This is one of those blog posts – the kind that come from the heart but are very difficult to tell.
It was an extraordinarily challenging time for Miss11 and I. So much so, we thought we were alone. The thing is, I now know we weren’t. Many of us, from all across our community, can empathise with the story below. That’s because it’s a story about belonging!
I’m flashing back to a standard Monday morning in April, 2015.
I’ve woken up with hot flushes again, having endured another sleepless night tossing & turning. I feel overwhelmingly exhausted. I stumble out of bed in my PJs and prepare myself for the inevitable frustration of moving my family towards their morning school routines.
Miss11 is a dawdler. She always has been. But today, I’m not angered by her inertia to get ready for school. I’m no longer standing over her yelling commands like “hurry up”, “why has it taken you so long to get dressed”, “have you done your teeth yet”, “stop playing with those super animal woolworths cards”. Instead, I’m gently nudging her into self-belief and resilience. “It’s ok sweetheart”. “You’ll be fine”. “Can you find someone else to play with today?” “Do you want me to talk to your teacher for you?” Today I finally understand what it is that she’s been unable to articulate … that she genuinely doesn’t want to go to school.
Her green school is gorgeous. On face value there is absolutely no reason for her to be unhappy. She has great teachers, excellent programs, an awesome principal and a very special bff that she can trust and hang out with.
The problem is, that’s all she has!
Somewhere between year 1 and 2, Miss11 lost herself. She lost her sense of empowerment to choose what she plays and with whom she plays it. Her introversion became her curse and she allowed herself to be isolated from her peers. That isolation and ongoing sense of exclusion lasted for three years. Her school yard experience was one of lethargy – not quite loathed, not quite bullied, not quite ignored but not quite included. And yet somehow that was ok for us. We kept expecting her social skills to resolve themselves. Her learning was on track. Her grades were good, not outstanding, but solid. We told ourselves that we didn’t need to worry.
And then it escalated. Suddenly she is at home crying, each and every night.
That empowerment she lost so long ago, meant she no longer trusted herself to say “No”. Saying no, resulted in stronger personalities taking stronger positions. Saying No, resulted in a choice between what felt right or what was expected. Guilt stricken and overridden, Miss11 was doing as she was told rather than as she wanted. At the end of the road, she had found herself in a continuous cycle of dominance and aggression that had begun to break her. I began to worry. Hard.
I saw my doctor who told me “You are not having hot flushes my dear – you are having anxiety attacks. Your sleepless nights are physiological but the cause is not as you suspected. You are worried. You are heartbroken. You are anxious.”
So flashing forward to today, the time has finally come to make a choice. I needed to trust my parental instinct! Do I keep her at her gorgeous green school – guiding her across a tightrope of resilience versus self-doubt? Or, do we try something different?
In the end the choice was hers. We showed her ‘gold school’. It has great teachers, excellent programs, an awesome principal and a school yard of potential bffs that she might trust and hang out with. She chose to try gold! I asked miss 11, “Why gold?” “What is the main reason YOU want to change?”. She responded “It feels right for my soul”.