I was really feeling like I might have a bit of a handle on this parenting thing. After my realization that I hadn’t been dealing with Dylan’s anxiety the right way, I was sure that I was on the right track and was now better prepared to deal with his inevitable meltdowns.
The fairytale that I had concocted in my head, though, was just that. A fairytale.
Because then this morning happened, and I’ve been feeling like a horrible parent ever since.
I knew when it was raining this morning that we were going to be in trouble because it was going to mess with our routine. He is used to being walked to his classroom every morning. The first thing he does is look to see if his friend’s backpack is hanging on the rack. If it is, he (usually) immediately relaxes and runs off to the playground in search of that buddy. If he’s not there yet, there are a few tense moments, and often a few tears, until he arrives.
But on rainy days, the kids all gather at the front of the school (in most of California our schools are outdoors, with no interior hallways) instead of the playground. He is always anxious about finding his friends in all of the chaos. So today as we pulled up to the school, I told him that I was just going to drop him off, but that I’d help him find his friend before I left. I spotted him immediately, thank goodness. Except that he was behind a group of older kids so Dylan couldn’t see him.
I pulled up right next to the spot where his friend was standing behind the other group of kids and explained to Dylan where he was. Dylan looked out the window, then looked back at me…and made no move to unbuckle and get out of the car.
“But Mommy! I don’t see him!” And with that, the tears started to flow.
And with that, as I looked in my mirrors and saw the school staff trying to direct traffic around us, I totally lost my cool. I got frustrated and, though I hate to admit it now, I handled it in the exact opposite way I wanted to. I lost all sense of compassion and understanding. I yelled.
He finally got out of the car. Sill crying. And walked away. Still crying.
The bell rang immediately and the kids moved, like a swarm of bees, towards their classrooms. He walked, looking at the ground and with hunched shoulders, towards his own class. Still crying.
By himself, because at that point, there was no way he was going to find his friends.
I drove away, kicking myself for losing my cool. For forgetting so easily that his anxiety makes things like this, things that seem so harmless and banal to the rest of us, hard for him.
I’m sure that, by now, he’s recovered and has probably forgotten all about it. But I haven’t. I still feel bad and hate myself a little bit for how I handled it.
But tomorrow’s another day. Another chance to do better. I just hope I can.
Thankfully, unlike today, tomorrow’s outlook is sunny.
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