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Mid-Term Report

We’re now slightly more than three months into the new school year, and things are at once very much the same and altogether different than they were back in August.

I’ve still got a sweet, sensitive kid on my hands who is uncomfortable with some crowds, some loud noises, and changes of any kind. On the other hand, he’s fine with many loud noises these days, has settled into the school year, and is having a marvelous time. The teachers are no longer talking to me about problems on the play ground, or unhappiness, or unusual fearfulness. No one has asked me about counseling or suggested I seek out the same.

In other words, the entire Fall freak-out was, just as I deep-down suspected it to be, the result of a perfect storm of:

  1. A phase (the loud noises)
  2. Big changes (new class and teachers)
  3. My ill-timed travel schedule

Time has taken care of #’s 1 and 2. Item #3 was going to be over by mid-September all along. Thus, by the time I had a chance to look over that list of counselors the pediatrician gave me, I no longer felt the need to see one. Simon occasionally freaks out over a very loud noise, but more often he points up and smiles at planes and helicopters and puts his hands over his ears when lawn equipment is roaring in range.

In fact, about a month or so ago, a plane few overhead and Simon told me—well after it was out of sight and without his play being at all disturbed—that its noise scared him. I replied by telling him that planes used to scare him, but that he didn’t look scared at all to me now. “You might not like the noise,” I explained, “but I don’t think it scared you just now.” We repeated this conversation a few times, and now, if something is too noisy for him, he says, “I don’t like that lawn mower. It’s too loud for me.”

So that’s that. Irrational fear of loud noises? Over for now.

On the change front, we’ve also made progress. At the school director’s suggestion, we began bringing Simon to class a bit earlier in the morning. It gives him more time to settle in and find a friend, usually Baron, and it makes drop-off a lot less fraught for all of us. I’ve also learned to give warnings about change early and often, and then to count down when it is time to leave a room or building. The result is a lot less resistance, a lot less drama, and a general de-escalation about change.

Last but not least, I’m hearing about Simon’s emotions in a very different way these days. Whereas at the beginning, the teachers seemed worried that Simon cried whenever another child did, now what I hear is that he worries when Ella isn’t in class (she’s been sick a lot and has also had to travel for surgery) and needs to hear that she’s OK, and that he also gets upset when Jillian cries. Jillian is the youngest in class, has had a hard time adjusting to being away from home, and is a “dramatic crier” according to Simon’s teacher. Now, at my suggestion, they’ve begun talking to Simon about why Jillian cries, with the end result being that they better understand his response and regard it as a good thing (he’s empathetic and a good friend) and not a problem (he freaks out when kids cry.)

The moral to this story, if there is one, is that parents really do know their kids better than anyone, and that at times you have to respectfully listen to others but fundamentally trust your gut.  If Simon were not better by now, he’d be in counseling. For sure, the advice I picked up in a few books helped me to shepherd Simon through this phase or at least to not make it any worse. And had Simon’s teachers not raised their concerns, I might not have read so much about his temperament and learned to adjust (or defend) my approach with him accordingly.

At the same time, I knew in my gut that Simon was fine: I knew the loud noise fear was a phase; I knew he’d settle into a new routine once I was back home; and I knew his emotional sensitivity was a good thing. I knew this, and I think now his teachers all know it, too. Man, it feels good to be right!

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