Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The call from Graham's school came on Monday, barely an hour after I had settled into a busy day at work.

"We have Graham here in the office," said the voice at the other end of the phone. "He's not feeling very well and I think you'll have to come and get him."

"What?! Is he okay?"

"I don't think it's serious," was the reply. "Here, I'll let you talk to him."

There was a shuffling noise and then, Graham's voice, so thin and tiny that I instantly felt my chest ache as my heart swelled and pushed against it.

"I throwed up in the trash can Mommy. Are you going to come and get me?"

I went and got him.

I took him home and tried to catch up on work e-mails while he lolled on the couch and watched cartoons. I fed him chicken noodle soup and buttered sourdough toast and anxiously inquired about his well-being.

He appeared to be perfectly fine.

He appeared better then fine, actually: he appeared buoyant and, in retrospect, perhaps just a little relieved. That evening I even took him to the park and let him run off an obvious surfeit of energy.

Yesterday morning I walked him into his classroom where we were greeted by his teacher.

"Graham seemed fine at home yesterday," I told her.

"Well I think it was probably just nerves, but he looks way better today than he has since he started," she said. "I mean, he's just seemed so anxious."

He has?


I decided not to make a big deal of it: when I spoke to Graham after school yesterday he was happy as a clam and assured me he had a "great" day. I decided not to say anything about it at all.

And then this morning, as I buckled him into his car seat, a look of pure panic flashed across his dear, wee face.

"I'm gonna be sick Mommy, I'm gonna be sick," he wailed. "I need a sick bowl."

I handed him the car's waste paper basket and stood there for quite a while, rubbing his back and trying to reassure him.

"It's okay. It's normal. Everybody feels a little nervous sometimes. Even Mommy when she goes to work. All the other kids at school probably feel a little nervous too".

After a few minutes he seemed okay and off we went.

I walked him into his classroom again where the morning story was already in progress and apologized for our lateness.

"Graham had a little attack of nerves," I whispered to the teacher, as discreetly as possible.

She smiled kindly.

"Yes, that happened yesterday as well."

It did?


And so it seems that perhaps my darling boy is not quite as confident as he seems or as I so proudly asserted he was following his first day of school last week.

And so it seems that I must come to grips with the painful realization that the child I thought I knew better than my own heart has anxieties and fears that, for whatever reason, he feels he must keep hidden from me.

The heart, it breaks.

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Claremont First Ward said...

Oh no. Bet your heart felt ripped out when you found this out. My husband used to throw up every morning before school. Every morning. He was popular and well liked too.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY. A bit late. :)

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

Poor you! And your poor little man. I remember feeling quite sick whenever I started something new (actually I still do) and then the feeling would go away but start up again the next day. Maybe he feels okay by the time he talks to you and doesn't think to mention his worries (because he thinks they're gone).

Carrie Ella said...

Oh, poor thing! I suppose it is a bit unsettling.

April said...

I don't think it's that he's trying to keep something from you as much as it is that he's trying very hard to be brave and not acknowledge how anxious he's feeling.
He'll adjust. It just might take longer than either of you expected.

CaraBee said...

Oh Kelly, how hard to watch your little one go through that! He just doesn't want you to worry, what a sensitive boy, shows just how much he loves you!

wherewiller said...

Awww. These little guys we've just sent to school, they're pretty little, eh? They seemed big two weeks ago.

Life As I Know It said...

aw, poor guy, and poor you!

My kids are big puzzles that I have to fit together in different ways all the time. Constantly changing.

Hope his nerves calm...I'm sure they will!

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

Poor little guy, I feel for him and you! He probably can't articulate his fears so he has trouble even telling you about them.

The hardest part of sending them off to school is that you only know what they tell you and what bits you get from the teacher. I hate that part.

for a different kind of girl said...

We had a few weeks like this during my youngest son's first grade year last fall. I do believe there were days he had forgotten the sense of anxiety or nerves by the end of the day, so it did come as a surprise (and a motherly gut punch) the mornings he'd cling to me or complain of a stomach pain. I completely understand how it hurts and breaks your heart. I hope he finds the balance of things, and before long, this bump will be just a memory of what's going to end up being a great year for him.

11111111 said...

Aw, 'tis a bit unsettling, I know.

InTheFastLane said...

Ah...poor guy. Sounds like the teacher is very understanding.

Flea said...

It really is okay, mom. My youngest, now 12, still throws up when he's stressed. It's not that he's not telling me things as much as the pressure builds and comes out the wrong way. The rule now is that Thaniel throws up but has no fever or other symptoms, he goes to school. But that was a trial and error thing for us.

Aunt Becky said...

His Internet Aunt Becky feels his pain. I've had chronic stomach issues when I'm anxious. I'm really sorry. Give him a cuddle for me.

OHmommy said...

No, no... you know him so well. He is just like you. And you let him know that. It's okay and totally acceptable and contributes to a wonderful being, no?

Leanne said...

He's not hiding them, he's just too little to verbalize them or understand them. Don't worry, he'll be fine, he's just being his sensitive lovely own self. It'll be fine Mom, honest.

Pregnantly Plump said...

Poor little guy. I'm glad you seem to have such an understanding teacher. I hope his nerves will get better as the year progresses.

Pregnantly Plump said...

Poor little guy. I'm glad you seem to have such an understanding teacher. I hope his nerves will get better as the year progresses.

Rachel said...

Oh Kelly,

My heart just twisted...

I'm glad that his teacher seems to be so patient and understanding.


flutter said...

Oh, sweet thing

Beth Cotell said...

I'm going through something similar here. My strong willed, independent kindergartner apparently misses mommy more than I ever in a million years thought she would.

Lots of prayers, hugs and kisses, and ice cream are getting us through.

MissKris said...

My 'kids' will be 31 and 33 next week and, at times, my heart still breaks when hurts and traumas enter into their lives. I don't care how old all of us become...once a mom, always a mom. And some of the adult-sized hurts are a lot harder to see them go thru than the ones they suffered as kids.

Karen said...

I used to stress over not knowing my kids well enough to predict their every behavior (unrealistic, I know) but then I finally came to the realization that each of my children is their own person, not an extension of me. That helps me. Not so much my children when they need it most.

*hugs* I'm sorry that Graham is so stressed over this. Hopefully he soon finds school to be Too Fun.

karengreeners said...

Poor little guy. I think that they are figuring out that this is a permanent thing, and I guess it's a bit of a shocker - like, 'I did it! Whadda ya mean I have to do it again?'

My daughter finally told me that she didn't want to go to school this morning, not because she didn't like school, but because she was sure that her sister and their nanny were going to the park while she was in class.

Probably true, but I don't have the heart to let her in on that little injustice.

Anonymous said...

Oh G sounds so much like my she woke up and said she didn't want to go to school. Already. On the second day only.
It breaks my heart also...but they'll get through it. And so will we.

Burgh Baby said...

Oh no! Maybe it's a good thing that he isn't depending fully on you to work through it, though. Maybe? said...

:( Sending YOU a hug. Because he'll get past it, but the mommas have a harder time, don't we?

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

That's hard. It's been really something to see how my kids cope with change and anxiety in different ways. Hopefully this will pass quickly for him.

Unknown said...

Oh, I feel bad for him of course, as a mother myself that just sent a little boy off to school too. My heart just goes out to them, trying to be so brave, etc.

Hugs to you both!

Chantal said...

ohhhh how hard on you (and him of course). I have a boy like that. My oldest. He likes to keep his emotions to himself. It is hard on us. He is 8 and still does. Breaks my heart, a lot.

Jaina said...

He will be okay. I know I was similar at that age...I think it hurt my mom more than it hurt me. ::hugs:: He'll settle into it.

Mandy said...

That Graham sure is an old soul, isn't he? I hope it gets much easier for him real soon. I know that has to be gutwrencing to watch. ((hugs))

Cynthia said...

Awww...just breaks my heart. Sounds like you have a great teacher, that helps. Change is hard for everyone.

Heather said...

My oldest spent many months this Spring and all Summer with a nervous stomach. My VERY confident daughter.

She's been doing better since school started several weeks ago.

He must be worried about know how kids worry about things that we would never think to explain because we figure they already know? I wonder if you could ask him if he has any questions?


Vered said...

Graham, sweet brave Graham.

Our children are a source of so much joy, but also of so much pain and worry.

kelley said...

am i missing something, or is nobody else a bit perturbed that the teacher didnt bother to mention this earlier to the CHILD'S MOTHER?!?

makes me question what else she considers insignificant

and they made HIM TELL YOU he vomited, my god

i can remember sobbing/hyperventilating because i had to go to the office for a late slip in kindergarten, i can only imagine the anxiety THAT situation would have created

poor little guy

Sass said...

I find that if I don't stop to speak to the nursery staff, they wouldn't go out of their way to tell me much about Peaches' day.

I've had to make quite an effort of friendliness and assertive enquiry in order to get more communication from them. It's a bit unnerving to think I'll have to do the same with school teachers.

I expect some teachers have had a bad experience of telling parents about their children. I suppose they don't want to heap anxiety on the family but let the child work through it.

Tough though. It doesn't take long for children to work out that staying home from school is the sweetest thing!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

How hard for both of you. I hope he gets more comfortable and this goes away.

Teena in Toronto said...

Poor fella! I hope he's okay.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you. It's no fun when someone ELSE has to tell you what your kid is going through. I'm glad that you're finding out early on, though. And I'm sure that soon enough Graham will be over his nerves. In the meantime, go easy on yourself. It really, really isn't your fault.

Don Mills said...

Hope the lad is feeling better.

All the best,

From one Don Mills to another.

Jonathan said...

All the best =)

dogwooddiarist said...

Oh, I'm sorry. It's the beginning. School. It shows you sides of your child you never knew about -- they teach you stuff about themselves in subtle ways and you wonder why the hell it isn't more overt and easy and natural. You wonder who you are to them, and what is going on in their little heads. You become strangers, in some ways. Being compassionate and listening, not reactive, just open -- like you were -- it's the best response you can have.

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...

I had a recurring tummy ache in the 4th grade that everyone finally agreed were nerves. The cure? A special lunch date with my mom once a week.

Beck said...

We can never TOTALLy know our kids, and even the bravest child can have nerves. Maybe there is something specific worrying him, and a trip to his class might tell you what it is.

Loukia said...

That IS heartbreaking... my oldest son just started kindergarten this year and so far, so good - he seems to love it but I don't get much out of him. I wish his teacher would give me little reports about what went on everyday, you know? I mean, he's only 4! I need details! I want to know how he feels!
I hope your boy gets more confident as the days go by... good luck to you!

Karen MEG said...

Graham sounds like my boy; he tries so hard to be OKAY for Mommy, and it takes days for me to get to the bottom of something if I even suspect that anything is wrong. It's all in his stomach too, the nerves thing.
The heart does break, but you'll survive this, along with so many stressful "new" things as they come along.

Hugs to you all.