We kept asking her why school bothered her and she just stared at the TV without answering. My own sick feeling returned of when and how I used to respond, or not respond, when stressed out about something, an infected phantom limb that burned with fever.
After a few minutes on FaceTime I had to go. I was out of town on business, so I imagined what I couldn't see from that point on: the Mama getting the girls ready for school, or trying to, and then Beatrice saying she still didn't feel well and couldn't go to school.
The Mama, Amy, kept at it -- the going to school routine -- but Beatrice refused and started to cry. That's when the green glow of anxiety erupted into the real world; she threw up and cried and cried saying over and over she wasn't going to school. Amy struggled to keep their routine together and get both Bryce and upset Bea out the door and off to their respective pre-K and 1st grade classrooms, finally imploring with Bea that it was Bryce's birthday share day at school and they had to get her there.
The anxiety subsided and the day bloomed into a fun and positive one. But again, I didn't know all this was happening after the morning FaceTime call. My anxiety had spiked and my heart hurt for my eldest daughter. My fear unfortunately was validated when I saw the note from Amy to our 1st grade teacher:
Beatrice is feeling better today and will be coming to school. However, she is very upset to the point of tears about it. What I have been able to gather is that she is feeling anxious when she does not know how to do her work. She says some of her work is frustrating. I reminded her that it takes practice to learn new things, like riding her bike, and it may be frustrating at first and just to do her best even if it is not all done.
This of course isn't unusual for children, especially when transitioning into kindergarten, and from kindergarten to 1st grade (and many others in years to come). Bea's teacher's response concurred and assured us this is normal and that Bea had a much better day.
In fact, the teacher had made a class change to move kids into different work stations and change up seats. She wrote us back about Beatrice: She seemed really happy at her new table group and was star of the day today.
What complicates this for us is the fact that, although intellectually Beatrice is on par and even ahead in some respects, she does and will struggle socially, emotionally and with learning due to her earlier auditory processing delays. She's a visual learner who can respond awkwardly in learning situations, especially when there's a lot of verbal instruction.
This means is that Beatrice still has trouble processing the information she hears in the same way as other kids because her ears and brain don't play nice together. That in turn affects the way her brain recognizes and interprets sounds and how she should respond. Comprehension and her ability to respond in kind gets scrambled and I can't imagine how frustrating it is for her, even at this age. We're so thankful to have the support network services that help her learn and adapt accordingly.
But when this all leads to heightened anxiety, it's not about being unwilling to answer -- it's truly about being unable to answer. Because if you've ever been in a pre-panic attack state, the awakening beast within makes it nearly impossible to function. For those who haven't had the displeasure of experiencing them, a panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear of both known and unknown, morphing into seemingly painful but extremely uncomfortable physical manifestations, something I have many uncomfortable memories of as a child, but especially as a teenager and young adult.
I knew. I saw it on her haunted face and my heart ached for her, for me, for us. All we can do is encourage healthy responses to these transitions and do whatever we need to do to support her, and her sister of course, not knowing what Bryce may as well face in the future. We are blessed and hope to buoy them in their seas to come.
My girls are my muses, the poetic realizations of my life's path prior to having them, prior to falling in love with their mother, prior to swimming comfortably with my own phantom limbs.
“…you're the poet in my heart — never change, and don't you ever stop…”