It's "Crazy Hair Day" at school; the whole school has weird hair or a weird hat on. The rest of the school is having fun but to him it just means that something different is happening. The day has been designated "not the same as usual," and he doesn't like it when things aren't the same as usual. That, plus his body not feeling 100%, has combined to create a lot of sadness inside of him. When he's upset, he doesn't get angry or act out, he shuts down and he cries.
And that's when my compulsion comes out, my need to make that sadness go away, and I ask "are you okay?" Constantly. It's an incredibly stupid question, because... clearly he is not okay. But my overwhelming need for him to be okay manifests itself in the form of this question that I ask him, repeatedly.
It's a terrible question to ask, not only because the answer is glaringly obvious, but because I'm sure he feels pressure to actually be okay when he's not. This is not my intention when I ask, I certainly don't mean to make him actually feel worse, but I just can't help myself. "Are you okay?" "Are you good?" SHUT UP, Jill!
I struck a deal with him, because I can't keep him home today (ironically, or not, I have an IEP meeting) and talked to his teacher: At any point during the day if he needs to, he will ask to be sent to the office where he will be allowed to skip whatever is going on and draw. He agreed to this deal, he likes to go to the office and draw. I watched them both walk off to the classroom and I said "Okay, bye. Are you okay?" His teacher turned to look at me with this incredulous face. Of course he's not okay. Can't you see that? He's crying and acting as if he's being lead to his death. What a dumb thing to ask. What's wrong with you?
But I can't help myself, I obviously need to work on this. Not only do I need to work on my compulsive need to ask the question, I also need to realize that not everything in his life is going to be okay all the time, and I'm not always going to have any say in the matter. I won't be able to make deals for him, I'm not going to be "in control." Life is hard and at some point I need to let go, hoping that I've instilled him with enough good skills to be able to take care of himself. I think this is the greatest lesson of parenting, finding that balance between this innate need to protect and knowing that you won't always be able to.
It's funny, because he constantly and repeatedly asks me questions, and oftentimes I answer him with "why are you asking me a question when you already know the answer?" I need to start asking myself that, too.