Flipping the Script

Ryan and Riley play soccer
Once the crisis passed, Ryan and Riley spent some of their last moments of summer break playing soccer in the backyard.

Our child, clearly dogged by anxiety, goes over school supplies on the last day of summer vacation. Items are frantically sorted, color-coded according to an arbitrary system of the child’s own making — one that must be followed at all costs.

But, there is a problem. There’s one too few binders or one too many pencil holders. There is a missing pack of dividers. One spiral notebook doesn’t have a matching folder.

Despite all manner of assurances from the parents, the child insists the color-coding must be followed. This is a disaster, the parents are told. The child is positive they will get yelled at on the first day for not having the proper supplies.

The parents seek to reassure the child. The child’s sibling, nervous about facing their own first day in a few school, attempts to help by assuring the child that all will be OK. That it’s fine to be missing a few items from the list.

But it’s too late. The child is gone — having slipped past the edge of the anxiety cliff. The child is unreachable, inconsolable. The parents exchange a glance. They recognize what they are seeing. It’s what happens when anxiety crashing headlong into a compulsive need for order. The last time, they immediately scheduled a visit to the psychiatrist, and picked up some coping mechanisms, along with a new diagnosis: OCD.

There’s only one thing left to do: Remove the child from the situation and retreat to calmer surroundings. Soon, soothing words and a favorite TV show have allowed the immediate crisis to pass.

Oh, did I mention the child melting down over a failure to have properly color-coded school supplies on the first day was Riley? And that it was Ryan that stepped in to help calm her?

Sometimes, my kids are more alike than they are different.

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4 thoughts on “Flipping the Script

    1. So far, so good. First couple days went well — for both– although my son barely slept the night between the first and second days. My daughter is still quite nervous but a little better each day.

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