You know how parents joke about the traits their children inherited through no choice of any involved?
Like, the size of our oldest son’s head. It’s large. That’s my genetic fault, passed down through my family. We’re a group of large-meloned folks. We’re also loud, as are both of my sons. I don’t imagine either boy will end up growing very tall, though I have cousins who surpassed their fathers (my uncles), so anything is possible.
It’s also felt interesting watching these two boys show completely opposite traits, physically and in personality. Our oldest son is my mini-me while the youngest is my husband’s clone. One seems very Type A personality while the other seems (much) more low key.
All of this is fine.
It’s the lesser loved parts of myself that give me pause when they present in my children. I’m not talking about my short stature or my volume; I kind of like both of those and can even tolerate lots of volume from the boys. Some days.
But when I see anxiety poking at the insides of my kids, I feel all the feelings.
I’m in a good(ish) place with my anxiety right now. Of course, it took a long journey, several missteps, a couple of wrong turns, many crappy therapists, one good therapist, many failed medications, a few proper medications, and a number of self-care tips which I actually employ on a regular basis to get to this point. I’ll turn 35 this spring. I want my children to feel okay in their own heads before they turn 35. It’s kinda my wish for them.
We haven’t had school much this week. In fact, the boys haven’t gone to school since Monday. Mondays are hard in their own right, and sometimes things are forgotten. Like BigBrother’s reading log. I don’t love the reading log concept, but it’s a requirement and we do it. My kids read all the time, whether that’s a genetic trait, a learned habit from years of library trips and all day reading, or a result of not having access to technology on weekdays. I don’t care why they do it, I’m just glad that they do read.
“Mom, the teachers say that there’s “no excuse for not having a reading log.” What am I going to do?”
I explained that it was a weird week, that everything would be just fine. As Thursday progressed, he got more and more anxious. Despite being upset that school was canceled again that morning, he began saying that he wanted school to be canceled again on Friday.
“Are you just nervous about your reading log?”
I reassured him throughout the day that everything really was fine. At bedtime, he mentioned the reading log again. I told him, again, that everything was okay. I told him he could read until nine o’clock, because yes, they get even more reading time at bedtime because that’s just what we do. He came out of his room about ten minutes later.
“I’m just going to look in my backpack one more time for my reading log.”
I sighed. I know what it’s like to try and calm your brain, to stop the thoughts from swirling, when you’re trying to relax and read a book before bed. I know what it’s like to stare at the ceiling while waiting for sleep, your mind racing with no signs of slowing down. I know what it’s like to get yourself worked up over something someone else says is “okay” because it doesn’t feel okay to you. I know how scary it can feel to get lost in the anxious forest of your brain, unsure of which way to turn or how to get back to your safe, warm home.
I hate that any of my children know this feeling, too.
When he didn’t find it in his backpack, I reassured him—again—reminding him of the plan to make our own reading log for the week. He went off to bed. At 9:00 he opened his door to say goodnight.
“Is school canceled yet?”
“Nope, just a two hour delay.”
Instead of sleeping in this morning, he got up around 7:30, his normal waking time. Sleeping in is a new thing and apparently doesn’t work well when you’re anxious about something.
“Is school canceled?”
He flung himself back across his bed. It wasn’t until I told him that I had already emailed his reading teacher and homeroom teacher about the reading log hullabaloo that he started to calm down. He’ll still probably feel anxious going to reading today without a “real” reading log. I know him. He’s a rule follower to a fault. If it’s not official, it must be wrong.
I wish I could just wave my Magic Mom Wand over his head and remove that anxious part, the one that causes him to doubt himself even when he’s right. I wish I could replace it with cautious optimism and a stronger belief in himself.
I’m glad he has me, that I know the things to say and do to help him work with an anxious brain. But of all my traits, this is one I really, really wish I wouldn’t have passed on to any of my children.