The most helpless feeling for a parent is seeing your child going through a rough patch and being unable to help.
Cesca has been going through a particular period lately. What started off as a bad-mum moment from my end – forgetting to pick her for around five minutes when her religious class finished, has now escalated to a terrifying fear of being left alone forever, of being forgotten of and never seeing us again.
These past two weeks have been trying for us all. She has started crying to go to school, does not want to board the school minivan, skipped a class of sports I know she loves, and made a small scene last Monday before going in for her religious class. She sometimes shows a mean streak to her little sister, and I have heard telling Bettina that she has to behave, otherwise we will leave her all alone and never come back for her.
I have read and reread countless articles on separation anxiety and she ticks all the boxes. What all the articles tell you is to give the child extra reassurance and love during this difficult period. But this is a very fine line to thread. Too much of one thing can serve more bad than good. I try to be good cop/bad cop all in one. I am giving her secret notes to read and hold during school time whenever she feels lonely or scared. As of yesterday she even started taking a family photo with her. However I am now noticing that too much attention brings about other problems. Most notably, unnecessary moaning and complaining over silly, trivial things. I have had to put my feet down, use a stern voice and tell her to buckle up and move it. Case in point this morning when once again she did not want to board the school minivan. I talked to her gently but ended up looking her in the eye and telling her that she can cry till tomorrow, but she would still have to go to school with the van. She then stopped the pretend-crying thing she now excels at, stomped her feet and said, ‘Oh, okay then!’ and went in without further protests.
As parents we look at all possibilities. My mind has studied each and every possibility, I have become obsessed with finding out what these changes have come from. Talking with friends, with her teacher and other parents who have found themselves in my situation sometime during their lifetime have all assured me that it is a phase, a very difficult one, most often linked to nothing more than the child wanting extra reassurance and affection. As a parent, I want a quick-fix. I want her to return back to the child she was a fortnight ago. And I know that is not going to happen that quickly or suddenly.
Therefore I take small pleasures from the minute changes that occur on a day-to-day basis. If she cried less than yesterday, that is a small victory. If she was sad for only a short last night instead of the two hours on Monday night, then that is a plus. If she wanted to go to her sports class after not attending for a week, then that is the very top.
I am trying very hard to keep strong with her. To not give in and take her to school myself. I know I am doing the right thing, but it feels so hard when your choice brings your child so much sorrow and tears.
So I am taking one day at a time. I am trying to find a hard balance between being extra-loving yet strict at the same time. And of course there’s Bettina who I pray does not catch the clingy bug that seems to be doing the rounds at the moment.
One book which I bought for Cesca, which we both incidentally love and is helping us through this particular period is a Dr. Seuss one – Oh, The Places You’ll Go! The meaning behind the words is beautiful. It’s an honest explanation of life – of having ups and downs, of good days and other scary ones. But in the end we all succeed if we put our mind to it.
Life works in mysterious ways. The month we start reading Dr. Seuss, we start reading the book which seems to hit the nail right on the head. Would I recommend this book? A hundred times over!