At dinner the other night, the kids and I were talking about what traits of theirs The Husband and I recognized as our own. In other words, what have we passed down, for better or worse, to our kids?
It turned into a funny conversation about my reactions to noticing certain behaviors in my kids. The Middle One recalled a time when he was so mad at a friend he told his sister about his wishes to do bodily harm to the boy.
My response was that I was glad I didn’t know about said incident because I would have inevitably started google researching how to identify sociopathic tendencies in a seven-year old. Yep, despite knowing how gentle and kind my kid is, that one utterance would have sent me over the edge with worry that his simple, angry turn of phrase meant deeper, darker mental health issues on the horizon.
Irrational? Yes, but worry always is for me.
My youngest, who has spent the better part of the year trying to unearth the mystery of his behavior issues at school, said to me in that moment, “So, mom, I get my crazy from you.”
Let me be clear, my little man is not crazy. We just throw that word around more than we probably should in a politically correct house anytime we’re talking about our quirks. What we do know about the youngest is that he has a tendency to extrapolate pretty far and deep in the name of fear. He has extreme reactions to any and all incidents that cause him concern and many incidents cause him concern. Sound familiar? (Hint, see above google research reference.)
It seems my boy (and I) has some difficulty regulating the size and scope of his worry and that worry and the deeper fears that cause it, can sometimes cause him great strife.
For a long time I, of course, worried about the worst with him. Would he become so difficult at school, he’d require home instruction. Would home instruction then mean never wanting to leave home. In short, I went to the deep, dark place of his future as and agoraphobic paranoid because of my own fears.
Then he pointed out he gets his crazy from me and I sure couldn’t argue.
Strangely, this realization gives me hope. No, I don’t recognize the intense anger that seems to be a symptom of his fear, but I do recognize the fear, frustration and shame that comes with that fear. And of course, I see how the frustration and shame just make the whole vicious cycle worse. I am intimately familiar with the building blocks of anxiety and shame that can often threaten to stack into an insurmountable mountain. Thankfully, so far, there has been no mountain I can’t climb with a lot of work, both mental and physical. Yes, there are nights the swirling thoughts keep me up all hours, and of course my browser history will point to an ongoing tendency to prepare for the worst, but so far I’ve always been able to beat it all back before it gets too much so that I can go forward the next day and live a pretty great life.
I have managed the thoughts that love to spin far into the dark and twisty and trained them to remain just thoughts, not suffocating realities. As my baby fights the same tendencies of worry and shame, here’s hoping I passed on the strong parts of myself too, not just my crazy. Because with my strength (or maybe just his own) he can manage the thoughts and the worry and live a pretty great life with me.
This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie. It is about a boy who’s never been outside, because of his mother’s agoraphobia, but ventures out in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.