My 5 year old is about to start his first day of kindergarten. He’s about half the size of the other children. He’s always been small. But that’s not why I’m worried, well at least the man reason. He is extremely shy and introverted. He’s an empath and feels and picks up on what others around him feel. When I was a child, I hated school. Until recently, I never realized it was because I was an empath, just like my son, and hated being in large groups of people – feeling what they all were feeling was completely overwhelming. As I was able to easily read my peers, I could see that kids were constantly trying to fit in, saying or acting in other ways to impress others, and just not being their authentic selves. That was incredibly draining to be around as I was always myself and didn’t get the fakeness. It was just my nature to rebel against pressure of fitting in if it didn’t feel authentic to me. So I often was teased and definitely didn’t fit in. All of this however, created serious social anxiety that manifested itself in morning vomiting sessions prior to my school days. What we struggle with in our mind, comes out in our bodies. And now I wonder if that’s why my 5 year old son recently developed tics – because he’s nervous about school or can sense that I am nervous for him? Even though 1 in 4 boys develop tics temporarily, I worry he’ll be bullied for his constant throat clearing and other odd repetitive tic noises he’s now making. And then there’s the guilt – did I create this tic in him because he picked up on my stress? If I were my friend talking to myself, I’d say “Liza that’s ridiculous” – but that damn guilty thought’s still there in my mind tormenting me.
“Back to School” campaigns gave me anxiety every summer. I was so glad to be done with that phase of my life after college. Until now. Until my tiny little 5 year old boy, who still wears some 4t clothing, is about to be forced into socializing for 8 hours a day. I don’t want to project my school experience onto him, but I can’t help but empathize. I’m wondering if this is all just fear – a worry that will never be – or an intuition that I know what’s about to happen? I know the pain and stress of having to go to school as a shy child. My son is an introvert and typically hates socializing. It’s difficult trying to just be yourself while watching others fit in effortlessly when your shy. Luckily, that will likely be my 3 year old daughter, Anna, who lights up the room when she walks in. But my son is different. Beautifully different. He’s very smart and asks brilliant questions like “Where does a soul come from?”. He picks up on people’s energies. He see’s bullshit and calls people out on it. His favorite song is 1812 Overture. He can build a “12 year old +” lego set without asking me a single question. He is determined to buy expensive lego sets on his own and recently netted $114 in a few hours by selling glows sticks and candy. He will be an amazing success in life. He already is. He’s just not social – he’s shy.
I know that every fiber of my maternal being is screaming out right now, “Protect your child from pain!”. And I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I guess this is where we parents have to let our kids have their own life experience. Feel their own way through life. Trust that they’ll be strong enough to succeed even if they have to experience pain first. Trust that they need to learn their own lessons, in their own way. These are the things I’m telling myself anyway.
When the topic of bullying came up this summer I instructed my 5 year old firmly, “If for any reason someone were to hit you, you hit them back.” Of course his sweet soul said, “Mommy that would hurt them.” I replied, “Well you’re never to hit first. You can put your hand up if they get in your space and say I don’t want you in my space. And if for some reason they persist and hit you, you hit them back. This shows them that you respect yourself so much that you will not allow someone to hurt you. They will see that you respect yourself and then will likely never bother you again.” To which he replied, “But I’ll get in trouble if I hit them back.” I said, “I will personally go tell your teacher that it’s my fault because I told you you’d be in trouble if you didn’t.” Now I’m not a violent person, but I do know from personal experience when we allow people to disrespect us – it sends a clear invitation to enable the continuation of the behavior. My hope and hunch is that his school won’t tolerate bullying, but I wanted him to know about our primal nature of how agressors prey on the weak who don’t stand up for themselves. I also explained that people who bully are not bad people, that it’s just a learned behavior from their home. And that maybe their mommy and daddy are cruel to them. That they’re really innocent in their hearts, but don’t know how else to behave because cruelty is what they’ve been taught.
I do think the universe aligned a very special teacher for my son. When I met her today I almost cried with tears of joy because I could just feel she had the kindest soul. I immediately blurted out like some new-age-hippy, “You have great energy! I’m so grateful you’re Liam’s teacher!” I then told her about his tics and how nervous I was. She confidently comforted me with, “he will have a great year.” I cried when I left her classroom today, both with gratitude and still some lingering anxiety. And a friend sent me this.
29. THE VERY ENERGY OF THE UNIVERSE
Your Children are not mere lumps of clay
waiting for your expert hands.
They are the energy of the universe
and they will become what they will become.
They are sacred beings.
If you tamper with them
you will make everyone miserable.
They will find success,
They will be happy,
They will delight you,
and disappoint you.
They will be safe,
and at great risk.
They will live,
and they will die.
Stay at the center of your own soul.
There is nothing else you can do.
– The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents (Click link to get on Amazon)
I want to believe differently tonight. I want to believe that while school is often challenging, there in lies the opportunity for amazing growth. The opportunity to find and be yourself. Although school was so hard, it wasn’t 100% bad for me. I graduated in the top 5%. I made my first wedding gown when I was 15 in Home Ec class. Challenged my school board and won twice to have serious policies changed. Was voted “Most likely to leave a lasting impression”. And received great scholarships for donating time to charities. I see incredible potential in my son and have to believe that these stages of life, no matter how hard, will shape him into the man I know he can be. Amazing – in his own unique way. I’m going to try to stay focused on the positive this week and do some extra meditations and maybe have a bottle of wine…or two.
If you thought you were alone in your anxiety with your babies starting school – you are not! If you have any tips on how to stop mommy anxiety, please, please share