Last year and the year before, the end of summer was a very difficult time for Genea. To put it clinically, she went off her rocker. Whenever she would hit a rough patch I usually felt like it was she and I against The Crazy. However. In the last month or so of summer Genea took a turn that was so far out there that she was practically in another universe. The Crazy, the Wango Tango and the time winding up and winding down took over everything and it was awful. She could barely function and the rest of us went down with her. The primal shrieking, the constant labile mood, the extremely disproportionate reaction to everything and anything, it was enough to make you pull your hair out or become an addict.
Very late last summer, I picked up on one small thing Genea said to me that would change my understanding of her thought process and subsequent reactions. It would then change my entire view of her issues and over the next few months things would start to slowly click into place in my own brain and a pattern came out that went against every parenting tip I ever read and made perfect sense once the pieces went into place. No, I realize that sounds terribly dramatic but I have had all these concepts rolling around in my head that I need to put down and finally I decided to just start. So I am.
As the first day of school got closer and closer, I did what I had been told. I made a calendar, I counted dates with her, I planned with her, I practiced routines with her and we watched the day get closer and closer. I had pretty pictures on the calendar and colored blocks representing time, it was a nice looking thing. Colossal mistake. Huge. Ridiculous! I was going on what I had been told, which was that knowing ahead of time and giving her a "visual" support, such as a calendar, was going to help her feel more safe and in control. That in turn was going to give her less anxiety and make her feel more calm in general about starting school again. It. Did. Not. Work. That. Way. Yikes, I went back and re-read this post and about needed a Xanax Bloody Mary from the time prior to school starting last year. And I called that an improvement? I'm thinking there must be some massive part of my brain that has died because I barely remember it. This is how things went the year prior, for kindergarten when I was also doing the "visuals" thing with constant clear reminders for a smooth transition. Sigh.( Also, I need to come up with something better than my bloody mary bit. Maybe Ativan and tequila).
Finally a few days before school actually started Genea calmed down a lot and when I asked her why she was more calm now that the day was closer she said, because it is almost here. When she didn't have as much time to worry she then had less to worry about. It was the anticipation of school starting more than the actual event that was stressing her. Doesn't that fly in the face of everything you would have thought? Isn't it logical that as the day got closer she would get more nervous? But that's not it. Waiting for a major change to occur was what caused her fear. All those days to wait were unstable and unpredictable and that flared her up. So what had I done? I had unknowingly and with fabulous intentions, battered and rammed her fear and anxiety over her head for a month.
Change is bad because it is unpredictable. Even good change is unpredictable. What my daughter craves most is rock solid stability and if she cannot predict an outcome she will forcibly make a predictable outcome occur. Kids don't self sabotage before something fun like an amusement park because they feel they don't deserve it. It's not because they are afraid to have fun. It is the loss of a predictable routine. It is because it is a change and change causes fear and anxiety because it is unknown. This is why big events don't work as a reward for a kid. If you, Kid H, get all B's on your report card we will take you to the beach. Kid H freaks out, not knowing for sure if she can pull it off. So, she makes a move that guarantees a certain, stable result and messes up a class. Now she knows what is going to happen and she feels safe. That's just an example and I hope it makes sense.
This year, I have not told Genea when school is going to start. We have our little daily routine and that is what we stick to. She knows it is getting closer, but has not asked when the day is so I am leaving it be. In comparison to the past 2 years, she is practically a different child. She throws a fit or two a day just to make me happy. They last less than 10 minutes and then we move on. She is moody without being off the charts. I am keeping things low key and predictable. It is working for us this time. So far.