We always knew something wasn’t quite right.
Every child has their quirks and growing pains, but something was very different about our son. We knew it, but maybe we lived in the kind of denial that convinces you that your child will just grow out of it. Isn’t that what children do, according to every expert, doctor, and book? They just grow out of it.
My son is overly fearful… of everything. Maybe not everything, but most things. Not in the normal sense of being a young, fearful child, but in the sense of almost irrationally fearful. Take hair for example. My son has an irrational fear of hair. It began about 2 years ago. He would see strands of hair and freak out. He’d scream, cry, start shaking, run away. If even the smallest hair was in his bathtub, he would move as far away from it and scream for me to remove it. Whenever I do my hair, he won’t come near me, even when I ask for a hug. He might tentatively come close, but if he sees a strand on my hand or arm or shoulder, he backs away and tells me to remove it. He does it with fear in his eyes… its trippy.
That’s just one example.
This is a problem because of school. In school, he has exhibited signs of terror and fear that concerns his teachers and the school social worker. My son’s eruptions have become so well known, most of the teachers and administrators know him by name. He is not allowed to go on field trips unescorted because on the first trip to the Botannical Gardens, he bolted 3 times, trying to run home. He was terrified. They say they haven’t really seen his type of reactions much in their careers.
Is it crowds? Is it loud noise? These are the first two places I go to. He does well in locations he is used to like playgrounds, the book store, food shopping. I’m truly worried because this expression of fear began when we got rid of his stroller. I’d noticed he was tense even earlier, but I guess he relied on the safety of his stroller, so I didn’t pick up on it as easily.
The teacher called his father and I in to meet with her and the social worker. They are concerned because his fear is preventing him from actively participating in important things. His school is unique in that they begin changing classes at the pre-K level. They go to different classes and teachers for social studies, music, dance, and art. He struggles with changing classes, less now than before, but some times, he tenses up and rebels.
His primary teacher says he clings to the teachers and doesn’t interact with the other children as much. He will tell us all about his new friends and their life stories, but he doesn’t actively engage with them. He sits on the sidelines. Or, he plays alongside them, not with him. I thought back and realized that he’s always been like that. In playgrounds, he’d run around alongside the other kids but never played WITH them.
They praise other things about him. They say he has the most expansive vocabulary and the greatest sense of humor. They say he is intelligent, witty, charming, creative ,and artistically talented. They say, however, that he shows little interest in engaging with the other children and that he has low self-esteem because when attention is focused on him, he pulls into himself and trembles… with fear.
Is it our fault?
We have combed his entire life trying to figure out how this developed. We are outspoken, fiery parents who have encouraged his self-expression in various forms. He has amazing energy and is extremely independent. But, like many children raised as only children (he has an older sister but sees her only occasionally), he keeps to himself, preferring imaginative play with himself.
They say he needs therapy. “Play therapy” specifically, because they fear he won’t “make it” in kindergarten. 3 teachers now, 1 teacher then plus several more children. They basically feel like this “fear” has to be treated before he can progress. What parents wants to hear that his/her child needs any kind of therapy? Who wants to hear that your child is not the perfect little being you thought he was? It hit us like a ton of bricks, having outsiders, experts tell us that he needs help we can’t give him.
We’re going to do the best we can to get him the help that he needs. We are proactive parents and we’re going to have him assessed on various levels. We want to check everything from his hearing he has major issues with loud sounds) to cognition to his adaptive and coping skills. We will be there with him every step of the way, but part of me feels we’re partially to blame. He exhibited these signs before we split, but they’ve seemed heightened since we did. I feel like we’re putting him through SO much change at once: new school, new friends, new homes, etc. that it’s overwhelming him. While he should be adjusting to the normal growing pains of being a 4 y/o pre-schoolers, he has the added adjustments that come with being the child of divorced parents.
No, he isnt perfect, but that doesnt mean something is “wrong” with him. I’m trying to be strong, but when I look at that perfect smile and hear his goofy laugh… I can’t imagine him needing help that I can’t give him.
I’m struggling y’all…