I had separation anxiety as a kid. My mom was a stay-at-home mom when we kids were all young, and I was very attached to her. I can remember how she would make me snacks of raw carrots and cauliflower, which I loved to drench in ranch dressing. She gave me Tupperware and pots and pans to play with while she worked in the kitchen, cleaning and doing things moms do. When I was four years old, she would sit with me in the living room, on a chair next to the window, while we waited for my Jack and Jill preschool bus to pick me up. At that time, I can’t remember being too upset to leave. But by the time I was in first grade, that would change.
I remember that I enjoyed school, and I loved my first grade teacher, Mrs. Parvin. She was a petite, chubby, older woman. She had short gray hair, tightly curled to her head. She would wear these polyester suits consisting of a jacket and pants, and from my recollection, varied between two pairs of sensible shoes. Never ever did she wear a skirt or dress, or heels. But she was wonderful, and I loved her. Just not enough to make up for the fact that I had to leave my mom every day. Sometimes I cried. I couldn’t wait until lunch, where I could open up my lunchbox and see the note my mom had written to me that day. And if there was a field trip? I was a mess. I remember one time we were going on a field trip to the circus. I was so distraught that my mom had to come to school to see me just so I would get on the bus. This was me…and I got worse.
Before my severe separation anxiety wore off, I had “stomach aches.” In quotes because at this point in my life, I can’t remember actually having any physical pain back then. My parents went to great lengths to find out what was wrong with me. They even went so far as to take me for an upper GI test, where I had to drink this awful, chalky cocktail that was like swallowing wet sand. I can still remember walking around the hospital hallways in a fashionable gown and knee socks. Guess what they found? Nothing. There was nothing physically wrong with me.
It’s strange how, one day, I just didn’t feel that way anymore. Sure, I had the occasional panic attack about having a sleepover at a friend’s house, but I did grow out of that strange anxiety. I was the youngest of four; maybe I desperately craved the attention of my mom, because she had to be so much to all of us but I needed more. Maybe I craved the attention of my dad, too, as I don’t remember him being home a lot when I was a kid. I think having had this experience and remembering it makes me a teacher who can be more sympathetic to my students who may be feeling the same ways I once felt.
I still miss my mom sometimes, but she doesn’t have to see me off when I go on field trips anymore. That sure would look silly to my students…