I see it. The fear setting in. The panic. The self-consciousness and desperation. I know exactly how he is feeling. Because he is me.
My big boy is off to school next year and we are smack bang in the middle of orientation season. Every time a session approaches we talk about with excitement. That excitement lasts right up until we arrive at the classroom, and then the curtains swing down and he. freaks. out.
I am socially awkward. I feel out of place around people, especially if I don’t know them well. My mind jumps ahead, assuming people are thinking the worst of me. I come away from most social events feeling exhausted, scared and stupid. I remember having panic attacks as my parents drove me to high school parties.
I don’t remember feeling the fear as much at his age. I think it came later, when I was bullied throughout my late primary school years (but that’s another story for another day!) So I wonder where he gets it from. Am I projecting my fears onto him? Or is this all his own struggle?
Last week, I had to carry him to his first activity at the orientation morning. Then, kicking and screaming, the teacher peeled him off me and tried to talk him into joining the other kids on the mat. My heart was breaking as I walked away from his pleading, teary eyes.
When I returned to pick him up, he was grinning, sitting with his brand new friend, holding up the artwork he had completed in the session. Apparently five minutes was all it took to change my panicking, fearful little boy, into a shy, but happy school boy. I almost cried with relief.
In the session we had with the school psychologist while he was having the orientation session, I was reassured that what he is exhibiting is normal. I have been bandying around terms like social anxiety, intimating that he has some kind of ‘disorder’. The psychologist assured me that he will be fine. He may take a little longer to settle into school than some, but once he has a friend or two, and gets used to the new environment, he will be just fine.
He takes a while to warm up. He is scared he won’t live up to the expectations he thinks others have of him. He fears he won’t be good enough. But he’ll be fine. He will learn to use his brains to his advantage. He’ll take a deep breath and do those things that terrify him. He’ll fight and scream and then realise that it wasn’t so bad after all.
I know these things because he is me.