The day has finally come. My oldest son is starting Kindergarten tomorrow and so begins a journey of self-discovery, new friendships, broken hearts, huge mistakes, life lessons and facing fears that may or may not get the best of you. As if that isn't enough I also have to worry about what Brennan will go through! Sigh...
It's Kindergarten eve and facebook is blowing up with messages from proud excited parents "Johnny is so excited to ride the bus", "Susie can't wait to meet her teacher", "Billy want's to pick out his own clothes tomorrow". I read these and my stomach begins to churn. Most kids experience a mixture of nerves and excited about starting Kindergarten as do most parents, but Brennan and I are not like most people. I see so much of myself in him and most of it makes me happy (he's got my sense of humor and creative genes). Unfortunately I passed along some other fun stuff to him like social anxiety. When I was a kid I was very shy around people I didn't know well and had a really difficult time connecting with adults. I grew up in a very small harbor town in Ohio where I went to a very small school (only 1 class for each grade level and no more than 20 kids in a class). One year the 7th and 8th grade classes were so small they actually combined them. Even then there were only 5 people in the class! My entire family lived within a bike ride away and I felt very safe. I was always quiet in school and around adults, but I was happy. I didn't even realize I was shy or that it was a problem until my dad got a job in Syracuse NY and I had to leave the only place I felt safe.
I was devastated when I found out we were moving. I would be leaving my friends (the same 8 friends I'd had since I was 5-years-old) my entire family and the town that I loved. I was 11 when I went from a class size of 20 to 4 classes of 25!! It was at that moment I became consumed by my shyness and fear of meeting new people. I built an indestructible wall around myself made of fear, anger and loneliness. I pushed new people away and desperately clung to old friends that were hundreds of miles away. While they moved on I was stuck in a world that no longer existed for me. I eventually made a few new friends, but kept them at a safe distance with good reason, we moved again when I was 14 to Buffalo and I had to start all over again. You know that wall I had been working on? Yeah it wasn't going anywhere.
Some of you who know me are probably thinking, "you? shy?" but I was. In high school I finally started to admit it (and when I say shy I mean at times it was crippling). I asked my mom to find me someone to talk to and help because I was so unhappy and didn't have a clue how to deal with it. She did and it was helpful, but I still had a very long and painful journey ahead of me. Although I've over come most of my shyness and social anxieties there are still times I feel uncomfortable in situations, but I've learned how to control my nerves. Now instead of hiding and avoiding I purposely put myself in situations that make me uncomfortable just so I can prove to myself that I am stronger than my fears.
It took me close to 30 years, many missed opportunities, deep sadness and a lot of hard work to finally be comfortable in my own skin. Now I am a mother and one of the hardest things to do is not project my own childhood and adult issues onto my children. Brennan is very shy, very anxious and very uncomfortable in new situations or around adults that he is not completely comfortable with. He is not the kind of shy kid who will sit quietly in a corner avoiding eye contact. Oh no, Brennan is the kid who gets loud, gets mean, says he doesn't want or need friends etc. He's the kid that although he had lots of friends at daycare and preschool would freak out at birthday parties and refuse to play or participate (unless it was at his house). At home he's a typical energetic boy who is funny, charming, loving, stubborn, mischievous and so very sweet. Put him in a situation though where he is uncomfortable...he grows green muscles and begins busting out of his clothes. It's heartbreaking to know that very few adults, besides his family, get to see his sweet and charming side. I want to bring my camera to the bus stop tomorrow and get smiling pictures of my not so little man proudly and excitedly boarding the bus, but if history prevails I am not hopeful of that occurring. I will bring my camera anyway. I am riddled with fear that tomorrow he is going to turn into the hulk, refuse to get on the bus, or refuse to go into his class. I'm afraid his teacher will think he's bratty and he'll squash any chance at making new friends the very first day. I'm afraid he'll hate school and every day will be torturous for him. I've heard from people "oh that's just Brennan" and it makes me angry. That's NOT Brennan. That's NOT who he is. He is a boy who won't let me kill even an ant. He is a boy who will let his little brother play with his favorite toys (at least 90% of the time), he is a boy who notices when I buy a new dress and tells me that I'm pretty. That's who he is and I'll be damned if I'm going to allow him to hide behind any other role. Unfortunately I don't have a clue how to help him. I only know how to love him. That's why I turned to a professional or as I like to call her a "life coach". It sounds so much better than counselor or psychologist. Everyone should have a life coach no matter how "normal" and happy you think you are (even life coaches should have a life coach :) They should be assigned at birth. Ok not really this is starting to sound a bit too "The Giver". Seriously though I'm not ashamed to admit that I've had many life coaches in my life and will likely have many more!
Tomorrow is creeping up way too quickly. Of all the fear and anxiety I am feeling right now my biggest fear for tomorrow is looking into his little red face, glossy eyes and seeing that uncontrollable fear that I've seen so many times before in him and know myself all too well. When I see this I want to scoop him up in my arms and run as fast as I can taking him as far away from anything and everyone that is causing him pain. But I can't.
I don't have any idea what tomorrow will be like although I've painted a rather terrifying scene in my head. I may have over come my shyness and social fears, but anxiety is a bigger beast I've yet to tame ;) I have a few more emotions and demons to face tomorrow along with all the normal emotions parents have sending their first born off to Kindergarten. My strength will surely be tested and I will have to dig deep to hold it together at the bus stop, but once alone and behind closed doors I'll "let it go, let - it -go. Won't hold it back anymore" You know the tune. No matter what tomorrow brings I know he'll be ok and I will love him. I turned out ok so there's hope.
So on this eve of Kindergarten, to all of those parents out there, sending their most precious gift on earth into the world, I can't tell you that everything will be sunshine and rainbows tomorrow, but I can tell you that you are not alone. Perhaps you will find comfort in the fact that my situation is way worse than yours :)