May - Mental Health Awareness Month
May is a busy month. One of the many designations for this month is Mental Health Awareness Month. When I was a teacher, helping my students with their mental well being was equally, if not more, important than their academics. If you haven't heard, since the pandemic started, there has been an uptick in mental health needs.
Here in my house, we are well aware of this. Oscar started daycare last week. Before the pandemic, he was in daycare as soon as he was about 5 months old. His first daycare was in the school where I taught. We had daycare specifically designated for staff at the school. When he got too old for that, he transitioned to a new daycare right around the corner from my school. Both these transitions were pretty easy for Oscar. He LOVES kids. When everything was shut down last March, Oscar made another transition. This time it was to our living room. A few days into quarantine, after the SO and I put him to bed, we heard him saying goodbye to all of his friends. Our hearts shattered as we heard him naming them, "Bye-bye Miles, bye-bye Charlie, bye-bye Shay-shay." We didn't know his last day at school was going to be his last day ever. A couple months after schools shut down, we picked up and moved to Buffalo.
As things started ramping up for the bookstore, it was pretty clear that we were going to have to send Oscar back to daycare. We talked a lot about it at home and he was pretty excited. New kids! School! Friends! And then we put him in daycare.
It has been almost two weeks and it has been pretty painful. My kid, who once loved going to school, cries every single day. A few days the teachers have had to pull him out of my arms. On Monday, after he was safely in the building, I went back to my car and cried. We have been together almost every single day for over a year and this transition hurts our hearts.
|We've been holding hands a lot recently.|
We've noticed an uptick in his emotions all around. He is sadder, happier, angrier, etc. Granted, he is also on the verge of 3 so this is pretty normal. I decided to return to one of my favorite books that has come out recently.
Big Feelings by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, gives kids words to hold on to their big feelings. (If Big Feelings looks familiar it is because this is the same team who wrote All Are Welcome.) When Oscar and I sat down to read this, we were able to connect to the characters. Yes! We got mad and angry too! Yes! We could talk it out and hug and have fun again.
The book didn't fix our emotional well being and it certainly hasn't made drop off any easier. But in one moment, it gave us a shared language and shared experience. I think that is what mental health is all about. One step at a time, one moment at a time, giving space to your feelings.
(Note: My favorite blog, Cup of Jo, also featured this article recently. I guess we're not the only ones going through it. Sending peace and love folks.)