In the last few episodes, our young hero was struggling with a sudden, mysterious and and severe case of separation anxiety. It's been a tough two weeks, but there is a pretty interesting twist to all of this. Check it out.
Thursday night, when Isaac was in the tub, I used the opportunity to bring up the dreaded topic and see if I could get more information out of him. Here's our conversation, as accurately as I can reconstruct it.
Me: Isaac, what are we going to do tomorrow?
Me: What do you mean by "no"?
Isaac: I want to stay home.
Me: But there's school in the morning.
Isaac: No school.
Me: Why don't you want to go to school tomorrow?
Isaac: Because I want to stay home.
Me: Why do you want to stay home?
Isaac: Because I want to play at home.
Me: How do you feel about going to school?
Isaac: I feel worried.
Me: Worried? What are you worried about?
Isaac: The fire drill.
BINGO! He puts his hands over his ears and starts making a beeping sound: BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Me: Isaac, was there a fire drill at school?
Isaac (whispers): Yes.
Me: Was it very loud?
Isaac (whispers): Yes.
Me: How did that make you feel?
Me: You know, most people don't like fire drills. But tomorrow at school it will be quiet. There won't be a fire drill. Do you know what to do if a fire drill happens?
Isaac: Cover your ears.
Me: That's right. We cover our ears. And that makes it quieter.
Isaac: I was sad.
Me: Why were you sad, sweetie?
Isaac: I was sad because [T] (his teacher) picked me up.
Me: Okay, so maybe tomorrow you can tell [T] how you feel.
Eventually, Isaac asked for a "fire drill story." For those of you interested in social stories, I can tell you that we've been able to adapt them lately so that they're a lot less work than they used to be (unless, unlike me, you are extremely crafty and a huge fan of lamination). So this is a pared-down version, which works if, like Isaac, your child has enough language and engagement to contribute to the story but still needs some help putting it together. It went something like this (the bold is for Isaac's contributions):
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Isaac. Isaac lived in San Francisco. One day, he was very, very upset and started to cry.
His mommy said, "Isaac, why are you crying?" "Because I am worried about going to school," Isaac answered. "There was a fire drill at school, and the fire drill is too loud."
His mommy thought about this for a moment. "What do we do when there's a fire drill?" she asked. And Isaac said, "we cover our ears."
"That's right," Mommy said. "We cover our ears. And if we're scared, we can ask our teacher for a big hug." And so Isaac went to school, and there was no fire drill, and he was very happy. The End.
The next day, I took him to school. "First go to school, then Daddy will pick me up, then we'll ride the elevator," he said. (The elevator is still wildly popular around here. Go figure.)
When we got to school, he strode right in, went right up to T., the teacher who had picked him up and carried him into school, and gave him a hug. T. sat down at the tiny child's table, my son looking over his shoulder, and he began to dictate a new letter:
I want Momma to come back to school. Because I don't want the fire alarm. I want you to read it and write it again. And again."
This little missive came home in his lunch box, along with another piece of paper that stated, simply, "No fire alarm today!!!"
I'd say that sent a pretty clear message to the American people, wouldn't you?
Since then, he's been perfectly relaxed. We tell a few stories, we write a few letters. We go to school. And he's fine. Just fine.