My oldest son is 7 and he is terrified of being late to school.
So many times, I have wished to have just a moment in his brain. I want to understand where his anxiety comes from. I want so bad to know his train of thought that leads him to panic. I want to hear his thought process. What gets his train from breakfast time to oh my god, I’m going to be late?
My son is in second grade. He has never been late to school. I drive him and his sister to school every day. He doesn’t have to get himself there by walking. He doesn’t have to stand at a bus stop an hour before school starts. I drive.
We walk out our door every morning at 8:50. As soon as backpacks and lunch boxes are loaded and seatbelts buckled, I start to drive. It is 8:55.
We turn out of our driveway, which is on a main road, and travel about six houses down until we make our first and only turn. We turn onto the road that leads straight to the school. It is just over one mile and takes us approximately four minutes to get there, depending on traffic lights. It is 8:59.
My kiddos attend a large school. There are a lot of car-riders and three drop off points, sorted by first letters of last names. There are teachers directing traffic throughout the lot as families come and go. Their system is organized and effective. By 9:02, we are at the head of our drop off point, and my two loves are climbing over seats and jumping out.
At each drop off point, there are separate lines for each grade. My daughter saunters to the K line and my son walks hurriedly to the 2 line, with his backpack bouncing and lunchbox swinging. It is 9:03 as I begin to pull away.
As I start driving slowly, I look out and catch a glimpse of the big sign near the front of our drop off point. It says, “Thanks for being on time!” I know that the opposite side of the sign has a phrase for being late. At 9:15, the students are bustled inside and the sign gets turned to announce that drop off must now be through the main doors and students signed in as tardy.
My two kiddos have never seen the opposite side of this sign. We have never pulled up at 9:15 or after. They have never been signed in as tardy.
Three years, my son has gone to this school and we have had the same routine for driving there every morning.
Never. Not once. Never, have we been late.
But every morning, like clockwork – 8:30 comes at our house, and my son begins to panic.
All three kids are usually dressed at this point. It’s time for finding socks and shoes, brushing teeth and hair, and arguing with my daughter about why she can’t have soda for the car ride.
My son jumps up and begins to rush. He anxiously opens drawers, looking for socks so quickly that he actually misses the pairs he is staring straight at. Sometimes he yells, “mom, why aren’t you helping me find them!?” Sometimes I just hear him sighing in frustration.
He brushes his teeth, puts on his coat, then fidgets as he waits for his sister to do the same.
After impatiently waiting a couple seconds, he tries to hurry her along. Admittedly, Daughter does not do anything quickly. She has a pretty Lebowski outlook on life. If you tell her it’s time to brush hair – “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Oldest does not take kindly to her relaxed Dude attitude.
He starts to yell, “let’s go!”
“You’re gonna make us late!”
“You are the WORST!”
“Uggggh! Mom, can I just get in the car?”
Sometimes I let him go out to the car before us, if it’s not already running. But even then, he’s not satisfied until he is standing in his 2 line. I never see calm wash over his face until he’s lined up and I’m driving off.
I wish I knew what started this anxiety for him. Does he think he’ll be in trouble if he’s late? Did a friend show up late once and share how annoyed his mom was? Does he think it’ll make him a bad kid if he’s late? Did someone somewhere tell him that only bad kids are late? Does he think less of the kids who get there late sometimes?
Why can’t I make him understand that my name is Mom and my JOB is to protect him and make his life as easy as possible?
Does he not trust me to protect him and make his life as easy as possible?
Am I doing something wrong every morning to make him think I don’t care what time school starts?
OK – logically, I know this is just one of many, many things I will spend my Mommy Life wondering about and questioning, without ever getting an answer.
I just wish it was easier.
I wish I could get in that brain of his and ease all of his worries.
We live in a scary, jacked-up world…I guess I should count my blessings that his biggest worry is being late.
But it’s still hard to watch. And it will always be.