Kevin Henkes writes one of my favorite children’s books, Wemberly Worried which is about a little mouse who worries just about everything. When I think of nervous children, I think about Wemberly. This week was our state testing, which took on new importance to me as I wasn’t just a mom of one child taking it but now two. The second child is not a test taker, when we work on test questions at home she sees something unfamiliar and goes into complete panic. Her brain gets so clouded that she can’t possibly process her way to the knowledge she has within herself. I have tried a lot of strategies such as stop and visualize and we have even gotten her a necklace that she can sniff with special oils.
I went to sleep thinking about that little mouse, Wemberly. While my daughter is not a constant worrier, there is some underlying evidence that she may have anxiety. A word that ten years ago was rarely thrown around in education, in fact out of 100 students I only had one student who suffered from anxiety. About 1:00 AM, Sunday night I heard a thump and footsteps pounding into my bedroom. My little Wemberly came bounding into my bed saying, “I could not get back to sleep once I woke up.” That night she thrashed about the bed and wept in her dreams. The second night after testing, the feet came crashing in again and the third after that. Our evenings were marked with discontent even with a lack of homework.
Anxiety or worry, (either way you want to characterize it) is growing within this population of students. These little ones were not even alive a decade ago and are being forced to encounter an education packed with skills that are merely not developmentally appropriate. While for some it is easy and may even be easy for my daughter if she could just clear her brain out to process things, is it necessary? What is gained from creating an educational environment that creates worry in young children. I want my child to enjoy and strive to gain knowledge not shy away from anything resembling schoolwork. For now, we comfort the worrier and hope that she grows out of this phase. We hope she can find confidence and just do her best without the sleepless night and nightmares.