Anxiety, Please Stay Away

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I mentioned it briefly in one of the photo captions from my Wednesday post.

Anxiety paid Ryan a rather unwelcome visit at Wednesday’s Devils home-opener. We normally don’t attend weekday night games because it means keeping our kids up too late. With Ryan in particular, his sleep cycle is like a delicate flower that needs to proper conditions to flourish. We make exceptions from time to time, but mostly try to avoid it.

This is fine with him. In fact, it’s more than fine. He very, very rarely fights us about bed time. He’s often ready to go to bed before we even want him to. But we made an exception on Tuesday. It was the first home game of the long-delayed season, and we didn’t want to deny either of our kids the opportunity to see it. We successfully navigated a few weekday-night games last season, and thought we could do so again.

But a few things have happened in the interim to complicate matters. One, Ryan is at a new school that starts its day earlier. Two, he was late to school a few weeks back for a doctor’s appointment. Even though Veronica dropped him off and checked him in at the office, the school insisted on marking this as an “unexcused tardy” because he had not brought a doctor’s note. Since we were unaware of this requirement, we simply didn’t think to get one.

Well, a doctor’s note is acquired easily enough, and one rolled off the fax machine at my work within a few minutes of Veronica placing the call. The only problem was the school wouldn’t accept us faxing the note over, it had to be hand delivered. The tardy would be carried as unexcused until such time as it was.

Fine, that’s their policy. I normally wouldn’t give it much thought. Except that this is Ryan we’re talking about. He heard the entire exchange and grew very concerned about having anything unexcused on his record. Veronica tried her best to calm him before leaving him to return to class.

The note was turned in the next day, the “unexcused” was removed, and all was well … until Tuesday night.

We told Ryan if he was so worried about being out late, he could stay home from school. I suppose if he had really insisted, we would have let him, but we knew he wouldn’t want to stay home — that’s breaking a rule. But I had no idea that the reason he wouldn’t stay home was because of the threat of having another “unexcused” mark on his record.

As a result, his anxiety was running very high before Veronica and the kids even reached the arena (I was meeting them there after coming from work). She told me how they almost had to ditch, but that she couldn’t do that to Riley. She even told Ryan at one point that they would have to drop Riley off with me, and then return to pick us up after the game.

Ryan was worried that if he was up too late, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate and behave appropriately in school the next day. We tried just about every trick in our playbook to calm his nerves, but his anxiety was taking a toll on his enjoyment of the game.

Anxiety amplifies all his issues. He chewed a hole in one of his gloves. He kept chewing on his jersey. His facial habit was extremely frequent. He asked me what time it was approximately every three minutes. And late in the third period, he began plotting to have us leave the game early.

Leave a game early?

This was unheard of for Ryan. We left one game early — by about 30 seconds — last season to get Riley to soccer practice, and he got so upset we heard about it the entire ride home. Yet here was my hockey-obsessed son, finally back at an NHL game for the first time since June, wanting to leave early to beat some of the traffic home.

In the end, he got to sleep quickly and navigated Wednesday at school just fine by all accounts. But the experience left a mark — on him, and on us. I hate to see anxiety intrude in something my son loves so much. I hate that I feel like we put him through the experience even though he was trying to tell us how concerned he was. And I hate that I hate that I put him through it because my son loves hockey more than anything in the world. Got all that?

Thankfully, we aren’t planning to attend too many more school night games — at least not until the playoffs.

Until then, I’m really hoping that anxiety will keep its unwelcome nose out of my son’s love of hockey.


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