This is When You Know it’s Time

Today, my son scared the holy living shit out of me. Not once, but twice. And for very different things.

Scare #1

He leaves for the bus at around 7:15 so that he can meander in the painful slowness of a child to the bus stop at the corner. I walked him down there the first morning and have been watching him every morning since because I can not only see the entire length of the road from the back porch, but I can also see the bus stop and when the bus arrives. Granted, I can’t watch for every second because of the other two children, but I can see him get safely to the corner and will check every couple of minutes until I no longer see any of the children waiting at that stop.

The bus gets there between 7:25 and 7:30, which is exactly the time it is supposed to get there; a much-needed improvement over last year. Although we were at a different school, it was the same bus company. The first day of school revealed them to be 20 minutes earlier than the bus notice stated. You have never seen so many children scrambling from their houses and running to the bus stop.

Anyways, school starts here at 8:10. If students are not in their classrooms at that time, they are marked absent and if a parent has not already called to confirm this, the school will check with the bus company (for those that ride the bus) and then parents will be called.

My phone rang at 8:11. It was the bus company. And they wanted to know if my son was with me.

“No.. I sent him to the bus stop this morning. I saw him walk down there. Did he not get on the bus?!”

“No. The driver said he saw him walking back down the road towards home. He tried to get his attention, but he wouldn’t come back to the bus. He isn’t there?”

“No! Um, ok, I have to go find him now.”

Now? I was panicking.

I thanked him for calling and quickly grabbed my shoes. Braeden had no clue what was going on and was jabbering on about what seemed like some sort of Brother Scavenger Hunt.

Just as I reached for the back door, I heard a noise at the front door. Just a small click, like the noise the door makes with the air pressure caused by opening or closing the screen door. I ran to the front door, thinking maybe Donovan was there and it was locked.

It was not locked.

But when I opened the main door, I saw that the screen door was locked open. I looked down to find Donovan’s tennis shoes, his socks and his backpack scattered on the porch. But no Donovan.

My mind and my heart were now going approximately 100 miles per hour.

I walked off the porch, looking towards the back yard and across the front yard.

Where was he?

Then I heard it: a small noise to my right, like a shuffling. When I turned, I saw him. Hiding behind the garbage can.

“Donovan! What are you doing back there?”

He looked at me, like I had just transported from the mother ship and he had no idea who I was or what I could possibly mean by asking such a question.

“I’m playing.”

My brain was officially shooting flames and doing somersaults at the same time by that point.

“Why did you not get on the bus?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know? You have to know why you came back home! Why aren’t you at school?”

“I don’t know.” His face was completely blank, with only a hint that maybe he saw my panic and disbelief and was more concerned about me spontaneously combusting than answering the question honestly.

“Get your shoes and your socks and get in the house now. I’m driving you to school.”

Once we were inside, I asked him again, over and over, why he hadn’t gotten on the bus. I told him that I had been petrified that something had happened to him. That others were afraid something had happened to him. That you just don’t do things like that.

What it all boiled down to was that he didn’t want to go to school. He hasn’t wanted to since Day One, and it has gotten progressively worse as time goes on. Yesterday was the first good day he had, according to his teacher (and I noticed the difference as well in his behavior after school during homework). Every morning has been filled with tears because he says he misses me. They can last either an hour or several hours, always to the point of classroom disruption.

I explained to him that I knew it was rough. I don’t have a job now, which I have had his entire life. There was no need for day care or a sitter this summer, so he was home all the time with me. A new school. New teachers. New bus stop. New everything. Combine it with whatever issues he was already having while in a familiar routine and you have the recipe for chaos in this child’s mind.

I honestly think he was expecting that I would not take him to school today. But I did. After getting the baby out of bed and getting the younger boys dressed, I drove him to school and got him signed in at the office. We walked together down to his classroom.

It was there that things fell completely apart.

He was already in tears when we got there, despite all my explanations that I couldn’t keep him home from school even if I wanted to and that he had to be here. There are some things in life that we just don’t get to choose.

His teacher came out to find out what had happened, which I explained briefly and quietly, and then she put her arm around him to lead him into the classroom.

Scare #2??


He started sobbing and twisting away from her, eyes wide, trying to shove past her and back out into the hallway in what I could only imagine to be the fashion of a child having a panic attack.

She gave up and let him go, walking into the classroom without him so that I could speak to him alone. Or as alone as it gets with two small children in tow.

“Donovan, you have to go to school. You need to get into that classroom and I will see you when school is over. You cannot stay home.”

“No. I don’t want to.”

“I understand that you don’t want to, but you have to.”


I was losing my cool at that point.

I had a baby who was starving and angry because he didn’t get to eat when he was pulled from bed and put into the car.

I had a toddler who thought he needed to visit with every classroom nearby while I was trying to talk sense into my second grader.

And there was a teacher in there that was expecting that I would know how to manage my child.. and I. Do. Not. At all. Because when he gets to this level of emotional instability, he doesn’t respond to anything.

Except people losing their cool.

I pulled out the low-volume, angry Mom voice. “You are not going to pull this today, Donovan. You will get into that classroom and you will get in there NOW.”

He cringed, tears pouring down his face and started walking into the classroom.

Great. Now I felt like a total asshole.

I grabbed his backpack and pulled him back.

“Donovan. I’m sorry, ok? I can’t keep you home. You need to go to school. It’s just one of those things you have to do. I know it’s hard, but you’re going to have so many new friends here if you just give it a chance.”

“Ok,” he sobbed.

I pulled him in and hugged him.

“Alright, now go give your tardy slip to your teacher and put your backpack away and then sit down and try to relax, ok?”


He turned the corner in the classroom to put his backpack into his locker. I didn’t wait for him to get to his seat to see me walking away. If years of day care taught me anything it was that the lingering parents of children with separation anxiety only help to fuel that fire.

His teacher later informed me via email that he had cried for a total of an hour this morning, but that by lunch he was smiling and talking to people. I hope that means he was in a better mood, but sometimes I know, from personal experience, that it can just mean accepting defeat and carrying on with life.

I want him to be happy, not pretending that he is or simply forgetting for a moment that he isn’t.

Truly happy.. I mean, that’s the whole premise of being allowed to just be a kid, for crying out loud. I wish I could pinpoint where everything started to fall apart for him, because he is not a (generally) happy child.

I made an appointment this afternoon for an evaluation with a child therapist two weeks from now.

Days like today are when you know it’s time.


About Caitlin's Concepts

Mom to 4 boys and drowning in a sea of testosterone!
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28 Responses to This is When You Know it’s Time

  1. Deana says:

    :(. Hang in there…

  2. tsonoda148 says:

    Wow, my heart goes out to you. Tough day indeed. I don’t think you could have done anything differently that would have made much difference. Hang in there lady. I hope things are going smoother for you and Donovan very soon!

    • Thank you, Terri.. I just hate to see him hurting in ways he can’t (or won’t?) tell me about. It’s so difficult to know that there’s something upsetting him that he just can’t verbalize or express to the point that he simply breaks down instead. *sigh*

  3. Luanne says:

    OMG I can totally relate Den!
    John Henry has the same meltdowns, and theres no reasoning with him when hes that upset, He also goes into panic mode, theres nothing worse then seeing your child panic.
    I keep telling myself, things will get better, its only been a week since school started, and also like Donovan, hes at a new school with new friends and new EVERYTHING, I can imagine how over welming that can be!
    Did he have these issues last year? or Did any of his previous teachers have any concerns?
    {{{{DEN}}}} <~ big hug.
    Your not alone, when I feel upset about the whole issue, I just take a deep breath, and remind myself how lucky I am to have John Henry, and that it really could be so much worse, this is just a bump, might be a big bump… but, I know youll get over it.
    Does Donovan have any close friends? What does he think about boyscouts? maybe thats something that he might enjoy, and look forward to? Just suggestions… Were going to check into Boyscouts for JH, Stormy will prob end up being a leader he seems interested, so.. im willing to give it a shot!
    I hope tomorrows a better day!
    🙂 Im here if you need a friend who can relate!

    • Thanks, Lu… Last year was when we finally put him on Focalin for ADHD, though we’re not entirely sure/convinced that’s all it is. The meds made him an emotional train wreck by the time evening rolled around and, although his behavior seemed to improve at school if we were going by the teacher’s “stick” system, she said that it really hadn’t. Of course, this was towards the end of the year and we’re wondering if maybe she just started being a bit more lenient with the kids.

      We looked into Boy Scouts for Donovan when they sent home the flyer last year, but me being out of work doesn’t really allow for the cost of getting all the materials that would have been needed to start. =\ That’s another thing he’s having problems with is the whole “we can’t spend money like we used to” issue. He doesn’t adapt well to change at all.

  4. Oh geez. That’s two different and equally awful kinds of being scared shitless. I can’t imagine how much adrenaline you had going through you when you thought he had disappeared. And the struggle with school must be so stressful. I hope it gets sorted out soon so you both feel better.

  5. kris says:

    Awwww . . . I so get this. My older daughter has quirks, and I have fought against a diagnosis of any sort, going so far as to refuse to discuss her issues with her doctors. Because she is just herself. Just a girl with some idiosyncrasies. But Mark and I have always said that if her issues ever get in the way of her being fully herself, if she is ever not able to enjoy being the girl she is, then we would change our approach.

    That has not happened yet.

    Good for you for seeing that you need some help.

    That your son needs some help.

    Good for you.

    • I was surprised because I always hear the opposite from people, but our doctor was very hesitant to put any labels on Donovan when we took him last year.. I think I was more looking for a label than he seemed to be. Mainly because I want so badly for it to just be better – and if it has a name, then there’s generally a solution to it as well.

      Of course, I wanted it to be a simple solution, but of course it never is.

      Now we just move forward… it will probably hopefully work much better than standing still.

  6. Jen says:

    Oh my gosh I would have freaked out too! How terribly SCARY to get that call from the busdriver. I got a call from the school last year asking if Ryan was sick that day. Fortunately I am able to walk him to the bus and wait until he is on so I didn’t panic. It was a school error. He was in class. Had that not been the case I would have had my heart drop. As for the school experience I am so sorry it is so bad for him. Your poor baby. I can’t imagine what is going on that is making him so miserable. Glad you are taking him to the therapist. Many prayers and hugs for you all. He has a wonderful family so he has that going for him. You are a wonderful mom-do not forget that! Love ya! Jen

    • Sheesh… how do you lose a kid that’s in class? =\

      I asked him why it is that he wants to stay home with me when all it seems like I do all day long is yell at the kids to stop fighting or yelling or teasing one another or [insert endless list here]. Apparently, it’s preferable to NEW things.. like, an “at least I know what to expect” sort of thing, which I get because I’m kind of the same way.

      I know that D doesn’t adjust well to things changing either, but he voiced very minimal concerns over the summer and he never seemed as bothered by it as what he actually turned out to be. I guess maybe he’s one of those kids that leaves subtle hints about things that are upsetting to him rather than coming right out and making it known how he feels.

      I just need one of those parental magic wands that you wave and make everything all better. If only…

  7. Theresa says:

    wow. that is alot. i don’t have children, but i do believe in the power of prayer, and i just prayed for you guys right now. hang in there.

  8. Anastasia says:

    It drives me crazy when my daughter says “I don’t know.” argh! She is also not very happy and withdrawn. We are setting her up with a dr appt and testing as well. I hope it helps. I know how you feel.

  9. Kathleen says:

    It’s tough to know when it’s time and when you’re overreacting. Good for you for taking the step. I’m so sorry! I wince in sympathy with the whole scenario!

    • Thank you.. I always just attributed the immaturity that his teachers have noted to me (4 years in a row now, starting with preschool) to him just being a boy and being a kid. Now that it’s gone somewhere beyond that, and given the family history, I can’t just sit back and pretend it’s going to go away anymore. =|

  10. Wow, what a rough day and kudos to you for sticking to your guns.

    I remember one day, for whatever reason, I really didn’t want to go to elementary school. I sort of tried pretending I was sick but I’ve always hated lying so eventually I just told my mom straight that I just really didn’t want to go. I fully expected her to force me to go anyway, because like you said, there are some things you just have to do. But she didn’t. She must have seen something in me that reminded her of a rough day she had or something and she just said, “Ok, you can stay home today.”

    And I did. And it was awesome. And I went back to school the next day.

    I don’t know what Donovan is like nor what your family dynamic is and I am CERTAIN that you did your absolute best in that moment. But, I just wanted to share that story in case someday you need to feel OK with bending before you break.

    From TRDC

    • My mom did that for me one time in junior high.. I never even said I didn’t want to go to school. I just remember coming up the stairs after I woke up, looking out the front window and her saying to me, “You look tired. Why don’t you go back to bed?” Of course, I stood there like a deer in the headlights, waiting for some kind of punchline, to which she laughed and said, “Hey, everyone needs a day off once in awhile.”

      I RAN down the stairs before she could change her mind. haha

  11. (((HUGS))) Being a Mama can be really hard. I hope the child therapist is a help and that school doesn’t make your boy so sad anymore.

  12. JDaniel4's Mom says:

    What a tough situation! It must have been hard to leave him. I hope he learns to love school.

    • Thank you. =) I remember loving school and learning at his age, even though I didn’t have many friends.. I’m hoping he will get to the same point, even with all the pressure they seem to have now. *sigh*

  13. Melanie says:

    My 6 year old is highly sensitive kid and subject to emotional outbursts, so I’m feeling a little of your pain. School can stress him out a bit – especially socially. He is an anxiety-ridden kid in a lot of moments and his responses show it in moments. We had him evaluated and that’s helped us understand him a little better.

    You are not alone. Hang in there. Here wishing Donovan a brand new, good and happier school day tomorrow as well as you.

    • Thank you so much. =) It’s so hard when it’s a child. I mean, it’s hard enough for adults to express themselves sometimes, so I can only imagine it has to be that much more difficult for a child to explain something that they themselves don’t even understand.

  14. Andrea says:

    OMG. My heart freaking STOPPED. I mean, I knew he had to be OK, cause G-d forbid he wasn’t you wouldn’t be writing/posting this, but sheeze louise, man. I would have LOST it. Dayum. I’m sorry, mama. That stinks. I don’t know exactly how old he is, but yeah, it sounds to me like you have made a good choice. A therapist might get more out of him than you would. Cause you’re mom and mom doesn’t get to see certain thoughts, not all the time. So she can work w/him, and you guys, and it’ll help. Whew. I would have gone ballistic. I’m so glad he’s OK. {Hugs}

    • He’s 7… so old enough to register that it’s wrong, but too young to reason it verbally. He just kills me sometimes, because I SEE and FEEL why he’s doing something, but I can’t reach him to help him through it. I’m really hoping an outside source can help… thanks for the hugs; I think we’re headed for some even rougher patches.

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