The Night Before

Javier returns to school tomorrow. I am filled with the kind of giddiness and joy usually reserved for amazing vacations and dream purchases (like how I'll feel when I my mom-porn dreams come true and I drive home a minivan).

However, as with the night before any big event in his life, Javi didn't handle the nervous excitement very well. Anyone who is parenting a child with ADHD or anxiety issues knows from what I speak. To ward off any major meltdowns, I decided to skip our normal routine and let him decide how he'd spend his day. Not surprisingly, he wanted to be everywhere I was -- if I was working in the living room, he was playing with his guys on the living room; if I was straightening up in the kitchen, he was staging mock battles on the oven; if I was using the bathroom, he was laying outside the door talking to me.

Some may find this hard to believe, but I can handle this needy, clingy child with much more patience and understanding than I can the kid who cackles like crazed hyena and bounces off the walls. Rather than feel like I was being stalked, I would ruffle his hair when he passed by me and allow him to kiss me as many times as he wanted. I didn't even call him a pervert for wanting to come into the bathroom with me (though I did lock the door).

As time for open house at his school got closer, I noticed the anxiety setting in. Javi is definitely a "negative nelly" who has to be coaxed and pushed into trying new things or entering a new situation with a smile. Tonight was no exception. He got quieter and quieter as we approached his school. From the moment our shoes hit the pavement, friends, parents, and teachers were calling out hellos to him and trying to engage him about his summer.

The first few times he made eye contact and did a quick, brisk wave. After that, though, he went silent. We always stop by and visit with his kindergarten teacher, but even she got no response from him. By the time we got to his new classroom, he was shuffling, eyes downcast, hands in his pockets, and shoulders drooped. I tried to give him prompts for talking to his teacher, but he just kept asking if we could go home.

We could tell he needed a big SHAKE IT OFF, so we let the kids play for about 10 minutes on the school's playground before heading home for dinner. He got louder and louder on the way home. By dinner time, he was bouncing off the walls, getting in and out of his seat, laughing like a maniac, and talking way too loudly. It took about an hour for him to take a shower and brush his teeth -- a routine we'd whittled down to 30 minutes over the summer. I think he spent 20 minutes alone wrestling with stuffed animals on his bed when he was supposed to gathering up his pajamas.

Then it was time to pack his backpack. Everything was going fine until he couldn't find the color pencils that I knew were in the back-to-school box that Nana (Billy's mom) brought us. When he couldn't find them, he first frantically tore everything out of the box and then broke out in tears. I had to sit with him and squeeze him tight to help him calm down so that we could search for the pencils again. Unfortunately the "the world won't fall apart if you don't have ____" doesn't work for Javi.

Luckily, I quickly found the pencils and the bag got packed and placed by the door. We chose a back-to-school outfit (thank the heavens for dress code -- we have zero issues with choosing an outfit!) and then headed off to bed. After I got Bella tucked in, I laid down with Javi in his bed to help him settle down.

We talked about how much fun he'll have tomorrow, how many old friends he'll see and new friends he'll make, and how third grade will be different from second grade. Then we just snuggled for a while until I told him he had to go on to sleep -- which brought on a quick, but manageable crying jag about not wanting me to close the door ... however, an open door means way too much stimuli for him. I think he would've cried at that point no matter what I did, so I assured him I'd see him in the morning (our nightly promise to each other) and that I loved him, and then I shut the door.

You'd think that after doing this for the past three years, I'd be an expert at The Night Before, but I feel so helpless tonight. Of course he's been up three times since I shut his door and I'm a bundle of nerves so there's no telling how he feels and how deeply he'll sleep tonight.

All in all, a very emotionally exhausting day for us. I hate the ADHD/anxiety roller coaster, but I think treading gently and with kindness and patience is the best medicine. Please pray for us to get through tomorrow morning without any major meltdowns!


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