I wanted to follow up on a blog I posted not too long ago. It was about my 7-year-old son, Henry, and his early signs of anxiety…most–if not all–of which he got from me <cue the hand over the face emoji>. That was two months ago, and I’ve learned a lot about anxiety in children and adults in the time since then, which I wanted to share in the hopes that it might help others going through similar situations.
First off, therapists are your friend, and they actually study to become experts in their field, and they can help! There is a reason we pay qualified people to do things we aren’t qualified to do. For example, I would never attempt to install a chandelier in my house…bring on the electrician!!!
Second, despite serious strides and increased awareness in the last few years, mental illness is still greatly misunderstood and often dismissed by people who don’t directly identify. Trust me. I’ve been on both ends. I kept mine in check for 40 years…until I saw it in Henry…that’s when I knew it was time to come clean.
See below for an explanation from my previous blog:
A friend of mine recently posted a rambling blog about her anxiety (thank you Lana), and I hung on every word, identifying with every single thing she said. It made me feel so normal to know that someone else had these feelings of apprehension and anxiousness when–to everyone around them–it seemed to be the complete opposite.
And cue the bitch. Here I am finding comfort in someone else’s struggle because it’s similar to mine. So what does that make me? A crazy bitch who wants other people to feel crazy too so I’m not alone in this crazy bitch game??? I mean, I really hope not, but it’s definitely a possibility 😉
And then I had my son’s year-end conference at school. My kid (Henry) is killing kindergarten. I’m so proud. The only concern his teacher expressed was how Henry wants so badly to master every task on his own, without help. And if he doesn’t, he feels like he has failed. I hurt just thinking about what his sweet, 6-year-old heart must be going through. I mean, I’m 40, and I still don’t know how to deal with it.
We’ve seen it in him for awhile. He gets up at 5:45 in the morning because he doesn’t want to be late for school. If we leave the house at 7:32 instead of 7:30, his wheels are completely shot off for the rest of the day.
To be honest, I haven’t known exactly how to deal with it. We do our best not to coddle in our house. There are consequences for actions, and we preach that life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. But I also want my kids to be able to feel safe with their feelings. And deciphering between a pouty kid and a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed can be a fine line.
And this is what I have come away with. Henry is me. The little girl that slept on top of her covers in her school clothes so she wouldn’t have to waste time getting dressed and making her bed in the morning so she could be on time for school. The little girl who never wanted to fail at anything because she didn’t want to disappoint anyone. And now, the grown ass woman who can’t just be still and whose mind rarely stops racing.
As his mom, I just want to do the right by him, even though I don’t exactly know what that looks like. I want him to know that it’s ok to strive for perfection, but I also want him to know that there is no way in hell that’s ever going to happen. And that’s ok. It’s more than ok. That’s just life–for him and all of us.
I want him to be able to talk to me about his fears and his insecurities. I want him to embrace his weaknesses so he can learn from them and be stronger for it. I want him to know that his mom is a giant shit show, still trying to figure this thing out at every turn too. I want him to mean well and do good, knowing that sometimes intentions don’t always mirror execution.
Above all else, I just don’t want him to feel alone. So if I have to remind him every day that he got this crazy from his mama, that’s what I’m gonna do. Because if nothing else, I hope he’ll find some comfort in knowing he comes by it honestly.
Since that post…we have seen a therapist, I have come to terms with the fact that there is no shame in my anxiety game, and Henry is the best, most unqualified psychologist I could ever ask for. When we met with the therapist, she recommended we make “Worry Jars” for Henry, so he could identify and categorize his concerns.
So we did. One for Henry’s worries. One for parent worries. And one for God worries. He was stoked to label his jars and get this party started. But it didn’t take long for him to ask about my jars. “I thought you had anxiety too, Mommy? Don’t you need some jars?” <in my head: there aren’t enough jars in the world 😜> But he had a point. I needed some jars, too. And so he made a couple for me.
Since then, when we have a worry, we write it down and put it in the corresponding jar. When the jars start to get full, we take them out, talk about them and then throw them away. it’s been awesome, and Henry has responded so well to it. But his favorite part is when I tell him about my worries…because he knows he’s helping me. And that makes me think I haven’t completely screwed up this whole parenting thing…at least yet anyway ;).