Keep Calm and C-C-Carry On

How our whole family learned to stop worrying and “C” our way through anxiety.
When Enzo was little, he loved doing sleepovers. But that all changed one year, the year he realized lying awake in strange place wasn't any fun. When he was about six, he stayed overnight with his Uncle Zoom, who had a new baby in the house. Between the distracting sounds and his underlying sleep challenges from ADD, he was up at 4 AM, dressed, ready for the strange night to be over.
the letter C
He really wanted to go away to Science Camp with his class, but could not imagine how he would cope.
After that, he would become hyperaware of the fact he was lying there awake when his friends were dropping off. And then he would start worrying. He’d call to get picked up. Then he’d start planning not to stay over. His dad was sympathetic because that’s the kind of kid he had been. He could never sleep away from home, even if the whole family was with him.
This became a problem for Enzo in 5th grade, when he really wanted to go away to Science Camp with his class, but could not imagine how he would cope.
We signed up for a great class at Kaiser called the “Family Worry Class.” The therapist explained that the people who took the class all had a superpower called sensitivity, which runs in families. She gave us her “Five C’s” for handling anxiety while you’re in the middle of it. They work for your kids, and they work for yourself. In my words, they are:
1. Calm: Take deep breaths. Slow down and don’t rush through it.
2. Cheerlead: Be positive. Tell your kid they can do it — they’ve done so much before.
3. Change the Channel: A distraction can help, like food, a game, or TV; another option is to find ways to cope. (Look, another "C"!)
4. Check In: Let kids talk about their experience and how they're feeling.
5. Continue: Keep going, keep trying, don’t give up.
It was good to learn the therapist's Five C’s. We had been relying too much on our own favorite C’s: CriticizeCatastrophizeCry, get the Creeps, and Chatter about endlessly about how bad it feels.
Thanks to the Five C’s, Enzo made it to Science Camp, and although he didn't sleep much, he felt very proud of himself. The C’s helped him in so many other ways, too — taking tests, going to a new school, and even trying sleepovers once again. Now he’s away practically every weekend, and can think about leaving home for weeks at a time. Maybe even for good! (We'll see how that goes.)
The other great thing about the class was that we went to go help our kid, and ended up helping ourselves as well. 


The Forklift of Love

Getting a sleepy ADHD teenager out of bed calls for heavy machinery — and a lot of patience from the crew at home.

Until we learned about ADD, it was always a mystery why our little guy couldn’t sleep. Even though Enzo, as a small child, was more than once called “The Thing That Would Not Sleep” by his exhausted-to-the-point-of-a-horror-movie parents, he was a blessedly solid sleeper once he was down. Yet, he surprised us all (as teenagers do) by growing up to be “The Thing that Would Not Move.”
forklift love
Sleeping past nine! Oh, how we reveled in those luxurious summer mornings! It was like being newlyweds again!
Baby Enzo was better than an alarm clock. Even before he was born, I could never stay in bed past 6 AM. During his first decade, those bright little eyes would fly open at six…fricking.…AM. Even on weekends.
Later, when school days became a grind, he’d sleep in until seven. But on weekends, when there was so much more to look forward to, the son would still rise with the sun. "I've got a lot to do today," he'd say when we stumbled into the Lego jungle.
We were so proud the summer before eighth grade, when he took up a new hobby: sleeping past nine! Oh, how we reveled in those luxurious summer mornings! It was like being newlyweds again!
Now that he’s pushing seventeen, the novelty of that has also worn off. On weekends we don’t see him until noon. And on school mornings, trying to get both that brain and body working takes nothing short of heroics.
Trying to wake up a teenager on a school day is not easy for anyone. Trying to wake one with ADD is like trying to get a pig to fly, according to his father, "Dave." ("It's a waste of time, and it annoys the pig.")
His first alarm goes off at 6:15. It’s a song, or rather some electronic song clip, that he has chosen the night before, and it is set on repeat on the iPod that rests in the speaker on his headboard. At 6:30, his clock alarm starts beeping, and now there is a funky rhythmic jam going on in his room. At this point, his dad starts grumbling: “I could always get myself out of bed. This is nonsense.” (Dad has learned to go to work early to save his sanity.) A few minutes later, the radio goes off.
By 6:45, if Enzo has not crawled out to turn off the beeping yet, I go into his room and start shaking his loft bed. Sometimes it takes an earthquake. When he was little and we needed him to move, we’d just bring on “the forklift of love” and lift him out. That became an impossibility after he reached the hundred-pound mark.
Half the time — and I swore I would never do this — I get angry. I start shrieking things like, “Oh, my God! It’s 7:30 already!” Or I get snotty. "Okay, I'm driving you to school without you." But I hate to go this route. While others might respond to the stress in my normally calm voice with a shot of adrenaline, Enzo doesn’t seem to have been built with this response. For him, motivation must come from within. Nagging backfires. In the mornings, the higher-pitched my voice goes, the more he shuts down.
But what goes on in that brain? When I was younger, I remember having just as much trouble getting out of bed, especially after a night of brain-racing. There are stages you have to work through in that transition between the sleep state and the awake state, which, according to the experts from the sleep study Enzo participated in, are constantly at war for our time. “I am working things out,” he mumbles. He’s still achieving the mystical tasks his dream set out for him.
On a good day, he’s up to kiss his dad goodbye. He gets dressed quickly...and then lies down for a pre-breakfast nap.