This time one week ago I had no plans to return to our local brick-and-mortar school as patrons.
Through Monday’s usual trappings, I did not know.
One little question I asked my husband at dinner sparked this reinvention. It happened quickly. One moment I had no thought of it. The next, it was settled. By my own volition. Followed by a torrent of tears.
Anxiety is my constant companion and close friend to depression. Occasionally, we all get together. And it’s a rather poor party we have.
In 2009, Eldest entered pre-kindergarten. A new and sneaky anxiety settled in my brain. I was almost unaware. The obscene depression that followed Third’s birth – that was to blame for any lingering darkness.
Then I began to fall. I had episodes before, before children, and they returned. No real diagnosis came before, and none came swiftly later.
Many, many falls. A few emergency rooms. Doctors. Supine bed rest. Loss of pride. Loss of autonomy. Loss of motherhood beyond name alone. Others’ losses in piles round about.
And then diagnosis. Brutal. Embarrassing. Heartsickening.
Conversion disorder. Mental hurt converts to physical hurt.
Signal self loathing. Guilt.
Fast forward is what the disorder should be called because that is precisely what happened. By the time I could be left unattended without fear of falling, Middling was potty trained and Third was no longer rocked to sleep. There is a huge chunk of life from which I was worse than absent. I was burden personified.
In 2012, I chose to transfer Eldest and Middling to a virtual public school. I badly needed to reestablish myself as mother, both in authority and in relationship. It was a wonderful and rocky path. Sometimes shadow, sometimes shine.
I wanted to give up a thousand times some days. I cherished moments and strove in multiple directions.
I’m not sure when I first tied conversion disorder to Eldest’s start of school, but I’ve known a long while. By late last spring, I knew that my schooling choice rested on my own fears, rational and not. All summer I talked to those closest about returning the boys to brick-and-mortar school, but I had not the fortitude.
The decision about schooling is, in my experience, just like every other parenting decision, which is just like every personal decision: wound up. The personal hopes and beliefs and fears and constraints go in a blender and get mangled and tangled and poured out into a decision-shaped container. All the components are inextricably wound together and all but impossible to separate.
Assume positive intent. That’s what husband says. I try. Making decisions helps because it is humbling.
I do not regret being my kids’ learning coach, though I admit to regretting every mite of impatience. I regret my moments of fury and visible disappointment. I treasure every giggle, triumph, tear, and every ounce of effort.
As I panicked Monday night over and over, I knew the panic must not lead to conversion. And I was terrified. None of us can go back to 2009.
I experienced waves of panic through Tuesday as I withdrew and enrolled and bought supplies and packed backpacks. My mom stayed. She sat with me and cried a bit with me and helped me level out.
The boys’ first day at their new school, I was determined to ensure two things: I would not cry before school and I would not look as though I’d cried when I picked them up. I succeeded the way Kimmy Schmidt (The Unbreakable, Netflix): 10 seconds at a time.
The second day of school, I felt strong and content. But then I passed through the door of my home to find no little ducks waddling after me. The feeling dissolved and I forged ahead.
I’ve met the teachers and filled out the papers and prayed a lot. I force myself to do what I must.
Every family is smaller and tighter than its outsiders. In this family, we believe everyone is worth all the effort of learning and growing. We know we are more than the sum of our decisions and more than our doubts and fears and failings. And we know why family decisions are not subject to outsider approval: because we have no business approving or disapproving the decisions of other families.
I have so much more to teach my boys, myself. And expanding our village to encompass our local school returns me to teaching the most important things.
When you run out of solutions, reinvent them as they are, where they are, and when they are.
Let it be so.