I can’t say for sure exactly when it started…when our HAPPIEST, most easy-going baby started to become not so happy, and definitely not easy-going; but looking back, we are now beginning to understand why.
We are the parents of 3 daughters, all born exactly two years apart. When our middle child was born, it was clear to us that she was just going to be easier than our oldest. She smiled 99% of the time and had a really funny, quirky personality. Everyone wanted a piece of her, and she made us all laugh and smile with her antics.
Fast forward two years to when our third little one arrived. Due to some health concerns, she was an all-consuming baby, and a lot of attention was given to her needs. Our oldest was at preschool 4 days a week, which left our little, middle girl with a smaller amount of time spent on her. She was certainly loved, hugged, and cuddled, but on a smaller scale than before, which must have left her feeling a little neglected.
We first noticed her anxiety in the form of separation: I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without her at my heels. She became my constant shadow, and her life was driven by finding ways to stay with me. Unfortunately, this took on a whole different meaning when it came time for her to start preschool. I think she holds the record for crying at every drop-off, for two.straight.years. Her moments of laughter, smiles and giggles were fewer and further between. That little spark in her eye was fading, and it was so hard to watch.
Throughout this time, we continued to sign her up for various activities, but because things such as soccer, dance and swimming are usually conducted without parents, they became crippling to her. The anticipation of the next practice and class were unbearable to deal with. Our constant reassurance meant nothing, and she all but refused to leave our side.
As we approached elementary school, it became more and more clear that we needed to find a way for her to cope with separation. The days were longer, and she was struggling to get through them. Our time spent at home was focused on preparing her for school the next day, and her anxiety was not only affecting her, but our entire family. She wasn’t happy, and we all felt the effects of it.
After speaking with her pediatrician, and some really smart friends and family, we decided it was time to start having her see a therapist. Thankfully, we were given the name of a FANTASTIC woman, who came highly recommended. Did I ever think I’d be taking my six-year old to therapy every week? Definitely not. Was it the best thing we’ve done for her and our family? Absolutely. By no means was she instantly happy again, but ever so slowly, we saw glimpses of the past make their way back. We first noticed it one morning at school. Instead of clinging on to me for dear life, she made her way to her line, took a few deep breaths, and walked into school. We couldn’t believe that after three years, she WILLINGLY walked into school. She continued to work on these techniques each week, and applied them to the situations that made her most anxious. There were, of course, some things that were far too overwhelming for her to work through on her own, but for the most part, she was making huge progress, and we were so proud.
She has since “graduated” from therapy, and the tools she gained during that time have enabled her to conquer some pretty great things. She just finished up a six-month long swim season, where she pushed passed the nerves and anxiety and showed us just how confident she can be. Each day, we see more and more of how capable and strong she is, and she’s finally starting to see that in herself. That reward may be the best one of all.