Has it been THREE months since I last posted?! While part of me finds this hard to believe, another (bigger) part of me is just really happy to be writing here again!
We had a weird summer at our house.
Not necessarily bad weird…just different weird
Our “typical” summer consists of my signing the kids up for a bah-zillion fun camps (normally completing the registration process by the end of April so I have an eleven-week game plan in place). Then I spend my summer days in the car dropping kids off and picking them up. By the third week in July I need a break, but the cycle continues for yet another four weeks. Camp in the morning, swimming in the afternoon…exhaustion by nightfall, repeat…for weeks on end.
But this year….no camps.
At least not for Mia. And very few for Maddux. Brigham’s camp days are over at this point. He (finally) gained employment the week of July 4th…bye-bye camper, hello bus boy!
So, why was this summer so different than the norm?
Well, in a nutshell, it was because we needed to unplug from life a little bit (actually, some days it felt more like A LOT a bit).
Last spring I wrote about my daughter Mia’s sudden (and to this day unexplainable), progressive battle with anxiety. It started about the time we came back from our Spring Break in Sedona with her not wanting to go to school, then it spread into her extra-curricular activities (for example, she ended up not performing in her year-end dance recital, even though she was supposed to earn a 5-year trophy), and then it became a situation where just getting her out the door for any reason was a serious effort.
Watching my nine-year-old daughter go from happy-go-lucky-skips-instead-of-walks little girl to [literally] having to physically get her up, dress her, brush her teeth (amid sobs), carry her to the car, physically unload her in the school carpool lane only to hand her off to the staff, all in a matter of weeks, was challenging. To say the least. In the course of it all her teacher, the school nurse, the guidance counselor, the a.p. and I also became regular phone buddies. None of us could figure out what was causing her rapid deterioration.
In tandem with Mia’s desire to stay home she began to skip meals, starting the day by having zero appetite before school. Apparently she experienced a lot of anxiety around eating in the school cafeteria as well, so some days Mia would not eat anything at all until she got home, and even then (at her worst) she would immediately go to her room and lie on her bed until dinner, which she began to eat less of as well.
We visited the pediatrician twice, did blood work, used essential oils…I read lots of articles on children and anxiety…I was ready to do anything that might lift the situation even a tiny bit.
Upon reflection, the only words that come to my mind are….disheartening, alarming, and, at times, nearly overwhelming helplessness. It was so hard to watch!
This behavior went on, in varying degrees, for the last six weeks of the school year. Once school was out things got slightly better, but not enough to brush it off. Mia had no desire to socialize with friends, participate in any class or camp, or even go to Justice and shop for a swim suit!
Of course Tom and I wracked our brains as to why this would possibly be happening to her. Mia and I have [what I consider] really good communication with one another, I tried any and all tactics I could think of to get her to reveal if something had happened, or if she was being bullied at school, or why she was continually sick to her stomach. We read age-appropriate books about anxiety at night together, we read books about all sorts of feelings (btw American Girl has written some terrific books on emotions for girls age 8+).
To no avail.
We needed help, which, for us, came in the form of individual and family counseling.
So, to make a long story short, camps were out and counseling was “in”. For Mia, for Tom and I, and we even held an entire family session (Allen-Michael is home for the summer, Nick drove up from Austin to participate).
Everyone rallied around Mia. We all wanted to see her smile, we all wanted her confidence and easy-going disposition to come back…it seemed nobody, not even Mia, understood where it went.
In the end, instead of driving daily to and from camps, I drove several times a week to and from the counselor’s office. Sometimes Mia had to be coaxed from the car into the building. Sometimes she could do it on her own. She spent 90% of her summer in pajamas, much of the summer without shoes on her feet.
Yes, I am aware this behavior she revealed went beyond anxiety.
In the end, Mia’s summer was spent working on identifying feelings, learning coping skills, and regaining her self-confidence. She isn’t where she was before all of this started, but she is in a much better place as we begin the school year.
I am tearing up as I sit here writing this because I am just so proud of her. As a mom you do not understand how wonderful and amazing it is when your child gets up on her own, dresses herself, comes down to breakfast and walks out the door on her own until she no longer does these seemingly simple things. So many mornings last spring I watched the kids in the neighborhood nonchalantly walk or bike the path to school, giggling as they passed me. Some mornings I was so jealous of those parents…
During my own sessions, the counselor confided to me Mia is a very sensitive child. I have mixed emotions about this because I think we live in a very insensitive, de-sensitized world and I wonder what this might mean for her. Having had this experience at the tender age of nine, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about what the future might hold for Mia. But, as with so many other aspects of life, it doesn’t do either one of us any good to concern ourselves too much with tomorrow.
I spent my fair share of time in counseling as well. After twenty-seven years as a mother I learned a thing or two of importance about parenting, and our family system. It was all time well spent!
The reason I am sharing this story is because I want you to know there is no shame in asking for help for yourself, or for a child you love. I saw many, many families in the counseling office over the past several months. Unfortunately, I think today’s climate is very condusive to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
One more thing…to those I confided in…thank you for listening, for the hugs of support and encouragement, the kind texts of “how’s she doing?” It made the situation bearable to know you were on my side. And to the parents who may have seen me struggle in the carpool lane, or crying as I walked out of the school and were quick to judge the situation and my family…practicing compassion will get you much further in life than spreading gossip. After all, you never know what someone is truly going through AND what might be around your next corner.
More stories of summer to come…have an awesome day!
PS: I have this great new “professionally” redesigned site, it even has easy share buttons (hint, hint) and a place to put in your email if you don’t want to miss my next post. I would LOVE to have you sign up and share with your friends! Thank you.