Managing Fear from the Outside

I called the local elementary school last week to ask about registering Leila for the fall. After I hung up the phone, I turned around to see her standing behind me, eyes wide with fear.

Who were you just talking to? she demanded. I told her that I had to register her to start primary next year. Her eyes filled with tears and she shouted that talking about school made her feel scared and then she stormed away.

I sat beside her on the couch and pulled her onto my lap. Then we won’t talk about it, baby. It’s still far away.

Two days later, I told her that we had to go to her school to register but that we wouldn’t be going into classrooms, only the office. We wouldn’t be talking to teachers, only the secretary. I told her that if she was uncomfortable or nervous, she didn’t have to say a word, but that mommy had to go, and she was too little to stay home alone while I was running errands.

Leila is outgoing. And she’s full of things to say. She wants to talk to people and ask them questions and tell them stories. She’s friendly and sweet and very endearing. Yes, she’s afraid of the unknown of “going to school”, but no matter how scared she is, the girl just can’t keep quiet for very long.

She asked me what the secretary does. I told her that the secretary takes care of a lot of information, and probably calls parents if kids need to go home and wow, she just sounded so friendly when I had talked to her that I was really looking forward to seeing her. And there had been a little girl who had some into the office when we were on the phone and the secretary asked me to wait while she helped the little girl and that made me feel that she really cared about the kids at her school. But! Remember! You don’t have to talk if you’re not comfortable.

We headed down to the school today, and Leila bounded out of the car. Paper snowflakes on the windows! Basketball nets! Soccer fields!! The BEST LOOKING PLAYGROUND EVER!

Unfortunately, the school was closed for Winter Break (instead of March break this year, the schools are closed for two weeks this month during the Canada Games) which I knew but had forgotten. We drove around the parking lot and Leila squirmed with excitement and Alena demanded to know why she couldn’t go to school too and Leila calmly told her that she just wasn’t quite big enough but when she’s five, don’t worry, they can ride on the bus together.

I guess I’ve learned how to deal with her fear. I understand it, I really do. And she just needs reassurance. I mean, don’t we all? She needs to be reassured that everything will be ok. I’m lucky enough right now to be able to calm her fears. Because everything will be ok. She’ll go to school and she’ll come home and we’ll still all eat dinner together most nights, and she’ll still have her blankie at bedtime, and her sister will still want to play Little People, and basically, life will be a tiny bit different, but not that much different. And probably a little better.

When do we stop believing the reassurances of others? There are lots of people in my life who tell me that everything will be ok and that they love me and that I’m wonderful and smart and beautiful and admirable. But it seems that Leila, curled safely in my lap, has a much easier time putting all of her faith in me that I do.

Not that I don’t truly believe that everything will be ok (better even!) when change comes to pass, but I wonder… when will she stop believing me? When will she realize that I don’t know it all, can’t answer it all? And then what?

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