No rest for the worried

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Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While M is an anxious child, he is not necessarily a big worrier.   We know from experience that sudden changes in routine, like getting a new EA at school cause his anxiety to spike.  But when he found out that the EA would be away for a couple of weeks, M didn’t spend a lot of time fretting about it ahead of time.   Like most 10-year old, M tends to live in the moment.

Except Sunday nights.  That is the one night all the worries come home to roost,  As a consequence, M has trouble falling asleep on the one night we want him to have a solid night’s sleep, in preparation for the week ahead.  

This past Sunday,  he seemed to be having a harder time going to sleep than usual.   M’s light goes off at 9 pm and he generally nods off shortly after.  But at 9:45, he was still awake.  I have learned that the direct route rarely works with M – if I ask what’s worrying him, he’ll say “nothing”.  So I sat beside him and started talking about what we had done during the day.  I told him how much I liked the picture he’s painted me for Mother’s Day and  how I appreciated his help distributing poster for an upcoming school event. 

After a few minutes, M asked me how long the women in my family lived.

Me:  They live a long time.

M:  How long?

Me:  My grandmother was 93 when she died; one of my great-grandmother’s 100; and Grandma Edie was 101. 

M was silent for a few moments.

Me:  Are you worried about Mommy because of Ms. M (our neighbour, who is ill with cancer)?

M:  Yes.

Me:  I am a healthy person and cancer doesn’t run in my family, so I don’t think you have to worry.

M:  How do you get cancer?

Me:  It isn’t something you can catch from someone else.  There are lots of types of cancer and the causes are sometimes complicated.

My answer seemed to satisfy him and he started to tell me other things that were bothering him:

– the upcoming school trip, since he would be with his whole class

– the fact that supper would be lasagna which he doesn’t like

– not being able to sleep because he needs his white noise machine

– bugs (anything with more than 8 legs is scary)

– the fact that he wasn’t hungry at lunch because of his meds.

Given the length of his list, I am not surprised M was having trouble falling asleep. 

Me:  Do you feel better now?

M:  Yes.

Me:  I want you to give all your worries to me and when I leave, I’ll take them with me.

So I kissed him good night and mimicked trying to drag a heavy object out of the room and push them out the door.  I’m not much of an actress, but it seemed to be enough for him.  He was asleep a few minutes later.

Next Sunday, I won’t wait until almost 10pm to check in with M to see what’s on his mind.  We’ll kick those worries to the curb much earlier, so he can rest a little easier.

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