Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Emotional Barometer

My emotional barometer is five years old. He is my little boy. This week I learned that he feels every stress that I do and that that is too much for him. He developed a compulsion. This compulsion is to touch his face and then to touch the ground- kind of a reassurance to himself- except that he does it repeatedly. Maybe after the fact it is not surprising that it started immediately after his pediatric appointment where the doctor and I discussed ADHD in front of his sensitive soul. So despite the fact he was practically bouncing off of the walls in the office, he apparently heard every word we discussed- impressive considering his activity & noise level. The pediatrician was suppressing a grin or two at the noise level. I live at that decibel more often than I would like. I am a chatty but quiet person. By the time we left the office and made it to the parking lot the boy was engaging in what has become his anxiety reliever and my anxiety skyrocket. It is a wretched thing to know that you have stressed a young one to the point of developing some kind of relief. It is a long holiday weekend here in Japan as well as on the US work schedule so we are all home together to weather this storm.

After church and lunch today, we headed to the onsen. There was no plan, but it seemed we were all in need of a soak. Only in Japan is there a place where you can go to take a bath and then go to a "resting room" to do nothing. We often have a drink, take a nap, and the kids like to get ice cream from the machines. Today was no exception. I heard later that above said boy reported to his dad that he did not like hearing about himself at the doctor- note to self, headphones at every appointment from now forward. I think there is some progress on the front (reducing his compulsion). For a five year old, he can talk about his feelings. He is amazingly expressive and sensitive. I really had no idea it could even register at the decibel at which it occurred. He is stressed and so it is.

We are making big changes at the moment that will effect our future- we are buying & selling real estate. We have a contract to sell our house in DC, and a contract to buy another house in OH. Nothing is completely settled, but we are moving in that direction. What the Navy has in store for us is an unknown, but that is only for a while longer. I am ready for a quiet life and so is my little guy. We all are. I marvel at my daughter's aplomb in these unsteady times. She is squarely focused on school life and friends; she is six. They are such different beings. Wholly sweet and amazing for vastly different reasons. I am a blessed if stressed soul.

So how to deal with a compulsion? This is where it is convenient to be married to a child psychiatrist but also maddening. Apparently, I am not the first mother to completely freak out and apparently that is the first thing you are not to do. We have addressed it full on with our son that having to talk to the doctor about ADHD is a way for mama and the doctor to help said son do his best. Having ADHD is about finding ways to help him focus and slow down. Noting the behaviors also prompted the offering of hugs for feeling scared. Again, he is five! I am so shocked that he is bothered by these thoughts enough to create a ritual he finds helpful. His onsen talk with his dad seems to have been a breakthrough. We'll see. We are encouraging him to try to work through the scary feelings. He thinks everything is scary at the moment. It doesn't help that Halloween is near and so are lots of scary decorations. Argh! Yes, remaining calm, that is where I need to be.

Having an emotional barometer for my stress also makes we aware of my need to reduce it too. He is one amazing little guy. I am glad he reminds me of so many important things like how it feels to have someone talk about you when you are in a room. Really, the head sets will be coming to every appointment from now on.

I hereby pledge to reduce my stress this week- taking time to rest, getting out for some exercise, and taking time to be quiet. It has been a scary few days, but then I also think how smart his brain is to help him find a way to relieve the stress. I hope that as he learns to name his fears that he will be able to move past being afraid of everything. I am sure it is scary for him to hear his parents speaking of changes and problems, but they are part of life. Mr. Incredible has a memorable line, "we get there when we get there" but the ability to accept this state of unknowing is difficult to accept. It has been difficult for him and for us. I am pulled between guilt for letting the anxiety into his awareness the desire the protect him from these kinds of things while I can. I am keeping quiet around him, I am giving him specific and positive praise, and I am trying to do things that keep me mellow too.