I’m not ready for high school

Ready for High SchoolMax says he’s ready for high school. “We’re forming a gang, Mum,” he tells me. “It’s gonna have all the boys from my class who are going to our high school in it. We might ask other boys on the first day too. There’s gonna be 20, maybe even 100 year 7 boys in it. We’ll go around in a pack.”

Yeah, he’s ready. Careful, Max, careful.

It’s taken Bart and I the better part of 12 years to grow this child from the anxiety-stricken kid who needed hours of encouragement each day just to make it into the classroom, into this new kid. This new kid leapt onto the bus for a 2-night excursion to Canberra without a backward glance. This kid stood in front of 500 people and did a sterling job co-hosting the school’s recent performing arts showcase. This kid proudly stepped in at the last minute to do a school tour for eight adults when the school captain was away. Who is this kid?

Of course, there are still issues. You don’t get to be a kid with anxiety and not feel daunted in the face of something huge like this. The trick for Max now is working out what is “normal-person anxiety” and what is “Max anxiety”.  He was nervous about getting up in front of 500 people, but told me, “This is just normal-person anxiety, so I’m okay.” His “Max anxiety” still gets the better of him, almost on the daily, but he has the skills to manage it now.  He copes so beautifully it makes me weep sometimes. I want to show him to mums whose little kids have anxiety and say, “Look what happens. Look where all that patience and hard work and tears gets them.”

I look at my boy, who is almost not a boy, ready to step into the next chapter of his life, and I wonder. I wonder if along the way I would like to have made different choices. I wonder if we’ve spent enough time teaching him to swim in the shallows before he is thrown in the deep. I wonder if he’ll be able to move mountains and if so, could he start with the one on top of my chest?

“I think I’m lucky to have anxiety,” Max told me. “I’ve learned all kinds of coping skills that other kids don’t even know about.” Lucky, yes.

Hopefully, all the kids starting high school next year don’t need to know about those coping skills. Hopefully they are coping just fine on their own. Unlike their mothers.

Do you remember your first day at high school?

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  1. says

    My daughter is starting high school next year. She is going from a school of 16 to a school with about 200 (K-12) which will be a big jump. Added to that, she is the only kid from her primary school going to that school next year. Also, I teach there. She is nervous but ready. I’m more nervous than her.

  2. says

    Speaking as a fellow mum of a boy with anxiety I can soo get how thrilled and amazed you were when Max got up on that stage!!! So pleased to hear of his successes. My boy’s just behind Max at 10 and in many ways we have less anxious moments, which bring it’s own challenges in that I’m not always in the groove and prepared for when they do happen kwim?
    Cheering Max on, just can’t believe it’s time already for you to have a highschooler!

    • says

      I know exactly what you mean. In many ways I struggle more with his anxiety now than ever before. I think, “but you were fine doing that yesterday!!”

  3. says

    Whoa, he’s ready, and look at him go. You know, you think you’re not ready, but then you’re there and ‘bam’, you’re as ready as you were ever going to be. It’s harder with each passing stage, I reckon, not easier. I can remember my heart breaking in two when I woke up one night to hear the 16 year old boy crying over his first love. Now they’re all grown and I don’t – thankfully – have to see every heartbreak, but the worry, oh the worry, and if you find the time to keep up with my blog (and bless, you have pre-teen children, how could you) you’ll know it’s been no bed of roses around here either. I keep my space the sanity-saving space it’s always been for me, but occasionally I bust out with a rant – domestic violence comes up pretty routinely. And, damn, if that ain’t hard to watch. I can safely say I wasn’t ready for that, and sheesh, I know why DV campaigners get slammed from time to time for being, well, violent in their words. I tells ya, it’s not half of what they’d like to do. Rant over. Stay strong. You’re ready.

  4. says

    What a fabulous kid. Acknowledging the differences between anxiety is quite a mature concept and requires a good deal of self knowledge. He’s going to ace high school.

  5. Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad says

    Stepping into new stages felt nerve wracking as a kid but doing it as a parent is all kinds of feels. It feels harder because there is this letting go and trusting and waiting and side coaching that goes along with it which leaves us feeling rather helpless at times. Enjoy noticing the progress and growth as your little guy (who sounds wonderfully mature) makes the move forward. Those little rewards sure are sweet x

    • says

      I think it’s partly knowing what might come next that sends us into a spin. And the helplessness – oh, that’s so tough, you are right. x

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