LP is doing better (and therefore I am feeling a little less fragile and sleeping better, too). But we’re still not back to how things were. We’re seeing a little improvement every day, even though he’s still slightly shaky and anxious when he gets to daycare; but at least now he quickly calms down after we leave and has good days. We found that he’s feeling more secure if we go through the plan of his day with him, and repeat it over and over again (he does it, as well). I try to reassure him as much as possible through physical contact, which has always been important to him. Other ideas and pointers (which we’ve kind of always known and done intuitively): some widespread parenting knowledge and techniques simply don’t work with him, so we need to be flexible and adapt to his cues. Sticking to routines makes a big difference, and so does preparing him ahead and explaining things as much as possible. Discipline and boundaries are really important but as the same time you need to do it in a way that will not further increase his insecurity and crush his self-esteem (which we recently realized can happen very quickly with such a kid), for instance by being firm, but not intransigent, and by empathizing always.
He is how he is, and we’re very aware that it’s our responsibility to make sure he grows up feeling that his high sensitivity/intensity isn’t a negative, or shameful, trait. We’ve always kind of known we had our work cut out for us with this one, and the idea is not to make him repress his emotions or anxiety, but just to be able to control and/or channel them somehow so his flights do not scare other people and become acceptable within this society (again he is not expressing aggressiveness when he does this, just utter despair). As he grows up, I think it will be crucial for him to find an outlet he likes, whether a sport, a hobby like music, or another art form (like writing has always been for me), and find ways to defuse anxiety by using positive thoughts, feelings and memories (it’s not working so well right now, because he’s still so young he’s way too overwhelmed by it, hence the importance of physical contact).
It is very important for us not to be too emotional when he’s not well, because he senses and absorbs this like crazy, but to tell you the truth that’s the thing we’re having the most trouble with, especially me. We’re all still learning and adjusting, but seeing him suffer –through things that used to be totally easy and natural to him-, is breaking my heart in ways I didn’t even expect. It’s making me relive a lot of things from my own childhood and how my parents’ reactions to my “difference” influenced the personality I now have a great deal, it’s making it harder to focus well on everything else, and it’s obviously bringing out the sear of wishing I would spend some more time with him during the week. You can tell has matured through this as well, and he is now asking new, tough questions: why do you have to go to work? Why do we need to earn money? Why can’t we all stay together all the time?
But despite our current rawness, we know over-protectiveness is not the way to go. For sure our first, irrational instinct was to keep him home for a few days, but at the same time we both knew (and this was confirmed by just about every book and our therapist) that this is counterproductive and sending him the message that he can take the easy way out. After all, he’ll soon be three, if we lived in
And oh, I thought I would let you know how the “real” drill went after all, the one where the fire department comes over. After anticipating the worst for two weeks (his fear had become a preoccupation for the entire daycare personnel, who were immensely proactive and helpful, especially his wonderful teacher, whom we will never thank enough because it was really trying at times for her), on Friday morning she decided to take the kids out for a walk a little earlier than usual. LP was dressed and walking out the door already when the fire truck arrived, and so he didn’t have to relive his traumatizing experience once more. He did become nervous when he saw the firemen, but quickly forgot about all of it when they started talking to him, saying his name (the director had called ahead and told them about the situation), and especially, waving him goodbye from the truck while ringing the siren a little.