Both images via artsyville
It comes and goes, the cycle of her anxiety, and it's a dangerous trap. We think we have everything so well managed and we coast blissfully along and then something unexpected happens and she loses her moorings so entirely.
She's struggling, and because of that I'm struggling, and it's an awfully cruel expectation I put upon myself to model mental balance for a girl struggling with balance when all I want to do is scoop her up and offer to hold her forever in my arms so she doesn't have to worry ever again.
There's going to be a change at school and the kids were informed and E took the news so poorly. She cried for over two hours and continued to cry home and cried herself to not-sleep and cried in my arms and at 10:30 last night was still crying, and when she finally slept in my arms she ground her teeth so aggressively that the sound woke me again and again.
Today was a little easier because the news was no longer new, but she's got a second wave of worry to face now. The first fight, yesterday's, was just with the unwelcome surprise. She had to cope with a change she cannot control. Today she entered the second fight, facing her feelings surrounding the change. Next week she'll have to face the change itself, and I expect on the night before we'll face more headaches and bellyaches and sleeplesness and tear-stained pillows and whispered worries of the worst sort, of the kind a mama can't fix because they're not the kind that get patched with tape or glue.
The hardest moment last night was not in E's room, but when I took a break from her tears to snuggle briefly with L. "Hey, sweetie," I asked her, "how did you feel about today's news?"
I was sad but then I went to play, she answered without much effort.
"Was everybody sad?" I asked.
Some kids didn't care. Some didn't even listen. Some were sad. I was sad but then I went to swing with Gracie.
"Was anybody as sad as your sister?"
Oh, noooo, she answered with a long, wide-eyed head shake.
We were doing well, but then again we had had no major upheavals. And yet, I'm not sure that we were doing that well at all, looking back to before The News About School. Now that I think about it, there have been nervous bellyaches and headaches and teeth grinding for a few weeks. E has been afraid of the police again. She's been waiting until bedtime to whisper shyly these worries that could be laughed off as ludicrous...except for the voice-stealing panicky sincerity that delivers them.
Recently a phrase normally associated with newborns has been knocking around my head, and I'm checking her against some unseen checklist of my own invention for "failure to thrive." Is she? Is she failing to thrive? Are her worries and anxieties interfering with her access to what should be every child's right: a happy childhood?
I love her so tenderly, and when she laughs uninhibitedly I just want to capture it so I can wrap it back around her at bedtime or when her sorrowful feelings strangle away all the others. I want to help her through her anxiety, and I just don't know how.