My baby went off to high school today. This morning was full of anxiety. None of his clothes fit. His hair curled up at the ends and he couldn’t get it to stay down. And I wasn’t feeling much better. I don’t recall being this melancholy when my oldest, now 20, went off to high school. (Maybe because he was at a school for children with emotional issues and it was small and sheltered and my baby is in public school?)
This is my anxious child. This was my difficult baby. I have always worried about this one. I knew he was different from birth. He never slept and was always on the move. He screamed all the time. Even as an infant he needed help with transitions; he always needed to know what was going to happen. If we went to the store, I needed to let him know if we were getting 4 things or an entire week’s worth of groceries. During synogogue services he’d wander up to the Bema with the Rabbi. This was the child who climbed out of the bathtub or the highchair. I remember my mother even saying, “You never let A. do that!” My response was, “A. never thought to do that!”
Structure, routine, and consistency was what he needed. For a childcare setting, he needed small teacher/student ratios. He did not tolerate change well at all. When he was 4 and my husband and I separated, it was nearly 2 years before he was able to spend the night with his dad without crying and being brought back home to me. We both agreed it was better to just bring him home than for him to scream all night. Eventually he got used to it.
He was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and depression at age 5. He started taking medicine for these things and attending therapy. By age 7 he needed medicine to help him sleep at night. But, unlike my older son, he did exceptionally well with the structure and routine at school. He got good grades and the teachers liked him — they never saw any of the anxieties or behaviors we saw at home. He fidgeted and chewed his nails down so far that he got infections so they could tell he was anxious, but he seemed to be able to hold it together and let it out when he got home. I was always amazed at how difficult it must have been to rein in his anxiety all day.
This was the child who in 6th grade refused to come into the house after school because of Zombies. At 13 he was diagnosed with Type1 Diabetes. Adolescence is hard enough, trying so hard not be be different and stand out. Amazingly, his anxiety seemed to be what helped him maintain control over the diabetes.
Somehow when I wasn’t looking, my baby matured into the young man I sent out the door to high school this morning.