right now, you’re wasting time missing me while I am sitting with you. Everything is okay. There is like no way to rationalize with him when he’s in this anxious state. The rest of the night was fine, until I brought up what he’s going to wear for picture day, then it starts up again. All night his anxious stomach was bugging him, and the next morning same thing. The only way I got him out of the car was by telling him I would make him ride the bus instead of dropping him off. So, while he was at school, I called his old school, got him re-enrolled and called his current school and emailed the teacher. I was excited to tell him the good news after school, that he would go back to his old school, but he already figured it out taking all his school supplies home. So, we went shopping for uniforms, because he grows like a weed and doesn’t fit in his uniforms anymore and we got all set up for going back to his old school. Thursday was fine he was a little bit nervous but no vomiting, and Friday was okay, there were tears at drop off in the morning but again no vomiting. So at this point I think we are making progress because there is no more vomiting, he's not making himself physically ill from the anxiety at this point but it’s still bugging him. Tomorrow after school we are going to see his pediatrician, maybe we can get some more ideas of how to cope with his anxiety. Maybe if he hears it from a doctor the word anxiety and hears the breathing techniques from the doctor it will help. I was feeling so defeated, but I feel like there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We are making some good progress, he is back to a familiar environment at least, and there is no more vomiting. I am thinking this is just the beginning of a long battle we are going to have to fight but he is a strong little man and Inshallah we can get through this. I will write a follow up blog maybe halfway through the year and see if anything has changed, I just needed to get all of these built up emotions out. If you have dealt with or are dealing with anxiety in your children, I would love to hear about what techniques and ideas you have used. I will just list what I have tried so far…
-Breathing techniques, I do 4 breathes in hold for 4 and out for 4, this one is hard when they are already crying their eyes out.
-I tried giving him my bracelet, something that he can have with him in class to look and remember everything is okay. This one seems to help a bit.
-We tried writing down our feelings and fears, but we didn’t really get far with that one.
-He likes to write me notes when he gets sad in class, I think that has been helping. It is so sweet and breaks my heart, but I love them and save them.
Thank you for listening,
Peace, Love, and Gratitude