A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words…

We are in the swift downhill race to the end of elementary school for my son. Every single day there is some celebration marking the end of the class of 2017’s time at the school. 

Today that celebration was an awards ceremony honoring academic achievement. My smarty pants, loves school, never met a book he didn’t like kid went into the morning knowing he would receive an award and was eagerly excited when he woke up this morning. 

Even with that excitement, the actual act of sitting in a cafeteria full of other kids and parents was hard for him. He is doing so much better at keeping his anxiety in check, but crowds, noise, anticipation and that cafeteria all remain individual triggers. Put together, he could have been sitting in the middde of a perfect storm. At this exact awards ceremony last year, he could not even enter the cafeteria – he listened from outside the doors. 

But today he managed to get a win over his triggers and demons. Today he sat in the midst of the other kids, cheered his friends and classmates on as a couple dozen awards were given out before his name was even called, and walked proudly and confidently up to the stage when his own name was called as a recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence. In other words – he rocked it!

I took gobs of pictures during and after the ceremony. Some show him solemnly examining his award, some show him beaming with pride, one shows him with his amazingly kind and wonderful teacher, and a couple even show him goofing off with friends. But this picture is the one I know I’ll treasure most over time. 

This picture of his back (and the back of his sister’s head) tells the part of the story I think matters most. The story isn’t that he’s an excellent student with a crazy smart brain. That’s amazing, and we’re super proud of his academic achievements, but it’s not what really matters here. What matters here is the fact that he is in the room. We could tell he was about to burst out of his skin at several points during the ceremony, but he didn’t give in. He fought through the anxiety and was a true participant in a huge personal milestone moment. From our seats in the chairs behind the kids, we were able to witness him truly being present for himself and with his peers. And it was beautiful. 

The Day My Son Discovered My Blog

A few weeks ago, I was honored to have a piece I wrote for the blog about the realities of anxiety and panic attacks in children, republished on the incredible website The Mighty**. The day it was published, I forgot to click off the web page and my son found the article up on my computer. And he read it. At that point he did not know that this blog existed. I wasn’t necessarily hiding it from him, I just hadn’t decided to tell him yet. I wasn’t ready.

When I walked in to discover him reading my words, I froze. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew he’d have questions. I thought he might be angry. I assumed he wouldn’t understand. I was right about one thing – he did have questions. I was wrong about everything else – he wasn’t angry and he did understand.

He asked me what it was. I explained that I had been writing about my personal feelings, thoughts and concerns as he battled his anxiety and panic. I told him that it helped me to write, and that my hope was that it was also helpful to people facing similar struggles to know that they aren’t alone.

He thought about what I said for less than a minute, and then asked if he could write something too. He said, “I think it’s good what you’re doing. I want to write something too. I want people to know what I think and feel.” He took my breath away.

The next morning he sat down and typed a few words. Each day for about a week he wrote and rewrote. Among his many struggles is a mixed receptive/expressive language disorder. He can talk with extreme eloquence on topics ranging from mythology to American history to religion to Marvel super heroes. But ask him how he feels? He will probably answer in a single syllable. So the fact that he wanted to write about how he feels was HUGE, and the fact that he was working so hard to get his thoughts out in writing was ENORMOUS.

When he was finally happy with what he wrote, I added a few thoughts of my own as a preface and sent it to The Mighty. Yesterday, that article we co-wrote was posted on The Mighty. The editors at The Mighty were gracious enough to post his words without one single edit – his part of the brief article expresses exactly how he experiences life right now. It is authentic, and it brave, and it makes me beyond proud!!!

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 5.31.21 PM**The Mighty is an INCREDIBLE website. They publish real stories, by real people, facing real challenges. They are seeking to create a safe platform for people to tell their stories, discover community, and raise awareness. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you definitely should!