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When I Told My 9-Year-Old I Didn't Want to Embarrass Him With My Public Panic Attacks

This past week my 9-year-old son went on a field trip with his class to the state capital. It was another field trip that I didn’t… couldn’t… go on. I was afraid of the crowds and closed-in rooms and the uncertainty of not knowing how to get out or where to go if I had a panic attack.

When I picked him up from school he was full of details and excitement. He eagerly told me all the things I would have liked and would not have liked. He told me about all the things he learned. He then asked me why I didn’t go. I thought about lying and giving him the excuse I gave to everyone else: “too hard on my back and feet.” But I didn’t want to lie to him. So I told him the truth.

I told him I didn’t go because I was afraid of having a panic attack and then embarrassing him. He looked at with me with surprise. “Why would I be embarrassed? Just because you do this (and he demonstrated my panic attacks)? It doesn’t matter to me and if anyone was mad at you that you did it…” He shook his head. “I don’t care if you have one. I care about you.”

This kid dreams of playing in the NBA someday. His backup plan is to be an engineer. But even if neither of these jobs are part of his future, he is going to have something that will help him have an even greater impact on this world: compassion.

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Thinkstock photo by lensky-zev