She watches as he slips on his sneakers and pulls on his backpack. In the sunlit kitchen, there’s time for one quick hug between hurried bites of buttered toast.
She pauses, holding him just one second longer than usual, until he grumbles, “Mom! I’m going to be late!”
She grins and holds him at arm’s length so she can peer at his 11-year-old face.
This boy is so different than the one that stood before her just six months ago. This boy doesn’t look scared. He doesn’t look lonely or sad.
This boy is okay. Her son is going to be okay.
Another small piece of the weight she’s been carrying on her heart lifts away.
She stands up a little straighter, offering him a genuine smile and a wave as he darts off to the front yard where the school bus waits.
Six months ago, that school bus filled them both with dread. For her, it meant prodding, coaxing, and eventually, yelling at, her son to get moving.
Mornings were torture for both of them, from the moment she attempted to drag him out of his room, to the two hours it took to get him fed, dressed and ready to get on the bus.
For a year, she had tried everything to make mornings go smoothly – long talks, bribery, punishments – but nothing worked. Every morning he refused to eat breakfast and get dressed in a timely manner. Nearly every other day, he’d complain he didn’t feel well and say he didn’t want to go to school.
Evenings were more of the same. He no longer cared about homework, saying it didn’t matter anyway. He often “forgot” his books at school and spent much of his time alone in his room.
He stopped talking to her and his father, and was happiest lying on his bed with his earphones in all night. He refused to go outside and as time went on, he became an unrecognizable version of the child they’d known.
Then he stopped sleeping.
He’d always been a great sleeper, even as a baby. But now her 10 1/2-year-old rarely slept. He refused to fall asleep at night, and when he did, he woke often, sometimes with terrible dreams.
When his report card came, her A student got mostly Cs.
She knew something was wrong – had known for some time – but the more she tried to talk to him, the angrier he became. Her normally mild-mannered child was now prone to fits of unexplained anger.
His face was pale and hollow. Dark patches circled his eyes. He looked nothing like the happy, smiling boy in the pictures on her mantle. Her heart was heavy with fear and helplessness.
When she called Human Support Services, counselors were able to see him quickly. They helped him open up about the cause of his behavior.
Her son was being bullied at his private middle school. He was depressed and anxious about going to school, and didn’t know how to share his feelings with his parents.
At one point, he admitted to being suicidal.
Thankfully, with support and counseling, this young man developed ways to cope. He learned to become more assertive and confident, and was able to stand up to his bullies. He is opening up about his feelings and has an optimistic view for his life and the future.
She, in turn, has developed strategies for supporting him during these difficult years.
They both still have work to do, but HSS will be there to help them through.
If you or someone you know could benefit from counseling or other support services, please call Human Support Services at 618-939-4444.