Saturday, September 1, 2012

Believe in Your Kid

Ok – sometimes one of the hardest things for me to do as a parent is to sit back and take a deep breath and remember that my daughter can do it.

“It” being whatever we are working on that is draining the life out of me.

For example, naptime on a nap mat for school.

Little Bird went for her first day of preschool this year a little over a week ago. She was very excited. She had her lunch, backpack, nap mat, and blanket.

When I arrived to pick her up, the director of the school stopped me in the middle of the hall (where other parents were picking up children) to tell me that Little Bird was removed from the class for a long period of time because she had a panic attack during naptime.

They suggested half days, where I would pick her up after lunch.

Now, granted, Little Bird does have panic attacks at times ever since we had to leave her in Tulsa for three months while we were with our son in St. Louis last winter. It was hard on us all. In the month since our little boy died, we’ve all been working on readjusting to normal life. Little Bird has a hard time with transitioning from one activity to the next and naptime in particular seems to really stress her out.

I honestly had some major concerns about this preschool before school started. I wanted an academic curriculum for Little Bird that was appropriate for her level of interest and maturity. This preschool, while having learning goals for her class the year before, shifted the focus to religious education in her new class.  We weren’t okay with that. We thought we’d try it and in the meantime, look into other schools.

Then this incident happened.  Honestly, I was upset that Little Bird was pulled from the classroom and no one called me. I was upset that the director talked to me about it in the middle of the hall in front of other parents. I was upset that on THE FIRST DAY they seemed to have written her off as traumatized by her brother’s death and they seemed extremely uncomfortable at the idea of helping her through readjusting to normal life.

Needless to say, I understand that people are uncomfortable with death (though I don’t feel the same way). I understand that the women at this school are not trained in helping a child through grief from loss. That said, Doc and I felt like it was time to find another school. This one was just a bad fit for Little Bird and our family.

I knew that Little Bird could adjust to a new routine. I knew she could “rest” on a nap mat. She just needed some time and some help. While I visited some other schools, we got to work at home.

End Goal: Move from lunchtime to rest time without signs of anxiety or protest. Little Bird will roll out her nap mat, sit or lay on it while quietly resting or reading books for an hour to two hours each day. After rest time, she will roll up her nap mat.

Here’s how it went.

Day 1: Holy nightmare. We rolled out the mat. As soon as she recognized it as the hell mat from preschool she panicked. She refused to sit on it. Didn’t want to touch it. In a calm voice (while frequently picturing the vodka on ice I would be having that evening) I stated “At rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet.” I would gentle pick her up and place her back on her mat when she got off.  I stopped counting at the twentieth time I put her on the mat again. Reading books or any other activity was not working. After an hour of her screaming “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP!!!!!!!!” Little Bird looked at me and told me she was sad that Rowan died, then asked me to hold her while she cried.  Then she sat on the mat quietly for about five minutes and I let her get up. No nap. She did learn how to roll her mat up.

Day 2: Little Bird rolled her mat out. I offered to her that we could watch a movie during rest time, as long as she remained on her mat. She laid down. I played Sleeping Beauty. I held the remote. Every time she got up, I paused the movie and reminded her that “At rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet”. Once she returned to the mat and quieted herself, I would resume the movie. She rested through out the movie and then rolled her mat up. No nap.

Day 3: Little Bird rolled her mat out. I told her I was going to read two books. After we listened to the books, we would watch Sleeping Beauty. This day went well. She calmly listened to the story. She stayed on her mat the entire time the movie was on, and rolled it up at the end.

Day 4: Little Bird rolled her mat, picked out a baby to sleep with and laid down. I read two longer books. I told her we would listen to quiet music for five minutes while resting quietly on our mat. After the quiet music we would watch Sleeping Beauty. When the movie was over, she rolled up her mat. No nap.

Day 5: Little Bird rolled out her mat, listened to 3 books, laid quietly while listening to music. After 5 minutes, she got upset and said she didn’t want to take a nap. I explained that she could lay in her bed and take a nap if she was going to be sad and loud or she could quietly lay on her mat and listen to music. (NOTE: NEVER GIVE CHOICES IF YOU AREN’T OKAY WITH BOTH OPTIONS. Both of these got her to rest quietly. Both worked for me and her.) She chose the second, laid down on her mat and TOOK A NAP!!!!!!

Day 6: Little Bird rolled out her mat, listened to two books, and got off the mat to leave the room. I reminded her that “during rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet” and she lost it. She got angry and upset, so I told her she needed to lay on her bed. She kept getting out. I kept trying to calmly return her to bed, but she kept screaming. Finally, she stopped and through sobs choked out “Mom, I need to go pee pee, Oh no!” and had an accident.   ….shit.  OK! So NOW I say “During rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet, but we can get up if we need to use the bathroom.” I apologized to her for not understanding that she wanted to go to the potty. We cleaned her up, she slept in her bed without complaint after that.

Day 7: Use the potty. Roll out nap mat. Listen to books. Listen to music. Nap. Roll up nap mat. Snack time.

My point is – don’t give up. Don’t think that your kid can’t do something you want them to be able to do. Set a goal. Help them develop a routine. Let them take responsibility (rolling their mat out and putting it up). Expect a few rough days. Remember that they are learning.  Remember to picture nice adult drinks once you handle the “crisis” moments (or bubble baths or whatever is your little ‘unwind’ secret). Don’t give up. Your child is amazing and capable.

Also, we found a school that fits Little Bird and our family perfectly. She is already doing wonderfully in her class and the teachers love her. I seriously don’t think I could have designed a better place for her. Sometimes a school doesn’t fit. Doesn’t mean the people running it are bad or that the school is bad, just means it’s not right for you or yours. So glad we decided to try something different.


  1. Good advice...we are working so get our children, 2 and 5, to eat what we trying on the nerves! I'm worry to hear about the panic attacks... I had them as a child, and even still do sometimes. She is fortunate that you understand that she's does infact have them, and that you are willing to help her...that will male a huge difference in learning how to deal with them...and in knowing that she's not weird or alone in having those feelings.

  2. Sorry about the panic attacks...not worry about the panic attacks...darn auto correct