God and the Universe gave both Michael and I a major teachable moment, well really day, today. Michael woke up this morning complaining of a sore throat and of not feeling well. He had told me he hadn’t slept the best. Ok he could stay home I decided, but in case he was well and was using this as a “get out of school free pass day,” I put down rules. He would play quietly, read books, watch TV, do his computer games and we would not be going anywhere. His library books were due, but even that would have to wait until the end of the day right before supper, when I would see he was a hundred percent better and would be returning to school the next day. Otherwise I would go to the library and return them when Dad got home.
Well, we were both right. He needed the day off and wasn’t well, but I was right too. He was not physically sick. He was anxious and overwhelmed by two school subjects he is struggling with, or rather the exercises done in those subjects which are too challenging for him. And he does not like to ask for help or always understand the explanation. All the emotions of why he has to study these subjects, why he doesn’t understand, and fear of the teacher getting angry came out. Most were the result of his own worries and confidence issues with learning, his very overactive imagination, but he needed to talk, to find his center and as always, he came clean with me about why he asked to stay home.
“Mommy, I’m not sick. I was so nervous. I don’t like doing reading and math. They’re hard. I can’t do them.”
“Did you tell the teacher you’re having trouble honey?”
“Yes, but she thinks I’m pretending. She gets mad.”
“She doesn’t help you at all?”
“No, she helps me, but when I don’t understand she gets mad.”
“Are you paying attention when she explains it to you buddy?”
“I look away sometimes and don’t always understand what’s she’s saying. It’s boring stuff. Why do I have to learn what I don’t like?”
“We all have to do things we don’t like sometimes, buddy. One day you’ll be able to study only what you like, when you are older. Until then, you need to learn all kinds of subjects.”
We had a really good heart to heart, and then I found myself going over with Michael strategies for calming down his breathing, so that he could focus on learning everything and doing everything, even the things he didn’t like. It was quite fitting, as I have had to relearn this lesson lately in my own life, with reteaching myself in meditation and yoga to let go of worries, fears about the future, about the past. I also had a chance to practice “compassionate listening,” a practice that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about in his book “You Are Here.” It’s important to really listen to someone so they feel heard and can heal. We heal them, ourselves and the world. Michael is reminding me about my own worrying, which though I have it under control, sometimes goes astray. He is helping me practice what I preach and reminding me of my strategies.
Exceptional Parents, what do your Exceptional Children’s negative or anxious actions tell you about their struggles? What do your anxious moments tell you about your own? Remember, it’s not always evident what is bothering your child or what is bothering you. You have to dig deeper. A sore throat, stomach, muscle aches can be a virus, tension or worry. Always remember that getting in touch with your body shows your child how to get in touch with theirs, and let them know they can talk to you about anything. That is how you will both grow stronger. Until next time.