Earlier this year, we experienced a challenging 6 weeks where our normally chatty and happy 7 year old was more akin to a stressed out, hormone fuelled, angst ridden 17 year old. It was weird. It was tough. It was, we think now, SATs related.
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As mentioned in the main SATs article, he was invited to join a Booster Club at school so that he may achieve a ‘greater depth’ in his SATs, which we were all over like a rash, as our parental pride kicked in and nearly swallowed us up.
The first few weeks were fine. After that, Fin started to become very tearful about things. He didn’t want to leave me, he didn’t want to go to school and he most definitely didn’t want to go to karate (he bloody loves karate).
He would cry on the way to school and then cling to me at the gate, sobbing uncontrollably. It was bloody awful. The trouble was he couldn’t really explain to me why – he would say things like ‘it’s too busy at school, there are too many people’ or ‘I just don’t want to be away from you’. It wasn’t that long after the Christmas holidays, where we’d spent quality time together, so I attributed a lot of it to that. My husband said his usual ‘it’s just a phase’ and went back to reading something fascinating on Twitter.
So I did what any good parent does when they’re in a jam – I turned to Google. I Googled the shit out of ‘crying 7 year old’ and found lots of ‘help’ including; dealing with cry-babies, highly-sensitive children, hormone surges, childhood anxiety and separation anxiety. I mean, take your pick – it was all a bit of a minefield and I couldn’t really narrow down what the issue was exactly, so we bumbled along for the next few weeks and I tried my best to be as understanding and encouraging as possible.
The low point was a karate grading where Fin stood sobbing in the middle of a room of 20 kids, refusing to do the moves. I’m not proud to admit that I felt really embarrassed and despite some reassuring looks from other parents, I was convinced everyone was judging us, so I ended up storming out of there, dragging Fin behind me, in a classic Mum Grip by his arm. I gave him a royal bollocking in the car – after weeks of this, I think I’d arrived at a point where I’d tried everything else, so I thought I’d try Bad Cop. In my defence, I also had a 15 month old who decided these same few weeks would be a great time to start a bit of sleep regression. I was basically a donkey on the edge.
During all of this, his teacher did speak to me to say he’d been very upset during some lessons and that he seemed to be ‘beating himself up about things’ when he was actually doing very well. He had said a couple of things at home about not being very good at certain things, when he was in fact excelling – he’s always quite hard on himself (not sure where he gets that from? Ahem!) Anyway, me and Teach talked and agreed how best to manage this at school and I continued to praise him and to try and nip the negative thoughts in the bud.
Things all came to a head when he got himself in such a state one Monday morning about not wanting to go to school that he threw up. I kept him home that day, as I felt so bad for him. He said he didn’t want to go in the next day because of Booster Club. The next day happened to be the final Booster Club, so we had a chat with him about committing to things and seeing them through and persuaded him to attend the last session.
He went off to school that day fine, if maybe a little misty eyed, but then I got a call from the school at 2pm to say he was unwell. They were great about it when I explained what was going on and we agreed they’d keep him in school and that he’d attend the Booster Club. I really felt I was doing the right thing, as he had to face up to his fears and see this thing through, didn’t he? Plus, it was the last one.
When I picked him up, I thought all hell would break loose, but he skipped out of school, happy as Larry and didn’t say anything else about it. So I didn’t say anything else about it and I kid you not, from that day forward we’ve had no more crying or worrying about going to school, or karate for that matter. It was like a cloud was lifted.
During the next half term, he was chatting away to me and said ‘Mummy, I really hated that Booster Club. There were too many children, it was too busy and I already knew everything they were saying – we do loads of SATs preparation at school anyway’. He also told me it made him feel sick every time he knew he had to go and that if he was invited to go again, he definitely didn’t want to.
Which got me thinking; had this Booster Club been the start of all the stress and worry? It did tie in, in terms of when the club started and when the crying started. I felt really guilty for making him go to that last one, but to be honest, he’d never said any of this before and I just hadn’t put two and two together. The school seemed to be pushing so hard with all this SATs malarkey and I knew he was doing well anyway, so I decided there and then that there’d be no more Booster Club for my boy.
He did get invited to join the next term’s Booster Club and came home with the slip in his hand and tears in his eyes. He was so relieved when I said he didn’t have to go and actually asked if he could do Yoga Club instead – god, I love that kid. When I told his teacher he wouldn’t be attending Booster Club again, she informed me that he would only achieve the expected level in his SATs. Well, I think I can live with that – my 7 year old achieving what is expected of a 7 year old! And I can definitely live without all the crying and stress. He’ll be too busy doing the Downward Dog to be worrying about his SATs results anyway – Namaste.