James still often becomes anxious at bedtime despite taking Lovan and Melatonin. We always take the time to go through the process with him. Sometimes the conversations we have during this time are really distressing to him, resulting in tears. Often it’s hard for us to not see the humour in the situation because of the nature of the things he worries about – they are so unusual for a child of his age. An example …
There is a beautiful little girl in his class who we shall call Mary-Jane Jones. It’s important to use both names because James refers to all his friends using their first and last names! James adores Mary-Jane Jones. Apparently she is the “loveliest girl in the whole world!” He has been heard to compliment Mary-Jane on many occasions – “I love your new shoes, Mary-Jane Jones!” “Your show and share was the BEST show and share I’ve ever heard Mary-Jane Jones!” “Did you have a hair-cut Mary-Jane Jones? Your hair looks lovely!” I would like to think that both Mary-Jane and James get something out of the friendship. He gives her lots of compliments and acknowledges her gifts and talents, big and small, and he notices everything about her and what she does. She has been really supportive and understanding of him, often comforting him when he’s distressed and patting his back when he’s anxious. I know one day soon we will have to talk to him about boundaries in boy/girl relationships but for now I just don’t want to burst his bubble and both Mary-Jane and he do genuinely seem to gain from the friendship.
One night when trying to go to sleep, the conversation went this way …
James: Mum, I think marriage is … well … just lovely! One day I want to have a marriage. One day I might marry Mary-Jane Jones.
Me: Marriage is lovely, darling and one day when you’re a grown man, I hope you do have a marriage. How do you know you’re going to marry Mary-Jane Jones?
James: Because she told me.
Me: Oh … OK! Well as you both get bigger you might meet other people and maybe you might change your mind. That would be OK, you know.
James: But I am marrying Mary-Jane Jones Mum. We already talked about it. We are going to get married and then we are going to live in Paris. We might even have babies there but don’t worry mum, you can visit if you want to!
Me: Goodness! Well – you know mum and dad didn’t get married until we were 28 years old. Getting married is something you don’t need to be thinking or worrying about for a long time. You have other things to do first like finishing school and learning to drive a car.
James: But I do worry about the marriage, Mum. I don’t think I’m going to able to handle it. I don’t know how to organise a wedding. Do you think you’ll be able to help me out with that Mum?
Me: James – I guarantee you that I will be both able to help and willing to help WHEN the time eventually comes.
James: <<starting to become distressed>> But Mum … I’m thinking about the priest … which priest is going to help with my marriage? <<now crying>> All the priests are now soooo old and they will all probably be dead by the time Mary-Jane Jones and I get married! There will be no priests alive!! <<we are experiencing a shortage of priests in the Catholic Church in Australia>>
Me: I’m sure that there will still be priests to say your wedding but if not, there are other qualified people called marriage celebrants who can conduct weddings. That is not something you need to worry about.
James: <<now completely beside himself>> And I’m just really worried about taking Mary-Jane Jones on our first date. Because I’m thinking that it would be lovely to have our first date at an ice rink. <<now sobbing!>> But there’s no <sob> ice rinks <sob> in this town!!!
And so on and so forth. How is a child supposed to get to sleep when their mind is churning with anxiety about things in the future that are so well beyond their control? On these occasions we just sit with him, try to talk him towards more calming subjects and then stay with him until he’s calm. You know when this point comes because he will say, “OK Mum! I can handle it now. You can go!”
Have you ever read the quote, “If you are depressed, you’re living in the past; if you are anxious you are living in the future; If you are at peace you are living in the present – Lao Tzu”? I think anxiety exists because of past experiences, because of worrying about future experiences and due to this, anxiety is an every day thing. That’s just my view. In our house, our saying is “One day at a time” but in honesty, often it is “one breath at a time”.