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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The anxious child

I read that book a couple of years ago to help mine for clues to assist my youngest son during a bout of OCD.

Now I need to find the book and re-read it, with a greater degree of care and a good deal more insight. I need new or different strategies.

Both my boys hate to leave the house. It has always been so. It's not that they're some type of exotic hot house orchids, they're merely rooted to the spot.

When they were very small, I ran duplicate campaigns, as it was too complicated to do different things for different children. One size fits all was merely a survival mechanism. Every day, I would take them out to the driveway where the traditional American mailbox sits on the white picket fence. We would gather the mail as they tried to escape into the road, run into other gardens and generally create more ruckus and angst than any casual observer might guess.

Once inside again, we would read the recipients names and ‘deliver’ the letters to the office, the kitchen and any other person fortunate enough to receive mail.

Communication of any kind, has always been a struggle. PECS helped us when words were few and far between. Since they could both read, we used PECS that also had the written word beneath. Written instructions were usually more successful than oral verbal prompts. This is part explains why neither of them use the telephone, abhor the telephone. Once they went to school, this ‘chore’ fizzled out, as so many of my campaigns have. But they keep growing bigger, both the campaigns and the children.


My eldest son catapaults into the room in a state a great agitation. I lay down the book, “The Anxious Child,” open at page three.
“We made a deal so it’s all gonna be o.k,” he announces breathlessly. I notice spouse reversing out of the driveway and speeding away.
“Great. I’m glad you sorted it out with Dad.”
“Oh no! I forgot the deal already!”
“Never mind. Dad will remember the deal. When he comes back we can ask him about it.”
“No, no, no. I need to know the deal now!” I give it my best shot, “well, when he comes home after his hair cut, he’s going to take you to Target where you can choose a new prize.”
“Oh yes, that’s right, I remember now. That’s the deal.” He was unable to choose his prize. A reward from the teacher for a job well done, at the end of the first week of school on Friday. Now it is Saturday. We, his feeble minded parents, are unable to deal with the constant barrage of questions; ‘how many days until next Friday? The next 'prize' day. How many minutes until next Friday, how many seconds until next Friday?’

“How long is he gonna be?”
“I don’t know dear. Er, perhaps an hour. Let’s play with the marbles until he gets home.”
“I don’t like marbles, they’re no fun. When’s he gonna be home? I need to go and choose my prize?” I pick a number.
“He’ll be here in 60 minutes, 360 seconds. Let’s set the timer together.”
“That’s gonna take forever!” he wails.

We try pokemon, trading cards, magnets and stories. Nothing distracts and engages him. We will not have ‘electronics time’ for another 8 and a half hours. His anxiety about the passage of time, supercedes all other concerns or interests. He stares at the timer, which I do not consider to be of any assistance. “It’s not moving!” he wails. I look at the mountain of laundry that also seeks my attention, if anyone is able to go to bed tonight in clean linen.

The desperate clutch at straws, “I know, I’ll telephone him as ask how long he’s going to be!” The coward passes the buck. I check the number and start to dial. As my fingers stab the buttons, I formulate a cunning plan. “ I’ll talk to Dad for a moment and then I’ll tell him you want to ask him a question.” His eyes widen like saucers, “but I can’t!”
“Yes you can, you’re 8 now. Daddy would love to hear you talk to him on the phone.” So would a lot of other people, myself included. He has never spoken on the phone to anyway, not even a toy one.
“But it might be the wrong number!”
“If it’s the wrong number, you can just say ‘sorry, wrong number,’ and put the receiver down. It’s not a problem lovey.”
“But I would make a mistake.”
“We all makes mistakes. Little mistakes like that aren’t important, nothing to worry about.”
“But it might be a bad man, a burgular, a thief. Someone might wanna steal me.”

I am so out of my depth. With a speech delay there was automatically a little time built into an exchange. This gave me the chance to think and strategize. For years I have been counting to fifteen, including ‘ands’, waiting for him to respond. Now, he’s so far ahead of me that I’m trailing behind, if not drowning. The rings stop and reroute to our home answering machine! Typical. I replace the receiver. “What he say? When’s he gonna be home?”
“I don’t know dear he didn’t pick up.” I rake my fingers through my hair and rack my brain. “Let’s see, what shall we do until he comes home dear?”
“Hey! Look mum.” He points to the window and continues, “the mail man’s here. How about we go and get the mail and sort it.”

5 years too late, is soon enough.

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