Yesterday was my son’s first gym class.
I was both excited and nervous. Why? Although he has just turned five, he has separation anxiety. It is an expected stage in children’s psychological development, typically from 9-24 months. Leo is 60 months. Even I can do the maths. In babies, when parents leave and they cry it can be a sign of a healthy attachment to caregivers. When they are older hopefully children understand that their parent will always come back. It seems Leo doubts my commitment.
Don’t leave me mummy.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t read the books. And I wish I had trained to be a yoga teacher. I overthink, I berate myself, did he go to nursery too young? Am I crap at being a mummy? Little boy has a stable family life and oodles of love and reassurance…The optimist in me thinks, well this is proof he likes you.
We arrived in town well in time and I parallel parked (badly) without dragon breathing. We went in search of sustenance and to pay a cheque in (a ‘good’ mummy would have brought snacks). With little legs I forgot things take double time (brain swear).
I got to the bank sweating, piggy-backing three stone of grinning child who had got bored of walking after two minutes. A sandwich was purchased. Ham, his favourite. We trotted off to find the gym club with me carrying 4 bags and Leo skipping behind singing to his sandwich. Predictably I got confused, relying on Google maps, chatting to him in my favoured third person. ‘Silly mummy likes to get lost, can you tell me which way left is?’ I sounded like the goddess of calm, inside I was chilly with panic. Being late is a pet hate and I didn’t want him to have to walk in mid-session.
Suddenly I heard a scuffle, bump and Leo gasp.
I swung round, heart pounding, ready to defend against pirates or potential ‘pusher-overers’. My boy was in a heap, holding up his finger. He began to wail. Next to him stood a seagull with said sandwich in its mouth. It took me a minute to decide if it was appropriate to laugh, but his little horrified face had me melting. I scooped him up into my arms, sat on the pavement and put my arse in chewing gum.
A lovely lady ran up, ‘Oh goodness that seagull ate your son.’
She offered him a tissue. I reassured them both, gave him my sandwich, gave the seagull a death glare and reminded myself that kicking it in front of Leo would be setting a bad example. We got to class with two minutes to spare with Leo on the cusp of hysteria.
Cheerily I put him in his shorts and held his hand in line, pointing out the colourful pictures. The instructor said, ‘say goodbye to mummy’. I didn’t know I could not come into class, there was not even a window where he could see me. Fail. His lip wobbled. I panic gesticulated at the man saying, ‘he is new but is very excited about rollypollying.’ Leo clung to the door frame for 6 minutes whilst the man coaxed him in.
Tips for managing separation anxiety.
- It is best to stay calm and be reassuring. Even though you are sweating in your mustard jumper and the anxious rash has started to creep up your ears. Remain cheerful, they are emotional sponges.
- Give them something special, I used to leave Leo with a bracelet of mine. My magic bangle. In gym I give him a lucky kiss to take with him and put in his pocket. He did not look convinced.
- Find something to motivate them. Leo saw an older boy swinging on the bars and did his open-mouthed fish impression. I felt nauseous and old.
- Give your little one time to get used to it. Don’t get frustrated (easier said than done when they are sobbing and holding onto your leg for the 223rd time).
- I should have visited the centre to let him have a look, so he wasn’t going to a strange building. That would have been a ‘good’ mummy’s notion. I got confirmation only a few days before and as we had been waiting 8 months for a place I just mentally high-fived myself whilst my pre-planning hopped on a plane to Canada.
- Don’t linger, don’t stand by the door. Gentle reasoning does not work with Leo. You have to take the ‘drop and run’ approach. My favourite TA in school fireman lifts and tickles him. Good healthy assertion, one of us needs to know what we are doing.
- If you are a wreck, have a coffee or call your mum. Know that in 5 minutes they will happily be playing with toys while you guiltily cry in your car.
Leo’s anxiety is not pleasant for either of us, but it is brief. If your LO’s anxiety is affecting their ability to go to school, sleep alone etc, talk to someone, you are not alone.
He loved the class!
The funny thing is, the day Leo runs off without a second glance, or a wave, I know I will be sad.
Do your children ever get anxious when you leave the, are they starting school soon and you are anxious how they will react, do you have any tips for making them feel more reassured?
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I had people telling me about separation anxiety from about 6 months and i remember thinking that these parents must be imagining it! I even had a parent tell me that it was a sign of her child’s intelligence- that they knew she was gone! I think i actually rolled my eyes!
Anyway, It’s funny I read this now, because my child cried constantly last night for 5 hours (At 10 months). I had no Idea what had hit me, i can only assume its this separation anxiety! My husband was really sick so I did not want to bring The baby into bed so I laid down with him on his bedroom floor! What the hell was i doing? Tiredness can make us do weird things!
A lovely read and good to know parenst all go through these things!
my daughter is 4.5 and she’s just coming out of a late and unexpected separation anxiety! She recently started an art class, and she is always in a great mood when she comes out, even though she was nervous at first. It really helps children to work through their feelings, and know that they can be safe in different environments, although it’s often hard work for us managing the feelings!
Haha I normally manage feelings by sitting outside in the car eating chocolate on the phone to my mother! It is so good for them to be out and sociable..just sometimes it is a push to get them there!Glad you LO is coming out of it and art class sounds fab!x
Oh bloody seagull!! I know what you are going through with separation anxiety. My eldest daughter was terrible with this!! It took her a while for her to feel comfortable. She is still very shy at the beginning whatever we take her. But I guess it is getting better now because she is now at school and happy with her friends. Her sister is in the other hand very different. She is much more social and love the nursery. It only took a few weeks for her to be super happy to be left at nursery. She now arrives at nursery and say bye to me straight away. It is amazing how both can be so different! I’m so glad that Leo enjoyed his gym class. It must be hard for you both when his anxiety starts. That instructor sounds really supportive which is greatt. Your tips are really good Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I really love having you here. You have been GREAT this week with the commenting! Thank you so much for that!! I really appreciate that. It is really nice to see you enjoying reading all the posts. I really hope to see you again this week!! 🙂 xx
You always leave such great considered comments, I am so grateful. I am glad your eldest is happier now, I think Leo will always be a little socially shy, which is funny as it is not like he is has a quiet retiring character! I loved reading everything, you get so much from it..it did take me hours over a glass of wine as I am not really a minimalist commenter! I have finally got the hang of the acronym without copying and pasting, I kept getting confused at first..sleep deprived brain! xx
Oi, separation anxiety! My son, who is 13 months, completely loses it when I walk into the kitchen, much less if I try to drop him off somewhere! I can definitely tell that he uses me as his safe place, burying his head into my chest when he is overwhelmed in public. The seagull thing must’ve been so frightening, birds can be mean!! Thanks for sharing <3 #KCACOLS
Oh bless him, that is completely normal for your sons age, the world is a big scary place! Thank you for a lovely comment!
Yikes, I’m pretty terrified of seagulls as it is! We are in the midst of separation anxiety issues too (though I would very tentatively say that they are getting better … sometimes…) These tips are really good and it sounds like you’re doing a great job in supporting your little boy. It’s just sometimes it’s easy to know all the tips but still feel overwhelmed when you’re in the middle of it, isn’t it? I know things normally go much better if I can commit to ‘drop and run’ but it’s not always so easy when the tears are streaming! #KCACOLS
Fingers crossed they are getting better for you my lovely!Thank you for such a lovely comment x
Bloody seagulls!!! Also my boy was like this right up to school too, but he’s been getting loads better 🙂 #chucklemums
Aw your last line really did pull at the heart strings and it is so true! I did have to stop myself lol-ing when the seagull nicked the sarnie and you sat in gum! Great post! 🙂 #kcacols
Haha you can laugh it was hilarious. It was a pure oh bugger moment!xx
Gosh, separation anxiety is a toughie but it’s only because he loves you sooooooooo much. As for seagulls, they are vicious buggers. Mother once got ‘assaulted’ by a seagull when walking down the high street. It was both humiliating and painful, especially as she was trying to act all professional and business-like at the time (everything she isn’t). Hope the separation anxiety has got easier x #chucklemums
This response made me giggle tea out of my nose..I have sympathy for poor professional mother xxx
I couldn’t wait to read this post just from reading the title! Separation anxiety is so hard isn’t it. Each little sob is like a dagger to the heart. I once witnessed a seagull steal a whole cornish pasty from my hubby’s hand. My husband does not share food. That bird needs to be very thankful that my husband cannot fly!
So pleased that Leo went on to enjoy the class in the end. Thanks for sharing with #FartGlitter x
Thank you my love. My god I want a pasty now. xx
I’m so glad that Leo enjoyed his gym class, it must be so hard for you both when his anxiety kicks in but it sounds like the instructor was really supportive. I like all the tips and tricks you provide in your blog post, it is starting getting me thinking what happens when my daughter goes to nursery, what will she be like, will she be ok….etc. The seagull made me chuckle, I would have been scared sh*tless if this was me! Claire x #KCACOLS
Haha tips and tricks..or horrified that they get worse..I man better..I mean. Kids are great. I am just glad I had a spare sandwich or the world would have gone wrong..x
Seagulls are pesky rotters. It sounds like you handle Leo’s anxiety very well. He’s still very little, I’m sure in time he will be running off with his friends and you’ll be left at the sidelines with a tear in your eye… funny and sweet! #chucklemums
Haha pesky rotters is the best descriptive ever! I try and handle it sometimes I think I get anxious and we both feed off each other…then eat lots of cake. Who said parenting was easy? 🙂 x
I love the way you tackle difficulties with humour, your personality and love shine out of your writing. I too am always filled with self-doubt and a massive helping of ‘Mother Guilt’. It’s lovely that you can look back at it all and laugh.
That is such a wonderful comment thank you.My lovely readers help me to look back and see the humour, and the successes, it is why love blogging as you feel a real sense of parenting community x
What a beautiful post. My son has asd and suffers from extreme anxiety in certain situations. It’s tough to keep that calm and stay reassuring when inside you want to sob with them. Sounds to me like you’re doing a brilliant job. I don’t think this ‘goof mummy’ you speak of exists. You’re the best mummy for him 🙂 Thanks si much for linking with #KCACOLS. I hope you can come back next Sunday.
Thank you so much, bless him, you just feel so helpless. Sometimes you can see my son smile, you know he is playing it..but others he is so anxious and worked up your heart breaks! Thank you for such a wonderful comment!Makes me feel reassured I am doing something right…x
I love how much humor you put into your post!! That was one mean seagull, but I think you handled it well. And yes, that “don’t leave me” … “ok I don’t need you” transition.. I don’t know which side I prefer. #KCACOLS
You have to have humour or you will just cry into a puddle!I never know if I am handling things well or not..it is hit and miss!Thank you for your lovely comment!x
Great post, I think most mom’s can completely relate. I haven’t yet crossed this bridge, I’m still at home with my little guy (he’s just over a year old). But he starts a day program later this year, I’m sure I’m more terrified than he will ever be!
Just make sure you have something planned for the first day..coffee with friends or something. I sat outside having a little cry!x
Oh I do feel for you, it’s a big emotion to deal with at the time. My boys have gone through this at various times and they have always had either childminders or nurseries helping out with their development since they were about 5 months old. I’ve felt a range of emotions over the years, usually it goes, but sometimes it stays for a little while. Then, I look at them happy well adjusted and think that they’ve done pretty well and I’m proud as punch of them!!:)
Giggle I LOVE the mainly! My little man started nursery at 8 months so he has been used to it..Its nice to hear about other little ones having got through it xx
Great post and all so true! It took my little monkey ages to do anything without me! Well done to you for staying calm! I just cried the first time! #KCACOLS
I almost cried and had a little panic one he was safely in the class!Then I ate a snickers and the world was well again!x
This is a brilliant post! I love how we do that exaggerated calm thing when we are freaking out. It’s not like everyone doesn’t know we’re freaking out really, especially if they’re parents themselves. I’m sure you did a wonderful job reassuring him and I’m so glad that the bottom line is: he loved the class! Such a lovely post. #KCACOLS
Thank you so much…apparently my exaggerated calm voice is like 3 pitches higher than my normal voice and I plaster on this scarey big smile that freaks my OH out..I did my best goodness knows if that is wonderful, we will see how lesson 2 goes!Fingers crossed!xx
loved reading this. my son too has moments of anxiety like this. some mornings he is fine at nursery and other mornings not. and then anything new, he clings to me. I used to be the same when I was a child though. Time and motivation work here too – something to distract their worries and before they know it, they are off, having fun 🙂 While we weep in to our cuppa! #KCACOLS
Thank you for a lovely comment…weeping into the cuppa is definitely me! I think my little one is getting slowly better…going to uni could be interesting but by then I will be the one crying and holding onto him!x
Ugh I hate seagulls (it’s great, living approx 1 mile from the sea…!)
It’s so true that as a mum you hate them being sad when you leave, but then when they don’t give a shit, you feel a bit rejected – as with most things motherhood, you just can’t win!
Lovely read – thanks for sharing. I was always very much a drop and run parent when it came to leaving them at Nursery, classes, etc. The staff always reassured me that the wailing stopped as soon as I left, and I ran away quickly enough that I wouldn’t know any different!! Seriously, it’s tough for parent and child but they’re soon used to it.
Really enjoyed your writing – thanks. #KCACOLS
Drop and run is my prefered way of doing it..then he does not have the time to consider his meltdown!! Thanks for the lovely comment x
I love the eaten by a seagull metaphor! Separation anxiety can be so hard – I notice that the Popple really clings to me in busy/loud/new places where there are lots of strangers, and I’m afraid she’s going to have a really hard time when she starts nursery in a few months. I think it’s going to be hard on me too – maybe I also have separation anxiety?
I think mummy’s do too, just stay away from the seagulls beautiful! xx
As always you had me chuckling away. My dad looked at my poor tiny 5 month old baby the other day and declared ‘He’s going to be a mummy’s boy, I know it’ in the way only a grumpy Grandad can. So I may well be facing this!! I think it shows how much he adores you ? Bless him, glad he enjoyed it in the end though. Xx
Hehe got to love a mummy’s boy. owww 5 month old baby! xx
Totally compelling reading…you sum up all the emotions and the actuality of the situation amazingly. I love it. Oh I feel for you so much…I have no idea yet if my son will do this (he doesn’t when I leave him with family) but I drop him off on Wednesday for his first ever preschool session. If he does I’ll be emergency messaging you for tips: ‘the seagull has landed’.
Love the kiss in the pocket too xx
Haha code, I love it. Oh wow thats an exciting and big step, let me know how he (and mummy!) get on! I just thought it was too funny to share and the seperation anxiety does cause us both lots of distress so we thought it is good to say its hard incase other parents are going through the same xx