School

Mom, I don’t want to go to school!

Today I feel like a super clever detective that linked two seemingly ‘unrelated’ things together! And guess what, it all started with a fear! While I was talking with my son Noam about him almost going to school and how exciting this will be, he said, ‘But I don’t want to go to school mam’. ‘Oh, really’? I answered. ‘But Noam, can you tell me why’? He replied: ‘Because there will be bigger kids and I don’t like bigger kids’. Well, my first instinct was to tell him that there will not be bigger kids, but kids of his age. So I said exactly that. I also said that it’s ok to be afraid and that it’s something new that he will have to go through. And I saw him feeling slightly better.

However, right on cue, the worry voice started. ‘OMG, what if he hates school? What if he comes home every day with tears in his eyes? What if he will get teased? He will cry everyday’? Detecting fear my calm Zen voice said, ‘HOHOH! How do you know that this will happen? Remember you cannot control the future? You can worry now and drive yourself slightly crazy, but at the end of the day, you are not in control of the future’! So, I recognised the fear and let it pass like a cloud. But then something else happened that brought this fear to a new dimension. A deeper dimension.

While I was biking to a client, I passed by a school and I saw all these kids running around. Some kids were in a circle listening to the teacher, while others were playing alone. This triggered something in me, and I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, ‘Omg this looks awful. They are totally being controlled by the teachers’. You see, I actually thought school is a horrible place and that Noam will totally be controlled or teased once he goes to school! And then magic happened! I realized that the fear for school doesn’t only come from my son, it is actually in me! I fear school too!

Then I remembered that every time I pass by a primary school I have this knot in my stomach. You know the one that just doesn’t feel right. I’ve never really given it power or thought before…until today. I must admit I had a challenging time in primary school. I moved to the Netherlands when I was 8. The upheaval of moving countries and schools was a very difficult time for me.  I’m convinced that my underlying fears and experiences for the primary school were causing these negative thoughts.

I then began to think. ‘What if I am actually, unconsciously passing my own fears on to my son? Projecting this fear onto him through my unconscious reaction to this topic? Could this be? Wow, this fear goes deeper than I thought’! So, I decided to confront this fear not just for myself but also for my son. And I will tell you how I did it.

How do you deal with a deeper fear?

So, the very same day, after meeting up with my client, I cycled by the same school I saw earlier that day and I stopped. I sat down and just watched the kids play. I remember thinking that luckily, I am not a man, so people won’t think I am some kind of pedophile watching kids. Which is actually a horrible thought, I know. But that’s a topic for another blog. 🙂

While sitting there I did a short breathing meditation; just following my breath, calming and focusing my mind on what I was about to do. After that, I looked at the kids and observed them. I observed them having fun, running, shouting, and playing. I also observed somewhat sadder kids. Or the ones that were playing alone. And thought, to myself that it’s ok. Maybe they don’t like school, but there will be a moment in their lives when they will realize that this moment maybe made them stronger human beings. Maybe it will make them more empathetic to others that are sad because they are able to recognise this feeling. I hoped that when they went home that loving parents were waiting for them and could listen to their stories. I also thought that maybe they are not sad, but just have a sad expression on their faces and that I am just seeing what I want or expect to see? 

And then I turned towards my inner child, The 10-year-old me. And I wrote down all the good moments I remember during primary school. The great activities we did, like camping in the wild, the amazing friends I had that were all from different nationalities and taught me all about different cultures, made me totally open to other religions, and made me curious to travel to other countries. My first kiss happened in primary school, and that was very scary but also a special moment.

And then I also wanted to confront the negative memories: like my scary and strict teacher who caught me borrowing (she called it stealing) a book with all the answers to a test. And how she punished me by writing I shouldn’t be stealing 100 times on the blackboard. I remembered the bully in the class that was in love with my sister, but the bully thought that he will get her attention by being mean to her. So, I had to step in and fight for her, as I was always the stronger and the more aggressive one. I remember all the heartbreaks that came with being a young teenager. I remember how, together with a friend, I made the final test which would determine which level of secondary school we would go to. This was totally forbidden but we did not get caught and I am sure because of this I had a higher score. I also remembered feeling different from the Dutch kids because of my Belarusian background and my very Russian last name Cheriakova. I so longed to be considered a Dutch kid.

So, I wrote these not so good memories down and just sat there and realized that all the good and the bad memories I had all in some way made me who I am today: a resourceful, creative and strong person. And I would really want my son to create his own good and bad memories of primary school because I cannot control his future, and it doesn’t help to worry about it either.  But most of all, I know that I will be there for him to support him with whatever bad or good memories he comes home with. 

The big lesson here is that some fears carry a bigger message, and you can spot them by simply being aware, and paying attention whether it is something that comes back now and then. Just like our Eckhart says, ‘Anything that you resent and strongly react to, in another is also in you’. For me, this was my son’s reaction to school. And I noticed that this was definitely in me! It was my own fear of school that I reacted to whenever my son talks about school. And only when I deal with my own demons from the past, I will be able to deal with his fears in a healthy way.

I would like to encourage you to pay attention to your own recurring fears. What is it that you react strongly to? Is it a person or something like being alone, pirates, people being arrogant or maybe it is shopping? Everything you react strongly to means that there is something behind it, something that might have happened in your past that is causing this strong reaction. Be mindful of that, as I truly believe that if you spot the fear and face it, you will be able to rise, grow, and be a kinder person to yourself and others. Good luck with it and enjoy it, as this means you are working on yourself and growing!

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