My Nearly Five-Year-Old Still Has Separation Anxiety And It’s Making Me A Wreck
The baby books told me that the height of separation anxiety would occur between 10-18 months, yet here I am years later still dealing with this behavior. I don’t know what someone would call it now — separation anxiety or a “clingy kid” — but my son is going to be five years old before spring has sprung and managing it feels like daily torture on a physical, emotional and mental level.
It’s hard to pinpoint my son’s anxiety. I have alternated a year working at home and a year working out of the house in an office pretty much since he was born. I have always given him plenty of notice and explanation of what is going on and what he can expect. On a daily basis, I tell him when he will be picked up specifically, “after afternoon snack” and we talk about anything unusual coming up — like travel or holidays — well in advance.
These days, as he approaches the age of five, most of his anxiety revolves around school. I wish I could say it was “only” school — which it is — but school comes five days a week month after month. Some days he cries as I hug him and he falls in a heap as I walk out the door. Some days he does his best sloth impression, grabbing whatever he can — my hand, my leg, my coat — and digs his fingers in until I’m pleading the teachers with my eyes to come up with something to distract or engage him. Other days he begins his strike before we’ve even left the house. He flat out refuses to get dressed or put his coat and shoes on.
Professionals reassure that separation anxiety or generally clingy behavior is totally normal — in toddlers. But at what age should I expect to be able to go to work after dropping my son off at school without claw marks on my arms from the teachers having to pry him off of me?
It’s pretty devastating to experience on a daily basis. I know in my rational brain that he’s fine and that he doesn’t cry hysterically all day long, but it’s hard on me emotionally. I hate being gone at work for so many hours and I hate not being able to pick him up or drop him off every day. I’m usually feeling the pressure of being late AGAIN (because he went on shoe strike before we left and it’s taken me an extra 10 minutes to pry him off of me) or even just strung out by my overwhelming responsibilities at work. The situation does far more than tug at my heart-strings, it stresses me out to the point where I want to scream, cry or do both.
His number one complaint is that school is boring. It’s pretty shocking for me to hear that in his Pre-K class, kids are expected to “rest” for two hours. I’m sure this is normal for an educator, but let me assure you, my son hasn’t rested for two hours during the day since the day he was born! He was always a short napper and dropped naps altogether before the age of three. Now he’s almost five and being asked to lay down for two hours in the middle of his day. While there’s nothing I can do about this (not that I would even if I “could”) it does give me hope for next year. With nap or rest time gone in Kindergarten, I’m hoping he won’t think school is so boring and the separation anxiety might let up. Otherwise I better get my prescription for a little R&R.