“I just thought you needed to know.” My friend and neighbor said before giving me a hug and returning home. Yes. I needed to hear about Gleek’s panic attack at camp and the two times she struck out at other girls. I needed detailed information on all of the stresses which might have triggered the panic. I needed to know how it unfolded and how Gleek found calmness again. Because I am gathering data about this lurking thing in our lives, we need to understand the shape of it in order to find solutions, but just as we gave it full attention, the anxiety went underground. It hid and all seemed well. My neighbors information lets me know that hidden is not the same as gone. It reminds me that the path ahead may be thorny even though we’re currently passing through a sunny meadow.
Just as I needed my neighbor to tell me about the hard parts of Girl’s camp, I’ve also needed Gleek’s smiling reports of all the joyful things. I only get dribbles of information, bits and pieces of songs and stories as they are jostled loose during daily life. Gleek loved camp. The fearful nights, and one extra panicky night, do not loom over her experience. I am glad, just as I am glad that things are generally good for her right now. I try not to spend much time fretting over thorns that have not yet arrived.
However I am spending time thinking ahead to ways to make the trek easier. I can’t remove all the thorns from all the paths in the whole world, but I can make sure she begins the trip with a pack full of supplies and maps to safe respites. I began by putting the junior high summer library hours as a fixed point in our schedule once per week. Every Tuesday Gleek and I will go. She thinks it is just to get books to read. I know that each trip makes her more familiar with the school. She begins to associate the media center as a safe haven full of good things. So when things get chaotic or scary after school starts, she can visit her haven. I’m also doing everything in my power to foster a friendship between Gleek and the school librarian. I think every child should have a loving librarian in their life. So we enter the library. We greet the librarian by name. Gleek runs over to the Warriors books and sorts them into correct order. I wait while Gleek makes herself comfortable and meanders through selecting three books. Repeat week after week until a good association is formed. Haven acquired.
Before the beginning of school I will also walk Gleek to go and meet her school counselor, who is an amazing woman and will be an important ally for Gleek. Here child, before I release you into the thorny woods of middle school, have a haven and an ally. Hopefully Gleek will acquire more of both, places and people of her own choosing. This is what we will do while the anxiety is hiding. And perhaps it will not be so bad as my worst fears.