October 15, 2013

Just Write.


Last year, in first grade, Miss M. would ask me almost every day if I could come eat lunch with her at school. Of course that wasn’t manageable, but I asked her why she wanted me to come so much. What about lunch made her skittish?

Sometimes, it was:”It smells weirdo in the cafeteria and makes my stomach hurt.”

Sometimes it was: “It’s so LOUD in there, Mama. I can’t even hear myself think.”

Sometimes it was: “I don’t have anyone to sit by.”

Sometimes it was simply: “I felt homesick.”

I fretted over the matter and called a conference with her teacher and the school counselor. We talked about her introverted temperament, and brainstormed some ideas/strategies that M. might use to ease her lunchtime woes. I left feeling hopeful that we could encourage Miss Turtle to stick her head out–even just a little.

So at home, we role-played how to approach someone you know is nice and ask if you can jump rope with her. We role-played approaching kids you do not know but think might be nice, and how to introduce yourself. We role-played approaching a friend in the morning and saying, “Hey. I’m really glad to see you. Want to eat lunch together today?” M. tolerated these little acting sessions, but I could tell she was relieved when they were over for the day.

Her teacher was at work on Project Open-Up Miss M.,too. She made a new seating chart, pairing Miss M. with the kindest girls in the class, so she had an opportunity to get to know them better.  Mrs._______ even  went so far as to escort M. to lunch a few days, getting her settled in next to someone she knew.

The counselor and I continued encouraging her to take small risks at home, such as trying a new food or walking a different route to the bus stop. Baby steps.

To some degree, we had some success. M. still asked me to join her for lunch quite often, and her teacher kept a close eye on her, just to make sure. Some days M. would use the skills in her social toolbox and find someone to sit with; other days, she ate alone at a table of strangers.

I say “ate” in the weakest of terms, because she didn’t really consume a morsel of food. I packed her lunches carefully, filling them with the things she loves most. Still, the lunch came back uneaten.

“The cafeteria weirdo smell makes me want not to eat,” she explained.

And I got it. I did. I always hated the smell of the cafeteria, too. It smelled like corn dogs and mystery meat sloppy joes and soggy tater tots and canned green beans. It’s gag-worthy, that smell.

Luckily, Miss M. ate like a linebacker breakfast every morning (example): 5 pancakes, three strips of bacon, an egg, chocolate milk and an Nutrigrain waffle).  Truly. So I wasn’t that worried. Lunch for first graders is at an early 11:10am–no wonder she wasn’t interested in food. She had company to sit with, and girls to play with, so everything was fine by me. Slowly, Miss M. was finding her place.

Fast forward one year.

Second grade.  M. still hates lunchtime. The cafeteria is still too loud. It still smells weirdo.  Not one of the friends she made last year is in her class, to our dismay. But I assured her that it was okay, because before lunch, all of the second graders go out to recess together and then mill into the cafeteria afterword to eat. Surely, M. could seek out Evie or Tessa or Kiana on the playground and then walk into lunch with them, right?

Maybe not.

Because yet again, M. is resisting going to school and begging me to come daily for lunch. Yet again, her food comes back untouched.

I eat lunch with her once a week (it’s our compromise), and on that day she seems fine. She’d rather sit with me than with her friends, even though they usually waft on over to our table. She talks with her friends but she clings tightly to me the entire lunch break, which makes me thrilled and suspicious at the same time.

Every day, I ask her who she ate lunch with, and often it’s Evie or Rebecca or Paige, with a few new names thrown into the mix. I like that she’s meeting new faces.

But the look of sheer dread on her face when I drop her off at school in the morning wrenches my insides.

At least twice a week, M. arrives back from lunch in tears, and when her teacher asks her what’s wrong, she gulps out, “Homesick.”

She gets a lot of stomachaches. I’m pretty sure I need to send the school nurse some flowers.

Her teacher and I met and talkedtalkedtalked at length and began the role-playing games at home again and encouraging her to ask someone to eat with her early in the day so she could forget about that worry.

Every morning, on the car ride to school, I chirp, “So, who do you think you might want to eat lunch with today?” I’m trying to plant the seed, but I’m hitting impacted dirt.

On the way home a few weeks ago, I asked,”What did you do at recess today?”

“Oh, I played a little but I mostly did what I usually do, which is walk alone on the playground, thinking in my head.”

*sound of breaking heart*

Another panicked call to the teacher. She confirms M.’s rendition of recess. “In fact,” her teacher says, “on the days I monitor recess, she just hangs out and talks to me the whole time. Not that I mind, I adore her company…but I am concerned that she seems unwilling to engage with her peers.”

More brainstorming. New methods of encouragement. More urging her to share about her day.


A few weeks ago, at parent-teacher conferences, I talked with Mrs. _______ again, just to touch base. I mentioned that an uneaten lunch still comes back every day. The amazing Mrs. _____  said she’d have another talk with Mira about it in the morning, because we both still worry about her.

The next day, Mrs._______ called me during  her planning period.

“Guess what?” she said. “I think we’ve figured out the mystery of the uneaten lunch.”


“Yeah, really. M and I had a good, very long talk today and she finally admitted that for months, she’s been spending her lunch period hiding in the school bathroom.”

*sound of heart being crushed by a wrecking ball (not a naked one)*

Hearing that just destroyed me, readers.

The image of my little daughter, diligently picking up her lunchbox, marching in line to the cafeteria, and then sneaking our for solace in a cramped bathroom stall for 20 minutes...oh. Picturing her sitting on the toilet, fully clothed, unopened lunch box in her lap, hiding. Alone. Just waiting there soundlessly until the bell rings and she’s safe again.

My loving, sensitive, bird-legged child has been cowering in a bathroom stall for months and I never had a clue. When I asked her who she ate with, she lied. When I asked if there was anything she wanted to share about her day, she never mentioned her best friend, the potty stall.

May I repeat myself, if you will indulge me?

My daughter’s been hiding in the girls bathroom every lunch period for months and I didn’t know it. I’m an unattentive mother and a horrible communicator and my own daughter didn’t trust me enough to tell me the secret about lunch time.

How desperate does a child have to be to sneak, crouch, hide, and lie?  For almost sixty days, she’s been handling lunchtime by not handling it.

Which, at her age, in the same situation, is exactly what I would have done.

Daughter of mine, you are so like me that I want to rail and scream and punch the stars in the sky.  Please, please don’t be like me. Yo, God. Do you hear me?

Little bird, please don’t hide behind the socially awkward gene that you inherited from your Mama. Please don’t get panic attacks when you have to go out and face new faces and places out of your comfort zone. Panic attacks are scary and quite bothersome. Please don’t grow up feeling, in the marrow of your bones, that you aren’t brave or strong.

Don’t grow up believing that you were meant to be alone.

Don’t believe that it’s better not to risk a dunk in the water, even if it’s just with your toe.

Please don’t wish away a day, an hour, a minute.

Please don’t wish away yourself.

Hummingbird, I beg you. Don’t.

Don’t be like your Mama.


{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer October 15, 2013 at 5:52 am

Oh Dana, this breaks my heart. I was and still am socially awkward and have memories in elementary school of wanting to hang by the teachers and be by myself. I think if I had the option I would have found solace in the bathroom, too. Being allowed to spend lunch in the library is what got me through the first half of lunches in 9th grade. I wish I had some words of advice or a wand to wave it all away. While I’m not big in prayer I will hold you and your daughter in my heart. I also hope that neither of my children ever have to feel the way I did or still often do. Even as an adult I feel as if I am bothering people when I am with them and talking. Thank you for being real with your readers, I appreciate not being alone in this.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm


I spent many lunch periods in the library, too. God bless librarians.


Jamie October 15, 2013 at 6:13 am

Your only post that has brought me to tears. As the world’s biggest extrovert and loudmouth, I don’t get it at all. As a teacher who has seen it in teenagers, I get it to my core and it breaks my effing heart. It’s really unfair that some people are just born with it. “It” being that social-anxiety gene you’re writing about. I have no words of advice but I want you to know I hear you and I’m thinking of you and the lovely Miss M. Hang in there, kitch. Despite what you say, you have an army of readers who can speak to your strength and bravery.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I made you cry? Scooore! Kidding. Than you for your kind words.


Sherri October 15, 2013 at 6:33 am

Oh – I just got tears in my eyes, and I feel just deflated for you. Three things: One – I, like you, have some history of awkwardness – late developer, dancer in a sports world, etc. – spent many a lunch period sitting in the hall in my new high school journaling. Felt sorry for myself for a while, then…. realized, I actually enjoyed that alone time. To each his / her own, right? Two – my third grader, shy Enzo, also used to get homesick and cry and wring his hands before school. His three best friends moved away / switched schools one after the other – and… he was so sad – sometimes ate lunch alone – never had a play date, etc. His teacher recommended writing notes to me during the day. At first, the notes were just all sad -then, eventually, he started saying “I still miss you, but I had a good day.” or “I was only a little sad.” And Third – we are allowed to volunteer in our school cafeteria, which I now do since my preschooler is now a kindergartner and stays all day. I can watch him and “be there” but not sit with him, etc. – instead, I make sure he approaches his groups of friends on his own, etc. Also – buying lunch has made him more social (I know that sounds odd, but it did – I guess because he stood in line with the other kids – ??). Ugh – hang in there. I love these sweet, sensitive kids – LOVE them. She is, I’m sure, very well-liked because of that – and… just doesn’t realize it….. yet.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 3:58 pm


You are spooky! We just started writing notes. On a notecard, I write something about her that I’m proud of. On the back of the card, if she gets homesick, she writes down when she felt homesick and why. It’s working as far as the communication lines are opening up!


Kel October 15, 2013 at 7:22 am

This kills me – not so much for the Divine Miss M, who has an amazing support network to guide her through this, but for her her Mom, who somehow blames herself.

There is no way you could’ve known about her plight. No, she didn’t tell you. But as much as we want it to be different, our kids start to establish their own ideas of boundaries by choosing what to divulge and what not. This doesn’t reflect on you, no matter how much you were like her as a child.

My middle child, my Punklet, used to spend 2 hours every day of her kindergarten year alone. Hers was not a self-imposed exile, though. At that point, she was ahead of her peers, and her teacher lost her assistant to budget cuts. The Punklet was a puzzle to her; the rest of her class fit in the box, and Punklet wanted to flip the box and build a cave with it. So my beautiful was sent to the library to curl up on the couch, alone, for a few hours a day. My heart broke when I found out because I too, didn’t know. Her already anti-social attitude was exacerbated by this further separation from the “normal” kids.

Miss M will navigate this storm with her dedicated teachers and her even more dedicated Mom. But she WILL navigate it.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm


Miss M., like Punklet, played solo most of the time in Kindergarten. Thank goodness she was in a Montessori school that year and they didn’t treat her like a freak. Thanks for sharing your story.


Alison October 15, 2013 at 8:08 am

My heart is hurting for the both of you.
You’re a good mother, Dana. These things test us as mothers, yes, but don’t fail yourself just yet. You know now. It can be something to be worked through now. You’re there for her. You love her. You are a good mother.


Shannon October 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

I can feel your heartbreak. I want you to know that during my time of exile in my youth, the time I spent outcasted and friendless, I never told my parents. They did not know, and there was no way that they could have. I have since talked to them about it, and my mom always feels so bad that she didn’t know what was going on with me. But, I still contend that no fault in any of it lies with her. No fault whatsoever.
I think your daughter has been given the greatest gift – a mother who understands how she feels. You are her greatest gift, my friend. I hope you can see it.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm


I never told my parents, either. I think I was ashamed.


Contemporary Troubadour October 15, 2013 at 9:49 am

Oh, Kitch. It kills me that you’re beating yourself up for being “unattentive.” You weren’t. You appealed to the people who were supposed to be eyes and ears for you when you weren’t there, and they missed it too. And Miss M. is a resourceful girl who just ended up using her smarts in the way she knew how.

Hugs to you both.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm


After I quit sobbing for days, I kind of was impressed by her cleverness. :)


ayala October 15, 2013 at 10:57 am

Dana, this broke my heart. I feel you and her. :(


S in A October 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I stopped commenting on your blog because of my own anxiety, inadequacy, awkwardness. When I (think I) see my children put on and wear my “issues,” my heart twists into a tight little knot. I think (I know I don’t know) I feel and understand your helpless despair. Rage? But reading the comments here . . . you’re not alone. Do you *feel* it? There are so many people right here who not only ENJOY you but seem to really CARE about you, too. Your little hummingbird sees you pick yourself up every day and carry on, even when it’s hard. I think watching you will (continue to) give her strength and courage. Even comfort. Maybe enough to help her break the mold. BTW, I agree with Kel. I really don’t think not telling you was a trust thing. Heartfelt hugs for you both.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

S in A,

As a fellow anxious, inadequate and awkward person, please let me welcome you back to the comments section. NEVER feel like this isn’t a place you belong. And I certainly hope I never said anything in a reply to a comment that made you feel bad?

And you’re right. I have the best readers in the world. Including you.
ps: Much love from the Hess and Lam families! xoxo


S in A October 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thank you. Nope, it wasn’t anything beyond my own angst. And I only mentioned it to add my voice to the others who expressed having experienced similar uncertainty, at one time or another (or always). As isolating as the experience is, it seems there are rather quite a lot of us. Please share hugs and good wishes with the Hess and Lam families for me!


Emily Cook October 15, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Oh my goodness.
Prayers for you, and for her, and for all of us mamas who have this impossibly complicated job, loving and raising impossibly complicated children…


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:06 pm


Dang those complicated kids! Why can’t they be simple and come with direction manuals?


Heather October 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Fragile birds, my sister, can rise above. We can be not okay until we are okay. We can. And we do this with more heart, I hear, than most. We really give a shit, instead of acting as if we give a shit and then not helping.

So there are gifts, of the bird-legged, bird-hearted and there most certainly are delicate faultlines and we crack so easily, like our eggs.

It hurts and damn, it’s not fair. But you know what you know about your girl, it is written here. You are, apparently, attentive. You maybe didn’t know this thing, but you know that girl.



TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm


Your reply made me cry. My egg has many faultlines, just like her Mama. But you are right about the hidden blessings, though. At least I pray that you’re right.


Robyn Wright of RobynsOnlineWorld.com October 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm

(coming over from Just Write) – My eyes have welled up with tears reading this. My heart broke not only for your daughter, but for you too. My son is a lot like this too and I am the opposite and try as I might, I could not fully understand what it was he was going through. Your silver lining is that at least you truly can understand what your daughter is feeling.

Thank you for sharing!


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm


Thanks for stopping over! I guess I never thought of it like that…that by sharing her weaknesses, I get get gift of understanding alongside. Thank you.


Gretchen October 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Ooooh. This just breaks my heart for both of you. I don’t have much in the way of words of advice, but I can tell you that I am presently a (mostly) well-adjusted grown woman, who is quite outgoing and able to navigate crowds of strangers and a healthy dose of self-confidence, but when I was little I remember doing this same thing. Hiding in the bathroom to avoid having to be social. MANY junior high dances were spent just that way. And I GREW OUT OF IT. So…keep that in mind.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm


I spent many a junior high dance in the loo, bawling because Danny Blevins liked Michelle Farrely better than me. I guess the difference was, my BFF was in the john with me, trying to comfort. But your comment brought me back and made me smile.


Alexandra October 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

It leaves me in awe, how much our children are like us, without us ever sharing those parts of us through stories. I have walked in your shoes, and my eyes filled with tears, at the phone call from the teacher, “the cafeteria workers have noticed your son eats alone every day.”

I can’t take it, this pain that goes through the heart and then back around again, in case you didn’t feel it the first time.

SO MUCH LOVE YOU my friend.


TKW October 15, 2013 at 4:13 pm


Ah yes, that “Boomerang Pain” you speak of…it just comes up and whacks you when you’re unawares.

So much love you too.


SuziCate October 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm

This breaks my heart. She feels every breath of life to the marrow of her bones. Being sensitive is not easy. I have no advice, only tears for another beautifully written piece, and for a most beautiful mother and daughter duo. I thank God often that my children are more like their dad than me.


Liz October 15, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Oh Kitch. As much as I loooooove your funny snarky posts (I will NEVER forget the one with your kid licking the airport and the Santa one), it’s when you write like this that I really, really, really, really wish we lived near each other. Then we could compare notes on our hatred of phone conversations and on how much we plead to the Universe that our kids not be like us. Heartbreaking. I ache. Actual pain, reading this. I get it. Because on one hand I have my oldest, who frets about souls and death and being the absolute slowest kid on the soccer field and spends a lot of his time with “What ifs” and never shuts up and comes across as harsh and arrogant (ALL ME). And then there is my littlest, who cowers behind my legs sometimes and still begs to skip out on stuff (this week it was the school show) because he’s “too shy” and ends up being the only one not performing and just wants to measure the success of his day on whether or not his favorite, quiet, sweet little girl BFF played with him during recess. (A lot me.) And I fret. And I ache. And my heart breaks. So often. And I blame my own genetic, freakish quirks for all of it.
(But on a lighter note, your Miley reference made me laugh.)


jacquie October 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I wanted to cry when I read your post but I also wanted to shout yeah for miss M. for making herself “safe” during lunch. She needed quiet and down and yes alone time. And perhaps that is what she need as an introvert – a break from all the hustle and bustle of being w/ people in the morning and then again in the afternoon. it is just so overwhelming and all too familiar to me. Please, please don’t force her out into the bright and noisy light when she is not ready for it – allow her the time in the quiet and the dark to find her way. please for her sake.

and I do know it is more complicated than that and you don’t want her to experience the same pain as you. I do hear that and I don’t want her to feel unworthy or loveable either. but I know what damage was done to me because I didn’t know how to be safe w/ people and didn’t have tools in my toolbox. I got pulled out in a very damaging way. At least miss m has you and her teacher helping her. bless you both. please all be gentle w/ each other ….


pamela October 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Oh dear girl. I am with Kel. You are such an amazing woman that your daughters will be lucky to be like you. But I also get what you are going through and I have the same wishes/fears for my oldest son. Like Miss M and you, I spent many lunches in the library. Lunch is just awful and it’s not like it ever gets better. You have been a rockstar mom doing all that you did. I was so inspired by your sheer parenting prowess!! If the teacher didn’t know she was in the bathroom, no one would know. Please don’t beat yourself up. Think about what your mom would say to you and be tender with your heart. xoxo Hugs to you both.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes October 16, 2013 at 12:12 am

Oh my dear, here have a hug.
You are a good mother! You are doing everything you can to make M comfortable in this big scary world. But social interaction is a learning process and for some it is just quicker to catch on then for others.
I love, love, love the way you are handling this! Miss M has an amazing mom!


tracy@sellabitmum October 16, 2013 at 4:43 am

Oh you are such a good mama. My heart breaks for little her. And I was so her. Am so her. :(


Jessica October 16, 2013 at 5:43 am

TKW – Miss M. will find her way. She will. I promise. School is hard and exhausting and overwhelming and even a bit terrifying at times; but she’ll find her niche, especially with you, the teacher and counselor in her corner, quietly cheering.


Tiffany October 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Oh, Miss M. Oh, Dana. My heart hurts for you both. I wish I could come have lunch with you both. I’m glad Miss M finally told her teacher the truth.


Naptimewriting October 16, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Oh, honey. I’m so terribly sorry for her and for you.

Indulge me for a moment, though. I promise not to recommend homeschooling.

My little introvert started school and came home wide-eyed with the overstimulation. I told him that if he were ever overwhelmed, to take a break and retreat to the quiet of the bathroom. It’s a place to breathe and get away and quiet the cacophany. I told him I learned that at work, and I use it everywhere I go. Our society’s obsession with bathroom privacy, I told him, is useful to people who get energy by being alone.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay that she’s in there. You hear bathroom stall and think ostracized and lonely and desperately sad…she might experience quiet and uninterrupted thoughts.

I’m not saying she’s not having a hard time. Geezus, the begging and the tears and the sorrow…sounds just excruciating . But maybe the bathroom bit is the easiest part. Maybe she looks forward to that solitude. Maybe whole books are written in her head while she’s in there.

Ask her.

And while you’re at it, ask the school nurse if there’s somewhere Miss M can eat alone. You might get laughed out of the huge public school, but try. Maybe they’ll take pity on her and let her sit alone in the nurse’s office or the library or the principal’s waiting room. She clearly wants to be away from kids. A broom closet somewhere, for heaven’s sake?


TKW October 17, 2013 at 6:28 am


Thanks for your positive spin on this. Truly. Maybe I will beg the librarian…flowers, perhaps?


jacquie October 17, 2013 at 6:08 am

I was thinking of you and your daughter this morning while I walked the dog as I have been rather haunted by your post & the memories and emotions it stirred in me. I’m going to leave a second comment so I apologize for that but I did wonder if you were at all familiar with the book the “the introspect advantage”? if not you might want to taka a look at it. It really explains how the brains of introverts are different than the brains of extroverts and due to that what overwhelms and strengthens the two groups differ. She also speaks to the difference btwn shyness and introversion. also she offers suggestions as to how introverts can take care of themselves in different situations so as to get their social and other needs met. I believe she even has a chapter specifically for children. I and other introverts I know have found it very helpful so I thought I would mention it. Best of luck to you & your little one.


TKW October 17, 2013 at 6:29 am


I have heard of the book and meant to pick it up but I keep forgetting. I’m ordering it today. Thank you for thinking of us. And don’t worry–it’s haunting me STILL.


Arnebya October 17, 2013 at 7:59 am

You are NOT a bad communicator. You were trying. And you know what? She told the teacher eventually. Doesn’t matter that it wasn’t you. She got to the point of being willing to tell SOMEONE. Sometimes we just have to accept that. But yes, it hurts like hell to think of her hiding, to think that she felt she had to go to that extreme. But maybe this is the beginning to betterment.


Barbara October 17, 2013 at 8:21 am

I confess, I am at a loss to say anything that would give you much comfort. Much understanding and love is coming your way, though. There is nothing worse for a parent than a child who is hurt or unhappy. It sounds to me as though both you and the teachers have made a caring and extraordinary effort; kudos to the teachers, who seem to take the time to help you. I so wish Miss M. would find just one friend. That would make all the difference.
(Mine couldn’t wait to get away from me, as nobody was unhappy in school. Now what does that say about my parenting?!)


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me October 17, 2013 at 11:18 am

My heart is breaking for both of you. I think the worst feeling in the world must be to be the mother and figure out that you had no idea what your child has been going through. It is my greatest fear. Sometimes the urge to just keep them under your arm all day everyday forever is overwhelming.


Jennifer October 17, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Oh that poor babe. And NO, you are not a horrible mother. At this age they get very good at hiding from us the things that they don’t want us to know. The fact that you stayed on top of it and kept checking in with the teacher shows what a great mom you are. And now that you know you can help her.


Kate October 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Oh gosh. Oh gosh. Hugs for you first.

My first born spent kindergarten lying about not getting permission to use the potty and hiding soiled panties. Months of that. (Head banging wall.)

My second spent a year in preK not speaking. To anyone. (Dang teachers didn’t tell me!!!)

Mama hood is hard. You can’t know everything. It’s ok.

And now you do know. So. Forward.

I’m working with my first on new anxiety attacks (is it 3rd grade high stakes f#%ing testing?)

I am reading a book that is helping me. We’ll see if it helps her. The Opposite of Worry is the title. I can hope that she won’t spend nights obsessively seeking alternative routes out of her room. I can hope she won’t be so panicked she gets an EKG. I can hope.

More hugs.


Rob October 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I understand your heartbreak with Miss M. I am so sad for her.

I have my own introverted child, who can’t stand loud noises and would rather hide than have to go against his nature. He cried before school every day in the 1st grade. I transferred him to a very small private school with classical education as its teaching program. He was so much more comfortable and at home because it suited his personality.

Unfortunately, in the first grade, our son started out in the public school where he cried every day to the small private school he loved – and at winter break we moved across the country. New school and a new class he hated, but as luck would have it, there were so many new students, they transferred him to his fourth 1st grade classroom. I was devastated, but his new teacher was so wonderful that he found his place. The playground was a different story. Thankfully, he found one friend in his class, and one friend can make all the difference in the world.

Fourth grade – we moved back from the West coast to the East coast. Another new school. Once again, we faced school anxiety and dread. I went to class once a week as a parent volunteer. I observed how he felt in his environment. (I talked to the teacher, counselor, and the Principle – they didn’t make me feel confident.) I took him out of school again. I home schooled him until high school. Then we moved, so that he could go to school in a place where we knew he would be more comfortable. He still didn’t like the school environment, but he was mature enough to endure it and he was an excellent student.

I am not a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of person. As a child, I was forced to endure many situations that made me cry. I didn’t tell my mother either (who is a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” person). I knew she wanted me to be strong and happy; to fit in with the other kids. I didn’t want to let her down. I never told her about school. I never cried in front of her after school – but I did cry. I don’t even think she noticed how unhappy I was.

Miss M. is fortunate that you have noticed her feelings, and that you are trying to help her. That speaks volumes to a child.

My son – like his mother – found friends outside of school. For me it was the YMCA. For him, it was church. It was how we both survived high school. (My son choose a very small college – only 1500 students – true to his personality).

I am only sharing this because I know how you feel. I know how Miss M. feels. I don’t think my way is the right way. It was just the way I chose. I hope that you find a way – and that Miss M. finds a way – that works for both of you.

P.S. My daughter was an extrovert – it comes with its own set of problems when you hit the teen years :)


TKW October 19, 2013 at 7:45 am


I don’t think there’s really a “wrong” way to deal with this–you just open yourself to ideas and muddle on through, hoping for the best.

ps: My #1 child is an extrovert extraordinaire!


Ami October 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Your words pierce me right to my heart and make me want to run to the nearest elementary school at lunch time, find the saddest kid there, and hug them super tight. I’m going to refrain, however, because I’d probably get arrested.
You are doing a great job at being a mom. And how lucky is your kid to have a mother who understands her? Who empathizes and has experience with anxiety and such. She could have ended up with some Barbie of a mother with a million extroverted friends who would force her to join clubs and try out for things and be so disappointed that her kid was awkward. (Been there , done that.)


Julie November 10, 2013 at 11:17 pm

You just described my life. So hard, isn’t it? I still have that thought: “you were meant to be alone,” quite frequently. I know just what you mean as well, about not wanting your child to have to suffer through the same pain. I have two who love to be social, and one who is more like me. I hope they don’t hide in their cars at lunch like I did in high school. Because yeah, that is the stuff that would break my heart. :(. I hope that your attentiveness and love and awareness will help your daughter learn to love her quiet, introspectful, beautiful little self. It has taken me fort years, but I think I am finally getting there. Blessings to you and your sweet one.


Dana Talusani November 11, 2013 at 8:58 am


My little second-grade hand wishes it had held your high school hand and that we could have sneaked off for lunch together…


Paola November 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Dana: i read this today and i really want to cry! I cant belive ms M is going tru that :( she is amazing! And you are one of the most wonderful womens i ever met and you are one of the best moms ever!! I tell you this from muy heart! You youre family and the girls are amazing!! Youre in my thoughts and in my prays!! Love you and miss you so much!!


ThisIsntTheLifeIOrdered December 27, 2014 at 3:53 am

I know this is an older post, but felt compelled to reply. I am in constant angst over my son, now 12, and his increasingly obvious display of every poor character trait in my arsenal. But with sensitivity, comes kindness. (Right?)

Not wanting to worry your mother is true love on a grand scale. Don’t be upset she didn’t tell you. It’s really not that she doesn’t trust you. She KNOWS you, on a primal, cellular level. She senses, on instinct, her pain is your pain.

Our baby birds, whether wings arched in flight or in huddled feathers will leave our nests, but that true Mother love, oh that is forever. Much love.


Dana Talusani December 28, 2014 at 8:56 pm


Besides loving your user name, I am grateful for what you wrote and the way you understand the tightrope we’re walking as mothers. Gaa, it paralyzes sometimes, you know? I look at my kids and they have these twitches and murmurs that are all mine, and I feel so bad for them.


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