Yesterday, my kiddo came home from school having cleaned out his desk. He brought home things he had taken to school all throughout the year, some of which I hadn’t seen in months and had forgotten, and projects I’d mostly never seen. His backpack was crammed full, and almost too heavy for him to carry.
This morning, he cleaned it out before I drove him to school, probably only so that it wouldn’t be so burdensome to him. He pulled out (among other things) large ball of newspaper, held together by duct tape.
“I don’t remember what this is,” he said, setting it on my dining room table.
“Can I open it?” I asked, curious to see what I felt certain was a clay sculpture, which I always enjoy seeing him bring home.
I cut the tape and unwrapped the sculpture. It was shaped like a large mug meant for serving soup, but without a handle. On one side was sculpted a face. It was flat on the bottom, so as to stay upright, and where the top of the head would have been, it was hollow. The outside was painted red. The eyes looked angry and intense, red eyelids overlapping the round white eyeballs. The nose was small and pointy; the mouth open, revealing what looked to me like giant yellow teeth.
“Cool!” I exclaimed. “What is it?”
“We had to make an emotion.”
“Oh. So you chose Anger.”
“No,” my son corrected me. “That’s stress.”
“Yeah. It is stress eating. That’s cake in its mouth.”
“I see,” I repeated slowly. “That’s cake…”
I was crushed to learn that not only is my child feeling very stressed, he believes that eating is a normal and appropriate response to stress. It’s certainly what I do (though in times of a more acute crisis, I will lose my appetite), and it has plagued me in my life as far back as I can remember. I didn’t want my son to have the same experience. I didn’t want to pass this on to him.