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Stuck on a Loop

You know when you totally expect your son or daughter to fine with a transition because up until that point, he has demonstrated no problems with similar transitions? So, as you are prepping for said transition, you are all calm about it yet when you get there, you realize you maybe should have been freaking out a little instead?

Well, that happened to me with my daughter, Jessica. She had been attending daycare, “school” as she will tell you, since she was 1 year old. She had gone to two different schools prior to her new school and adapted quickly and easily to new places. Well, until her transition to her new school’s Pre-K 3 class.

Due to a late September birthday and missing the district’s cut off by a couple of weeks, we had to send her to a private kindergarten. At the suggestion of the kindergarten teacher, we transitioned her to her new school over the summer for two days per week for the month of August so she would be fully accustomed to the school come September. She would start in the Pre-K 3 class so she could be with her friends who would be going to Kindergarten with her that next month.

She was super excited about starting the new school. She was looking forward to being in kindergarten for about a year now! She couldn’t wait for the time to go to the big school with her best friend and finally be like her older brothers. She was ready. Or so I thought.

The first day during drop-off, she was frantically crying. She didn’t want me to leave. She knew the drill though. She knew that I always came back for her. This wasn’t her first rodeo. The teacher lovingly hugged and soothed her, which was good to see, but I was a little shocked by her reaction. We had talked about the new school. We laid the groundwork for a smooth transition, but it didn’t go down at all as I had expected.

I picked up a teary-eyed girl who was somewhat excited to talk about her day after some prying. There were many things that she enjoyed, but the teacher had said she was crying on and off throughout the day. At this point, I chalked it up to being first day jitters.

The next few weeks weren’t very different than the first day. She would cry prior to going in, at drop-off, throughout the day and sometimes even at pick up. There were pictures and videos of her enjoying herself at times though. All of this was very puzzling for me. What was up with my sweet, easy-going girl?

It finally clicked for me the last week of her transition period. She was stuck in a story. She had a fearful story going on in her head and it was on a loop. As soon as she would start enjoying herself, she would remember the feeling of me leaving and the fear of me not coming back would kick in and she would immediately stop enjoying herself and start crying.

Every day before school, she was totally fine. She was laughing and playing with her brothers and had no problem at all. Her fear would only creep up when we were about a block away from the school. She would let out a big ‘ol anxious sigh and the comments would start, “Can you pick me up early? I don’t want to go today! I don’t feel good. Why do I have to go?” By the last week, I had gathered enough evidence of Jessica enjoying herself from the teachers, stories she had shared with us herself as well as from the daily reports. I would ask her specifically about the highlight reel and she would remember these moments happily. We got on a roll of talking about the fun she was having there. So when she said, “but I don’t want to go” and I responded, “but you have so much fun there. You just said for yourself that you like all of those moments, friends and activities” and she giggled and clearly saw that the school wasn’t that bad after all.

It was only in helping her uncover what she liked about her school and reminding her of the fun she was having, was she able to shake the story of the school being a scary place where she didn’t want to go. I’m positive that without changing her story that plays on a loop, we would still be having dramatic drop-offs. She skips into the school now, saying good morning to the people she passes. She is back to the Jess I had expected from the first day, and I’m so glad!

This process made me think about my own life. This example of getting a story stuck in my mind that plays out over and over again to my detriment, helped me see a couple of places where I need to rework my story to get unstuck. It’s so easy to get caught up in fear that we don’t clearly see what stories might need to be rewritten in our lives.

So I encourage you to take a close look at the loop in your mind. What content are you choosing to play and is that ok with you? What stories might need some re-writing to get you closer to where you’d like to be in your life?

I talk about this in more detail in my book, “Embracing the Beautiful Chaos of Motherhood” where I give you the steps to change any story and belief that isn’t working out for you anymore. The tools I provide have helped me immensely to become more deliberate about the life I am creating. I can see my fear for what it is and rise above. The same is possible for you.

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