Anxiety and the Story of the Stick

So, we sought a small adventure the other day as a family. We drove around and found a pretty scenic walking path in the woods that connected to the river. It was nice and quiet there despite the many other individuals enjoying themselves on nature.

There was plenty of whining about being tired and hot. That’s to be expected. The husband and I tried to bring up some life lesson about the a tree being strong and tall despite the wind always trying to push it down. Who knows if they gleaned anything profound from that.

Near the tree S1 (all our kids’ names start with S, so that the oldest. He’s almost 8 and is our child who has a differently wired brain.) found a stick. This stick was perfect. Seriously. Even I stopped, held it, and admired it. Do you know how many sticks my boys collect?? Especially S3, the 3 year old. He adores the and brings them home for the back yard. Anyways, this particular stick looked like a gun and had the perfect handhold. Of course S1 kept hold of it on the whole walk.

We finally found a little bank where water met a short enough embankment that all the little S’s could sit and throw rocks, dirt, etc. into the water.

Things were going great. Everyone was having a blast. I even got a few cute pictures. S1 was sitting by S3 and they were enjoying each other.

Suddenly, S1 started screaming. Confused I looked around, No one had fallen in. No one got stung by a bee…no one….Oh. There floated the special stick right in front of me. I almost jumped in. Like held myself back by a hair. I would’ve been very soaked.

If another child had lost their special stick in the water I would’ve sat and waved. Because it was S1 and I knew what was about to ensue I almost jumped.

I watched it float by helplessly and almost get stuck on the bank then zoom at of view.

At this point S1 has hit critical and is screaming to wake the dead. S3 starts crying because he was the one to excitedly throw in the stick and S1 is screaming at him, the sky, the ground, me, and everything.

The faithful dad that his is, Husband ran off to try to chase the stick down the river.

I grab S1 and hang on tight, trying to give him some deep pressure to help him calm down. He’s still screaming. I explain Daddy is trying to save it. At which point he makes me let go and falls to the sand I’m agony. I tell him to come back to me and he does—forehead dripping sand into this eyes. I carefully wipe it while he’s repeatedly saying, “I’ve just never has my special stick thrown into a river before!”

Neither have I, Bud.

The other kids are quietly playing still. Situations like this aren’t new.

S1 can’t breath well and is still panicking. Husband still isn’t back. So I told S1 that a lot of people could hear him and asked if he cared. He said, “No! I just care about my stick!”

Fair enough.

Husband finally came back. Without the stick, but a lot of apologies.

S1 doubled himself on the ground again in fetal position, getting sand all over his forehead. (If you know your yoga poses it was child’s pose.) I suppose that’s aptly named.

I wanted to tell him to just get over it, but for a child with ADHD, Anxiety or other issues, that’s like telling a paraplegic to just try harder and they can get up and walk. It’s literally impossible.

Emotionally tired we knew it was time to go. I felt bad cutting the fun short for the other kids.

He kept crying, but stopped the screaming. Along the walk I did my best to find a replacement. And I did!

Do you see this stick?


It is perfect! It even has a scope at the top. I talked up the various aspects that were top-notch and even better than the previous special stick while he continued to mourn his lost one.

But this one made it home, so it must’ve made some impact.

This is our life almost every day. Something triggers his anxiety and the whole blows up.

We try to discuss “social stories” and come up with various scenarios to things that may upset him and appropriate reactions to those things.

Sometimes we can’t anticipate the sticks of life.


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