Some days are just harder than others. Pea attended a birthday party this evening. It didn’t go well. It should have been fine – but it wasn’t. That’s the way of anxiety. Everything is okay until it isn’t.
Parenting through anxiety is hard, folks. It requires patience that is almost beyond you. Here’s the thing…anxiety doesn’t reason. It doesn’t care what you have to say. Tonight, the party coordinator at the gymnastics facility started the party with the rules. It was super simple stuff – don’t run, one at a time on the trampolines, stay with the group, follow my instructions. I’m chatting with my friends while I’ve got one ear to the ground. Those were a lot of rules and Pea is very serious about following rules. Too serious. I watched him run over to the trampolines and immediately sit in front of one to wait his turn, as directed. I’m still talking to my friends, but I’m watching him with one eye for signs of distress. He’s chosen the farthest trampoline from me and my view of him is blocked intermittently . I don’t have to work at this any more, my brain being in two places at the same time. I’m happy to be with my girlfriends and also watching for IT. The moment when it’s not okay anymore. With these kids, that moment can happen in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t take long before he’s speed walking toward me across the gym floor – the terror making his eyes wide. He bolts into my arms and ducks his head into my shoulder, mumbling furiously into my ear, “She said we have to stay with her. That means I can’t come get you if I need you. What if I need you? “. I hold him firmly and tell him that she was simply telling the kids not to run off and play with the other equipment. She wants all the kids to play the same game. This does NOT mean that he can’t come get me. I say it with conviction. He stares back at me and repeats, “She said we had to stay with her. That means I can’t come get you. SHE SAID.” Anxiety doesn’t reason.
I managed to get him back to the group. At this point, he’s missed the instructions for the new game. So he’s panicking. I grab one of the extra instructors and she explains what he missed. He wants to play. He tries valiantly to recover. I leave him to it and head back to my friends. He’s eight now, so I make every effort to let him do it for himself. I know that I’ll be back, but I leave him to it for now. I’m the helicopter mom who always tries to land. The big meltdown comes very quickly. Remember those rules from the beginning of the party? Well, Pea was having fun and he started to run to the next event. As most of the kids did. Pea caught himself running. And panicked. He ran to me again and this time was worse. “I’m not supposed to run. She said no running. I shouldn’t go back because I didn’t follow the rules. I can’t play.” Have you ever tried to explain away a fear like this? A fear that you are bad, less than, in need of punishment – because you started to jog? Anxiety doesn’t reason.
We worked through the whole party. He stayed. I had to stand with him for a good portion of it – a lone parent in a sea of children while the other grownups sat in the bleachers. But you know what? While I stood there in line with them, I got to hear Pea’s best friends tell me all kinds of good stuff. J spent the weekend at her uncle’s house and had the BEST time and spent the whole day at Hawaiian Falls! And she spent a WHOLE DAY at his house. B, a precious little boy who is dealing with his own Big Stuff and heading into first grade, talked my ear off about how tall he’s getting and he gave me a hug SO BIG that it took me off my feet. So hanging out with that crew was pretty freaking great. Pea did end up crying under the table during pizza and cake – this time because he accidentally took a bite out of his friend’s pizza slice – but we all lived. And my friends gave me hugs and told me that I was doing a good job. (Good friends ARE. EVERYTHING.) And we made it through the WHOLE PARTY and didn’t have to leave. I’m chalking it up to a win.
If you know someone with anxiety or depression, please know that they can’t reason with it. They KNOW that it doesn’t make sense. They hear you talking and they know what you are saying is true. They are good, there is nothing wrong, they don’t have to be scared or sad. But anxiety DOESN’T REASON. There are no mere words that will turn it off. This is the hardest part of our jobs as parents/friends/siblings. We can talk until we are blue in the face, but anxiety doesn’t give a shit. We have to just love them through it.
We can talk about my cursing and how I’m
not going to stop doing it at a later date. 😉