You ever see the caller I.D or the text message from your child’s daycare flash across you phone screen and your stomach knots immediately?
There it is as I look down at my phone. Knots.
There’s no formalities in my response, “ Is Layla ok?”
They respond, “ It’s not an emergency.”
They have done this before, with countless parents.
But I also say, “Everything is fine” to family members when it clearly isn’t.
We do this in attempts to regulate your nervous system. My nervous system.
You see what happens is in that moment of getting ready to hear bad news your amygdala starts to work. This tells your nervous system which sets your body’s fear response into motion. Stress hormones are released. Your heart starts to race. Your blood actually flows away from your heart and into your hands and feet, making it easier to start throwing punches, or in my case run to my child.
Fight or flight.
In short, it’s not an emergency or signs of COVID but she doesn’t feel well.
My flight response is activated.
Literally, I now have to orchestrate how to leave work. Feelings of guilt of leaving my coworkers are added to the feeling that I’m not there in that moment my daughter doesn’t feel good. I also have a brief moment of feeling alone. As a single mom, you are it.
On my way to her my mind continues the race I am on.
Do I have Tylenol at home? I wonder if I have to go to urgent care? What if she’s sick tomorrow? Who’s going to watch her? What does my PTO look like? Crisis management.
I get to school. I see her walk from her class and start running towards me.
Doesn’t seem sick.
I hunch down so she can run straight to me. It’s a comfort for me too.
‘I got you baby.’
She wraps her little arms around me and smiles her deliciously beautiful smile at me.
‘You came mama. Can we go home? Can we go to the park?’
In that moment the little girl I know mostly as assertive, strong willed and ready to fight me on every single thing is just my baby. She’s soft and fragile.
She just needs her momma. I am her momma.
Once I’ve sized her up I feel the the stress of the situation leave me. My shoulders relax into holding her. My nervous system is self soothing.
Today, Layla has decided we’re taking a mental health day. I don’t know what triggered her or why exactly she needs it but I’m glad she wanted to include me.
I needed the break too, baby girl.
Sometimes, I forget this little person is bombarded by stressors everyday, just like I am. I have to check my stress levels often. I have the tools and the means to recognize and deal with stress. Effectively most days (insert eye looking emoji here)
I always ask her if she’s happy but I do not remember the last time I asked her if she was stressed. How do I ask her this? Why have I never considered this?
Since that day we’ve acquired a, ‘Breathe like a Bear’ book. To teach her and I how to go through stressful days with her.
I look forward to the days when she’s much older and she can tell me what’s bothering her. But right now it looks like trips to the park in the middle of a work day.
If you got to the end of this you probably have a kiddo or know of one. Check in.
We all need mental health days.