The Magical Nanny
|Ruth getting the hang of selfies.|
This particular story starts with the Magical Nanny on the playground. I’d seen her each day in the morning and afternoon for drop-off and pick-up for Ruth. She was someone that had the glistening, weathered look of a woman in recovery. From what, makes no difference. Old enough to be the grandma of the kinder and the toddler she tools around with, but fit and muscular, tattoos on both arms, gray-blond hair in a funky pixie cut (not your basic Golden Girls coif!). We have exchanged countless affirming glances as she walks by the Scene that is dropping off Ruth for school.
Nobody blames Ruth for the chaos of morning drop-off. We get it. It makes sense. Everyone is out of practice. The principal at our school, after witnessing a Ruth drop-off, said affectionately, “All the kindergarteners are young. The first graders are young. It’ll take time for them to catch up.” I knew what he meant. Young, as in green.
Just a few months ago, I—a wildly extroverted people lover—was writing about how green I felt when getting back to talking with people again, in groups. Groups are the thing that got erased during COVID. Ruth had not experienced a group of young people for a year and a half. A handful of playdates and a few unsuccessful attempts at summer gym camp aside. There were the blessed “Kindergarten Prep Summer Camp” mornings that were offered at her old preschool (the one we stopped attending abruptly in March 2020), but those were few enough to count on one hand.
The why is taken care of. We all get why this is so hard for Ruth. Seven hours away from mom for five days in a row is a Big Ask. Then we ask her to do it again the following week. What we are most interested in is how to support her to walk through that school door with peace and confidence. Or maybe just a little less upset. And when I ask her later, when she’s calm and regulated, what was going on with those enormous emotions at drop off, she simply says, “I miss you.” She misses me before I even leave. The anticipation of how she will miss me later is too much to bear now.
Over the last month, we have done kissing-hands and heart strings and role-playing and back-to-school books. We’ve tried having Jesse do drop-off and even having Ruth go into her class early, before the bell. (She runs back out.) I have read countless articles on how to help Kindergarteners get back to school. We’ve made a morning-missions chart to help her get dressed and ready in the morning independently. We’ve tried having me drop her off at the playground before the bell rings, so she can stand with a safe adult (and, hopefully, venture off and play with her friends) until the bell rings. The door to her classroom had become a thing of torment for her, so we moved the drop off to the gate. Now the gate is a thing of torment.
And still, just yesterday at drop-off, over a month into Kindergarten, the front desk lady had to kneel and create sort of a body-armor around Ruth to keep her from running after me. I’d like to say it doesn’t get to me, that I don’t take it in. That I walk out of there and shake it off like a lemur who’s made it to safety after a chase. But it’s so hard to leave her that way. (We don’t have phones where I can send her a message like, you ok now?? I love you, accompanied by a gif of a french bulldog in a kid swing.) There’s an extra little weight in my heart for the day when I leave her like that. Heavy liquid like mercury gathered in the corner of a plastic bag, the pressure of a tiny animal on my chest even as I stand vertical, as an adult in the world who’s feeling my own particular version of green, like everyone else.
But that’s the not story I planned to tell here. I am re-heating my tea water (green, of course) to remember exactly what that story was. Oh yes, the magical nanny.
Two days ago, I was at pick-up, seven hours after a particularly audible good-bye with Ruth (that kid has lungs like bag pipes, resonance that could, if honed, easily break glass.) and with only an assumption and hope that her day went better than it started. (I HAD been emailing her amazing teacher to check in on her after the hard drop-offs, but I stopped doing that, feeling like that was too much to put on her plate now that weeks had gone by.)
Pick-up is a funny scene. At that time of day, the sun is an afternoon bully and the only shade offered by the pick-up door is from the tiny bit of roof that sticks out over the pavement. To pick up kinders, you need to be visible from the door as they file out one-by-one—in their dirty, spit-wet masks and wobbly under their empty but over-large backpacks—or the teacher will not let the kiddo leave. There is one dad who sits in the shade of a tree that is rather a good distance from the door and when he sees his daughter, he shoots his arm in the air and yells, Hi Honey! I commend him for prioritizing shade for himself. Seems like a good thing to model. But I’d rather be social than deluxe-shaded so I find myself squeezed against the brick wall by the door like a ScoobyDoo cartoon, to catch the sliver of shady real estate.
It’s also so very, very quiet at pick up, for reasons I cannot quite understand or explain. (Perhaps it’s the disarming brightness of the afternoon sun deems people mute, same physiological response as to an interrogation bulb? The mornings are bright too, but maybe the bulb is less of an assault coming more from the side?) While chatting with my new mom friends before the pick up bell rings, there is a certain record-just-stopped-and-we-are-the-only-ones-talking feeling, a sense that everyone within a twenty foot diameter is listening, and so small talk has utterly different content before the kids come out versus after—with the safe-making buffer of kid raucous in the background. (Think library-turns-nightclub at the ring of the bell.)
Two days ago, I was waiting in my shade-sliver, quietly chatting with a mom about picking out clothes that don’t show armpit sweat—patterns are key—when the magical nanny walked by and said to me, “I want to show you something.” Just being in her company had a calming, empowering affect. She had a V-neck t-shirt with a llama in a seated meditation that said, “Llamaste,” (I have the same shirt at home, but she wears it better.) tiny, funky glasses and that cute, windblown little pixie cut. Strangers don’t really hug right now, but she makes me look forward to the day when we do.
She pulled out her phone as she said, “Have you heard of tapping?”
A brief 411 on Tapping, taken directly from The Tapping Solution website:
Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a powerful stress relief technique. Tapping is based on the combined principles of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology.
I had learned about tapping over a decade ago from a beloved acupuncturist who used it to heal a years-long stomach issue I’d been battling (which turned out to be liver-related). His version was very sophisticated; he’d recite pages of specific rhetoric while tapping—sometimes pounding—along my spine. He was a jolly sorcerer, a crazy genius who was not afraid of trying new healing modalities if you were up for it. And, in so doing, he healed a gut issue that I’d suffered deeply from for years, after countless gut specialists were rendered clueless and said, questionably, “IBS?”
He also trained me in the take-home version of tapping, the simpler version of tapping referred to above, to help with some acute social anxiety I was struggling with then. This was over a decade ago—I remember sneaking into the bathroom at work and tapping out my nervousness and anxiety. I remember that it genuinely (if inexplicably) helped.
Flash forward a decade, to a few years ago, when a friend reminded me of tapping over a glass of red wine and a chat about family systems. She explained how it dislodged some deep-seeded feelings she just couldn’t shake around a particular person in her life. I used it with Opal, for her anxiety that can sometimes turn to a gnarly conquering beast, and it was semi-helpful. But Opal, at age ten then, couldn’t really do it all on her own—remember where to tap, what to say—and the book I bought was too mature for her and YouTube had nada. So, that was about a year ago, and as a tool, it dwindled.
“I love tapping. For myself.” I told the magical nanny. “I’ve tried it with my older daughter, but—do you mean it for Ruth?—I never even thought of using it for Ruth.”
“I used to help teach stress management in public schools, this is one of my favorite things.” She held up an app, The Tapping Solution, and showed me how they have very specific tapping sessions for little kids. She pulled up Feeling Safe Back at School: Ages 5 & Under.
“No kidding?" I said. "Thank you for this, really.”
I downloaded the app, post haste. Even just sifting through the pre-recorded tapping meditations had a unruffling effect on my system—Instant Boost of Healing, Help me to Stop Overthinking, I’m Stressed About Change, Release General Pain.
My attempt to introduce it to Ruth that next morning, yesterday, was a flop. Maybe I pulled it out too close to having to leave for school. I’ll keep trying.
But for the rest of us...
After another catastrophic drop-off for Ruth, I came home to find Opal in a supreme state of (valid) disappointment that the art club she wanted to join was full. Want to give Tapping a try? I asked. She nodded as she wiped her wet cheek with a sleeve.
(There is a good half-hour between dropping off Ruth for Kindergarten and dropping off Opal for Middle school.)
So we sat side-by-side on the couch with my I-pad propped up vertically on a couch pillow on the foot stool in front of us. Jesse strolled by and said, watcha doing? as he joined us. There we were, all three lined up like monkey-see, monkey-do, monkey-hear figurines from an old lady’s curio.
Tapping for Disappointment. Let’s do this.
Opal’s source of disappointment was clear. I wasn’t thinking of a particular source of disappointed for myself, persay, more of a general version of meta-disappointment, as in why are we not over this fucking pandemic? And what was Jesse’s disappointment? You’ll have to ask him.
...While tapping the collarbone point, ask yourself: Am I allowed to release this feeling of disappointment?
...Side of the eye point: It's ok to feel this way.
...Chin point: Imagine what it would feel like to release the stress and pain of the disappointment.
...Top of the head point: What would like feel like if you could let it go and feel hopeful that good things are on their way?
We tapped our way through all this as a family. (Sans Ruth as of yet, but I have no doubt she will someday join in.) If our neighbor had come to the door at that moment, he may have asked about the seated dance-choreography we were working on. At the end, we were soft and open. Opal’s body had gone from rigid and reactive to relaxed. She poured into me for a hug. Jesse wrapped himself around both of us. He said, “WOW. What was that?”