Summer is over and everyone is getting back to schedules and routines. This year is a biggie as you may be having a child entering into the school system for the first time, or, it could prompt a walk down memory lane of past years.
The excitement of the shiny new backpack, lunch kit and outfit soon turns into crying and resistance…and that is just you! Your child may be having the easier time.
It is a huge life transition that first time we see out little precious child off to school. Having the anxiety of will they be ok? Who will they sit with at lunch? Will they make friends? Are they prepared enough to be without our help? (aka hovering) And if they have to take a school bus, well that is just a full blown parent meltdown right there.
Does any of this ring a bell? (No school bell pun intended.)
Well, let me tell you a true story about the resilience of a child, the strategy of a parent and the success during change.
Despite my helicopter parenting our child did manage to grow up and have a well adjusted life. Our son is now 34 years old. He has a great career, lovely partner and lots of friends. He is our first born and like most first borns a cautious child. Yes as a first time parent I hovered, I did enjoy seeing him play in the park but I was always on high alert for something that might harm him.
And then it became THAT DAY.
In our area they had just introduced Junior Kindergarten and so at the tender age of 5 he would be attending morning school. I was a stay at home mom which meant he did not have any daycare experience. I did go out and have babysitters however it was not all day every day. We began the introduction of school. The chats about how amazing school is, the fun and friends that would be experienced, all of this to alleviate my anxiety more than his.
Then the unspeakable happened.
Three weeks before the start of school he fell ill. I rushed him off to the hospital one morning, my husband remaining at home with our younger daughter. I stood in a sterile room with a young intern who announced our son had diabetes.
It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. The room felt devoid of any oxygen and the voices seemed far away. My mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer several weeks earlier and I had just returned from spending time with her. I announced I can only deal with one disease at the time so no I don’t think I can do this. In that moment the Paediatric Endocrinologist entered took one look at the wild eyed woman and announced find this woman a seat and a cup of tea!
In that moment I began to breathe, I sat down, drank the tea and waited for my husband to arrive. It was quite the whirlwind of activity that day. Our son was admitted to hospital for about a week. In a blink of an eye we were to transition from being parents to become experts on diabetes, nutrition, psychology and every medical practice known to man. Well...it felt like that!
As we met in the Paediatrician’s office to discuss all things diabetes. She started to discuss schedules, routines and the importance of eating on time, preplanning outings and the list got longer and longer. My husband starts to laugh at which the Dr. says in a rather stern voice, “Mr Ptak, this is a very serious situation you know.” The chuckle gets louder as my hubby wraps his arm around me in a hug and replies “Ya Doc, meet the Queen of Routine, nothing in our house is about to change.”
Yes I am that woman. I love being organized and planning and schedules… lists, and routines, and colourful sticky notes everywhere till everyone around me is driven mad.
Yup, a truth bomb right there folks!
Well, our son came home and we did settle into a new norm. It was not without challenges, tears, frustration, bouts of overwhelm and waves of fear. But as time went on it did get easier and as I said earlier he did grow up and is healthy and happy.
The school year started and that first day was mixed emotions, happy, fear, anxiety, joy, excitement and it cycled to each one several times. Now remember it is only the morning school so from 9:00 till 11:30 and he was in the awesome care of a seasoned Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Cooper. We had met before hand to come up with a strategy that we could all agree upon and our main objective was kid first, diabetes second. It was in that moment in the hospital when our son asked was this forever and I replied “yes and you can control your diabetes it does not control you.” (in a more kid friendly way I recall.) It must have worked because he has always managed his diabetes in a balanced way (somewhat like a cautious first child he is) while not letting it stop him from having a full life..
I did not know then what I know now, but it is my stress pattern of being organized that helped me through one of the most difficult times in my life. The routines and schedules that I loved was actually helping me parent a diabetic child through one of his most difficult life transitions.
I could see it was helpful. It became my barometer as to how overwhelmed I was when I only wanted to make lists and organize stuff….the busy work so I could stuff down any emotions that were bubbling to the surface. When a situation that was not planned (or on the list) I could either go into a tailspin of trying to control it or allow it to unfold. Sometimes it flowed sometimes I held on so tight my hands hurt, either way I got new understanding from it. That new understanding helped propel me forward and take action.
We all have a pattern that we default to during stress time.
Stress can be sending a child off to school for the first time. It can be a parent deciding which lunch kit will be easier for them to manage. It can be standing in a room having the air sucked out of you as life altering news is delivered. It can be choosing which sticky notes will look best as you design and plan your month.
It is all about how we view stress, deal with it or choose to ignore it. The truth is that stress is there for a purpose. It will propel you into taking action and even not taking action. Which is still an action! Ponder that one for a while. (insert large smile)
I would invite you to ask yourself:
If you seem to have a “pattern” to your stress times in the questions you ask, and the behaviour in the response you may benefit from learning how stress helps you. How it motivates you, or, how it can prompt resistance that will create more opportunities for understanding your stress strategy.
I am happy to help!
I can’t help you pick out the coolest lunch bag.
I can help you understand your strategy pattern for stressful times.
Until next time,