After a long, cough-filled night I sit here with laptop in hand feeling utterly exhausted. We had Matthew's birthday party last night and ended up with 7 little boys running around on a treasure hunt, then settling down (as well as 7 little boys will settle down!) for a fondue meal! It was Matthew's idea, and it was a lot of fun and something none of the boys had ever done before. Today is actually Matt's "real" birthday, and I refuse to believe he is 10 years old already. How I wish I could stop the passing of time, that I could keep him my little boy forever. But the ever growing solid body in front of me is a reminder that time stops for no one, and he is maturing and facing new challenges every single day. When do you change from calling them "boy" to "young man"? There are moments lately when it feels almost demeaning to call him a "boy" as he gradually continues his ascent to manhood. Yet there are still sweet moments when I am reminded there is still a little boy lurking inside...when he cuddles his stuffed animals, when he crawls up into my lap.
There is a bit of a cloud looming right now, as Joshua has entered a season of real emotional pain and we are trying to get to the bottom of it. Yesterday I became convinced we could not longer assume it was another temporary phase and I am now in the process of pursuing appropriate help. Kenny and Josh have been taking swim lessons through our local Park and Rec. Department. For the past 2 weeks I drive them to their school where a bus picks them up and takes them to the pool, then drops them back off when they are done. All has gone well until a couple of days ago when Josh got a bit weepy and said he didn't want to go on the bus because he was afraid it was going to crash, so I drove the boys over myself to the pool and watched them swim.
Yesterday I was running short on time and asked Josh if he could ride the bus and he said "yes" so we headed over. As we arrived the bus was there waiting and suddenly Josh comes unglued. There he is, my poor baby, standing in the street screaming and sobbing that he doesn't want to go, that the bus is going to crash, that he just wants to be with me. I urge Kenny to get on the bus and I talk to Josh in an effort to try and figure out what is going on, I ask him if he wants me to take him to the pool myself and he says he doesn't even want to be at the pool if I can not be right next to him. He is still sobbing, almost inconsolable and I tell him to hop back in the car where his cries become softer and he gives me a big hug and says "Thank you Mama for not making me go.". He gets settled in his car seat, tears still falling and I ask him "Joshie, what is going on? Why are you so worried?" and he says "I don't know Mama, my heart just is scared all the time now.".
This has been gradually escalating over the past 3 months or so. I at first wondered if our trip to Chicago was a trigger, leaving him here with friends, but Dominick reminded me that we were seeing things long before that. He is now having night terrors 4 or 5 nights a week now where he will cry out in the night things like "Mama don't leave me!" and the other night "No, don't hurt Matthew!". This past weekend when he was spending the night camping with our friends and we went up to spend the day with them all, he was off with all the kids on a walk around the pathways in the camping area and when they got to a place where they couldn't see our campsite despite the fact that they all knew where it was, Joshie became suddenly terrified and started crying desperately that they were lost and he couldn't find us...even though they all knew where we were.
Last night, after everyone had left and things had settled down Dominick and I had a talk with Josh, and he can not explain what he is feeling...he can not describe it as fear we will not return or will leave him, he can't define it in any way other than "There is something wrong inside my heart and I feel scared.".
I feel so helpless right now, I have no idea what to do to offer him some sense of peace. We continue to see things resurface from time to time as he hits new developmental stages, but this is the worst it has been since the very beginning, and it is extremely painful to watch. I can not explain what it is like...to see your child in physical pain is one thing, as there are concrete steps you can take to alleviate that pain. To have your young child in emotional pain is another thing altogether, as often the steps needed are not clear and the waters are muddied. I HATE that Joshie is walking around with this heavy heart dragging along with him, that he is so often scared of day to day life and doesn't even understand why.
What makes this even harder is that the rest of the time, all appears to be well. He is not acting depressed in the way you and I know it, he is joyful much of the time, he seems calm and rational on a daily basis. It is just when these triggers occur and he begins to panic suddenly, and then he looses it, or when he has the bad thoughts deep in the night.
I think I will not be spending any time away from him for quite awhile, and that as soon as I am feeling better we are going to go back to co-sleeping or at least having him in a nest on the floor near our bed every night. But I will be the first to admit that this is so deep inside him, I am clueless about how to approach it and now we need professional help. All I know is that I don't want my 6 year old walking around filled with terror every day, I don't think MY heart can take it! Josh is such a tender little spirit in the first place, and most who meet him comment about that very thing...it stands out. I don't know whether he has become that gentle person because of what he has been through, or if he is so affected by it all because that is who he was in the first place. That whole "nature vs. nurture" debate continues and we never really know which begats which. All I know is that I want my son to feel safe and secure walking through this world, and it is my job to do what I can to help him get to that place.
So though our home remains happy and our lives full, there is always a bump in the road that keeps us humble and grateful for all that is good. I wish it was as easy as contacting Mission Control and saying "Houston, we have a problem.". But then again, maybe it IS that easy if I just focus on moving forward productively in the ways we can, and turning it over to God, our greatest "Mission Control".