I’m not saying YOUR child doesn’t have anxiety. I’m saying just because mine likes to control everything doesn’t mean HE does.

I think I may have over-advocated for my son a few weeks back.

You didn’t think there was such a thing did you? It’s kind of like Munchausen by Proxy, only not. I wasn’t making him sick or faking symptoms or anything.

No, instead I was willing to accept a list of possible disorders based on possible symptoms.

“Have you noticed that he needs to be in control a lot?” asked the well-meaning neurologist we haven’t seen in two years.

“Does he want things to be just so?” he wondered.

Well….yes. He does.

“Sometimes when a child has a tic disorder, and also needs to control situations – wants things to be ‘just so’ it’s because he is actually suffering from anxiety. I think you should take him to be evaluated……Just incase.”

And so I said okay. I agreed to an incredibly expensive evaluation, by an old-fashioned psychiatrist.

Who of course charged hourly.

On a planet where 45 minutes is an hour.

And didn’t bill insurance.


“What are some things your son likes?” said the unassuming older gentleman who was to evaluate him. “I would like to be able to make him feel comfortable.”

“Well, he likes drawing pictures.” I thought, I mean, I couldn’t say he likes yelling and running around the house and pretending to shoot things and singing as loud as possible and negotiating. “Oh, and he likes ships. Especially ships in stormy seas.”


The day came for The Great Evaluation. We were late. As usual. Through no fault of Isaiah’s. He was waiting for me in the car as I ran around like a crazy person trying to find everything I might need. You know keys, shoes, phone. He really is so patient with me.

Lucky for me, the doctor was late. I was so relieved, I thought for sure being late would be some strike on some invisible list of possible disorders I was passing on to my child.

Instead he got the check mark, I filed that away for future purposes.

We introduced ourselves, and then Dr Mr Nice Guy asked Isaiah if he’d like to join him in a back room; assuring him I would be not more than 20 feet away. Isaiah was off.

Thirty-five minutes later, the nice doctor asked me to join him. Isaiah was busily drawing away, seemingly having the time of his life.

Dr. Mr Nice Guy wanted to talk to me. “Does Isaiah like to be in control a lot?”

“Well, yes, he has a lot of plans. And since he’s the only one who knows them, he has to orchestrate the whole thing.”

“Hmmmmm. And these pictures he draws. Does everyone always die?”

“Oh, was he drawing ships in the stormy seas again?”

“Yes, now does he always draw that?”

“These days. Sometimes he draws dynamite, or castles under stormy skies with lightening.”

“Hmmmm.” He looks serious. “Isaiah, when you draw your ships, does everyone always die?”

“Of course! They crash in the stormy seas, you can’t survive a shipwreck like that.”

“Do you always draw shipwrecks?”

“Pretty much.”

“Well let’s say you drew a picture of an airplane, what would happen?”

“There would be a storm and it would get hit by lightning and crash.”

“And would everyone die?”

“Well, it’s a plane crash, of course everyone would die.”

At this point I am actually laughing, trying to cover it up, because I am pretty sure there is a judgement scale for that. So Dr. Mr Nice Guy turns to me and says, “Do you think he’s playing me?”

I decided I have seen enough Woody Allen movies to put us on equal footing and I say, “Yes, yes I do. I think you have no idea what you’re up against.”

“Well,” says Dr Mr Nice Guy, “I am concerned that everyone in his pictures dies, I believe there is some underlying anxiety there, also, he clearly needs to be in control of situations which can also be a sign of anxiety, I would like you to bring in more pictures from home.”

“Okay, but you know, everyone doesn’t always die. Sometimes things just get blown up by dynamite, or lightning hits a castle, wait, maybe those aren’t good examples.”

“Why don’t you bring me his favorite books too.”


On the way home, Isaiah was telling me how much fun he had.

“Did you tell him you only draw shipwrecks?”

“No, I told him I draw lighthouses too.  In the stormy seas, where there’s a shipwreck and the lighthouse keeper can’t get there in time.”

“You know you don’t always draw shipwrecks, right?”

“I know. But he seemed to really like hearing about it.”


The events of that morning stuck with me.

The conversation with Dr Mr Nice Guy.

The conversation with Isaiah.

It didn’t feel right.

In fact, the whole thing felt like The Dictionary Definition of: Too Smart For His Own Good. Where HIS get’s accidentally locked in an Asylum, because he doesn’t realize that the rest of the world doesn’t get the joke.


That night as Isaiah was in the bathtub he asked me to come be The Lighthouse. Apparently there were some prisoners attempting an escape from Alcatraz in the middle of the night. So I grabbed our LED flashlight and became The Lighthouse.

“Mom, can you please be The Lighthouse lower? Lighthouses are not that high.” I complied and sat on a stool and watched the story unfold as the escaped prisoners were found out, and the warden came running out of the prison. I was now instructed to become The Searchlight. “No mom, you have to wave the light back and forth all over, not in a pattern, you are searching mom. You are trying to find the prisoners.” I obliged. “Great mom! Now, start flashing the light like it’s lightning,” as he begins to narrate how the prisoners were escaping in their boat, but suddenly a storm blew in. “No mom, not like that. Turn the light on, now just touch the button very gently so it doesn’t go all the way off and that will make it easier to flash it really fast.” He’s right, under his direction I create an effect that is very similar to lightning.

I hear his story in the background, it is very elaborate. Escaped prisoners, ships captains, a warden, guards, and of course a ship, a storm and a lighthouse. But the story itself is so much more. I hear it and I muse to myself; if this kid ever decides to become a filmmaker he’s going to give Scorcese or Cameron a run for their money.

I had an epiphany. A thought that was knocking at my brain just waiting to be released. Isaiah isn’t an anxiety driven control freak. Isaiah is a Creative Visionary. 

He doesn’t need to control because he’s nervous. He controls because he sees it the exact way it should be. Life is a story, a movie to him. I have a moment of pride; he is my prodigy. He imagines like I do. However I am the introverted Woody Allen, to his extroverted Tarantino. His vision is clear and strong. My vision is internal and quiet.

The boy who willingly walked away with Dr Mr Nice Guy was not anxious, the boy who organizes a bunch of kids he has only just met at the park into His Crew is not worried, the boy who can’t wait for me to leave when his baby sitter comes so they can Build Concoctions does not fret.

The boy who controls Directs others to perform in his elaborate stories is not controlling out of anxiety, he is Directing the participants in his live presentation. There is a story, and he will tell it, and he will use the actors at hand and be the lighting/set designer, and he will create the best story he can.

His life is one long piece of performance art.

I cancelled our next appointment with Dr Mr Nice Guy the next day.


This one's my favorite. If the storm doesn't get you, the sea monster will!

This one’s my favorite. If the storm doesn’t get you, the sea monster will!

The time-lapse version of the ship going down.

The time-lapse version of the ship going down.

Oh, dang. My stern broke off.

Oh, dang. My stern broke off.



28 thoughts on “I’m not saying YOUR child doesn’t have anxiety. I’m saying just because mine likes to control everything doesn’t mean HE does.

  1. YES!!!! He is a Tarantino, a Speilberg, a Lucas…he is going to change the world. Sometimes I worry about the kids that are perfectly “normal” but immature, like my oldest. They live in a fantasy world half the time. Why do anyone of us have to be typical. When did we stop using our imagination and just checking boxes? good for you for understanding your boys genius. And being patient enough to realize that his dynamite today is just practice for his big screen debut

    • Thank you Kerri! It’s such a fine balance to walk. Why does everyone want their children to be “average”? I don’t want that. The shy need to come out of their shell, the excited extroverted kids need to calm down. Eh. Forget it. Our kids should be what who they are, not what “fits”, right?!

  2. This is so funny, and I admire your coolness. Your son reminds me of my nephew: there is a clear plan in his brain, and he organizes everyone around him in it. I love that. A truly creative, imaginative brain. Good for you for making that judgement call.

    • Thanks Sarah! You gotta love those creative types. Can’t get in front of their vision or they might knock you down!

    • Thanks Deb, that means a lot. And you are so right. That is exactly my point. So many parents want a diagnosis where there really isn’t anything but behaviour that diverges from average.

  3. Doesn’t pretty much every human being like to be in control? In fact, isn’t it considered psychologically unhelpful if we feel completely out of control? or that we have no control at all? I love your interpretation of events at the end. What a creative kid!

    • That’s right Sarah!! Isn’t that what it boils down to? I realized all the sudden that I had been railroaded into thinking it was odd. No way!

  4. I especially love how he recognized that the doctor was really interested in the death and destruction stories. Of course he’s going to pick up on that and elaborate once he sees he’s captured the adult’s interest! I took my son Ky to the Kennedy Krieger institute before he was diagnosed with SPD and he was interviewed by a doctor whose specialty was OCD. She asked Ky if he ever did stuff like “counting the ceiling tiles” and so naturally he looked up at the exam room ceiling tiles (so did I, you kind of had to once it had been mentioned) and she smugly informed us that he had OCD, counting tiles was “classic” OCD behavior, etc etc. Ky’s take away from the appointment was that the doctor was obsessed with ceiling tiles for some reason and though he himself didn’t care about the ceiling, he thought it was cool that her job was to make kids count them for her. Sigh.

    • I know Emma! I don’t know why Dr’s want to label kids so badly. But I’m glad we both got the real picture!

  5. Jen, I smiled reading the end and could totally have told you from all I have read and gotten to know with Isaiah that he is truly gifted, amazing little boy. Seriously, you didn’t need to pay me for 45 minute sessions’ fees to find this out. And honestly, just wish I could reach out and hug Isaiah now more then ever! 🙂

  6. I think you are one astute mother who knows her child very well. Doctors may be excellent and well meaning, but you know best. Well, probably Isaiah knows best!

  7. Beautiful! I so often see Ben in Isaiah and read this not only as Isaiah’s mom’s friend but also as Ben’s mom and it strikes a double chord with me. Such a beautiful musing about creativity. Wonderful!

    • I think it is a gift to be able to see inside our children so clearly, Katia. I know you have that too. xo

  8. What a great post! It reminded me of a boy I went to school with, who was always writing stories about what would now be considered too “violent”. Fact was, he was just a creative kid with a great imagination. What a lucky boy Isaiah is to have a mom who gets that!

  9. Oh good grief. That guy sounds like perhaps he was looking for something! At night, we’ve been play acting a story about V’s green alien and how he crashes at Six Flags and goes on all of these adventures. And do you think that boy lets me make up some of the story.?Ha! It was MY idea and now he directs it all. He’s got a vision and he’s sticking to it.

  10. Love this. Love, love, love.
    He sounds the way I was as a kid – full of stories & creative vision. You’re an insightful mama.

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