red bag that says "survival kit"

The Day I Realized My Son Was Becoming a Self-Advocate


A few weeks ago was the first day of school. And predictably at the end of the day, the kids came home with the stacks paper – some of it actually needed my attention, and much of it went straight into the recycling pile.

Among the items that needed my attention was the reminder to send in an emergency kit for each child. Living in California, emergency prep means earthquake prep. Our school district requires each child have an emergency kit supplied by the family that includes basic essentials for up to 48 hours. There is an option to either purchase a pre-made kit from the school, or supply your own. I purchased the kits for both kids when they were in kindergarten and we just re-use them each year, restocking when perishables hit their expiration date. So as I was going through the folder full of paper my son brought home and saw the notice listing the items that should be included in an emergency kit, I almost didn’t look at it as I moved it the recycling pile. But then a handwritten note on the side of the page caught my attention, and I paused to read what it said. The note had been written by my son: “Include 48 hours of anxiety medication in emergency kit.”

I asked my son if his teacher had told him to write the note, and he said no. It was his idea. He told me, “My medication only works if I take it every single day. If something happens and I get trapped at school, I want to have my medication there.”

I was momentarily stunned.

I asked if getting trapped at school was something he worries about, “No Mom. I do worry about a lot of things, but not about this. But we do live close enough to the San Andreas fault that a major earthquake could happen. If it happens while I am at school, I want to know I have everything I need until you can get to me. The roads could be really messed up. It’s possible I could have to spend a night at school.”

OK. So he wasn’t worrying. He was being practical. And that means as much as he loathes going to the psychiatrist and to the psychologist, he knows the medication is helping him. He still won’t really talk to us about what he is feeling or experiencing, but he told me so, so much when he said, “My medication only works if I take it every single day. If something happens and I get trapped at school, I want to have my medication there.”

With those two sentences, he told me he knows how far down he had spiraled before starting the medication, and he told me he feels better on the medication. With those two sentences, he told me he knows he needs to do the work to help himself. With those two sentences, he told me he is beginning to self-advocate. With those two sentences, he gave me hope.

Clearly I do not want to see a day when there is an emergency so massive he does get stuck at school, but if that day comes he will be prepared, because he was brave enough to acknowledge his truth.

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