My girls like to watch this episode of Sofia the First where Prince James throws a giant party with fireworks and wakes the sleeping baby giant. In order to prove his responsibility he has to come up with a creative way to get the giant back into the cave and resting peacefully.
While a gross exaggeration of sorts, this is what it feels like to manage the child with the Difficult Mind. Living with a sleeping baby giant, who, when awoken, may take some serious creativity to calm.
All is well.
(Exiting the building)
“How was school?”
“What was your favorite part of the day?”
(Child gets into car.)
“MOM, WHY DIDN’T YOU BRING MY SNACK IN THE CAR. I CAN NOT WAIT UNTIL WE GET HOME.”
And this continues for the 3 minutes it takes to get from school to home and spirals. Into “You don’t like me. No one likes me. No one cares what I need or even what I want. I am nothing.” And then there are tears.
BOOM! It is a little like waking the sleeping giant. So many factors at play. Was it really just the snack? Should I not have asked about school? Maybe something has gone horribly wrong? Maybe he just needs to be more respectful and patient?
Now to get creative.
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring your snack in the car. It is sitting on the table, let’s go inside and get it.”
NO! I am not going inside nobody likes me, not even this family.
“I love you very much, so does your family. Your sister even made a picture for you when you were at school today, would you like to go see it?”
NO! School is stupid.
“Did something happen at school today that you would like to tell me about?”
YES! I was the leader and the class wasn’t being quiet so now we have to line up in number order. (My own confusion begins to set in.)
“That’s okay buddy.”
NO IT’S NOT! My number is at the end of the line. (And????) We get to move colors when we are quiet in line and if I am at the end of the line the teacher won’t see me and I won’t get to move my color ever.
Now I see. All of this is tied in to one thing: Anxiety.
My son loves to go to school. He likes the structure and he loves learning. He thrives because there is a system of measure. He tries very hard to achieve at that top level, even though we do not pressure him in that way.
Anxiety. The sleeping baby giant.
It is always there. Always. When our son is laughing while he plays football it is there. When he is crying because he is tired it is there. When he watches a movie or reads a book or eats a meal. It is always there.
Anxiety. When woken, is angry.
When all the anxious thoughts are bottled up for so long and finally need to come out, they present themselves as anger. Anger that makes you think of hate. Awful words, unimaginable violence, painful thoughts.
Anxiety. Anger that signifies fight to cover anxiety that longs for flight.
For those who can think through their feelings anxiety can be rational. For a Difficult Mind anxiety is constantly irrational. Anxiety for the difficult mind goes from 0 to 11 and doesn’t stop in between to consider the different outcomes. Anxiety for the difficult mind feels nothing and then feels everything, instantaneously.
Anxiety. The creative path.
For the Difficult Mind the only way to overcome this is by creativity through each attack. The same response won’t work each time. For the Difficult Mind the response and solution is dependent on many factors (which is for another day) but one solution will not fix all.
When the tears have subsided and the anger seems manageable. It is time to think, talk and feel all at the same time. This is like performing surgery.
Could you ask to change numbers? No.
Can you wait it out and see if the teacher does notice your good behavior, today was only the first day? No.
Could I write a note to the teacher explaining that you are worried about being in the back of the line, she doesn’t have to change it but maybe if she knows that will help you and her? Yes. That would really help and then the teacher could look for me.
And then he jumps out of the car and runs to the yard and starts playing football. As if the last 25 minutes never existed. As if we’ve rocked and cuddled that sleeping baby giant enough that it can rest a little longer.
I will write a note to the teacher. What she does after that I can’t control. How my son acts in line is also something I can control. None of that matters to him. What does matter is that there is safety in place of worry. Someone knows.
While he plays, I prepare. The sleeping baby giant never sleeps for long.
“Hope and sorrow in it all there’s rescue and there’s not.”
There’s Rescue: There was a point in time we didn’t know what the sleeping baby giant was. Now we know that anxiety is his name. Now that we have a name we can get to know it, and work with it.
There’s Not: The mind is a scary place. We never know why or where or when anxiety will awake. It is like having a newborn and tip toeing around as not to disturb it. There is no cure all for anxiety and so we walk this path every day, hoping for more understanding with each step.
Today I am thankful that knowledge is power. I am thankful that part of our son’s Difficult Mind has a name and there is help. There are people, there are methods, there is hope. Today, we hope.