Tag Archives: anxiety

And We All Fall Down

 

I checked in with K-Pants recently, about the love thing. You might remember that last year he was feeling like there wasn’t enough love for him.

We’ve had a lot of discussions about what kinds of things feel like love, and how I can make sure to show him love in a way that soaks in. I like to be intentional and specific with K-Pants, because what seems like a few hungry hours without food to me, is scurvy to him.

With K-Pants I think, Maybe if I fill an underground well full of love, then when storms rip branches from the trees above, we’ll still have that cool, protected reservoir for our relationship to drink from.

So…

I volunteer in his classroom. I walk him to school. Sometimes I meet him for lunch. I take him on adventures—to ride horses and climb K-Pants-sized mountains—because that’s where I shine, and that’s where he shines.

And a few weeks ago I checked in with him. I said, “K-Pants. Remember the love problem? Where you weren’t feeling enough love. How is that now?” “Good,” he said. “What about me getting mad?” I asked. “You don’t get mad anymore,” he said.

That’s not true.

I get mad on a regular basis. Some days I yell. But thinking about it, I yell less frequently and less like a wild banshee.

But then right after this, I ruined it. I’m not sure exactly what made me crack. I think it was weeks of afternoon exhaustion. Parenting K-Pants after school is a tension-filled dance.

  • Me: How was school? Did you do any Pokémon trades on the bus?
  • K-Pants: (aggravated) Why are you asking me that?
  • Boy Woww: Did you get a new Aloha Pokémon?
  • K-Pants: I’m not telling you, and you can’t see it.
  • Me: I think you’re hungry. There are a bunch of snacks in the bag back there.
  • K-Pants: I’m not hungry. And I don’t like these snacks.
  • Boy Woww: I made an artwork at school.
  • K-Pants: That’s so weird. It’s so totally weird.
  • Me: Let’s ignore K-Pants. He’s grumpy.
  • Boy Woww: [crying]

Even if you’re patient, watching one member of the family try to destroy the rest by sucking out the joy and the kindness leaves you ragged and overwhelmed. And you start to think maybe this kid is malicious.

I know he doesn’t want to be, but his habits are powerful, and his habits are destroying us. Really our habits—our collective interactions—are destroying us.

Later that night I screamed at him. And he said, “I HATE YOU!” And I said, “I DON’T CARE IF YOU HATE ME. I CARE IF YOU ARE RESPECTFUL AND KIND.” And he went downstairs. And then he yelled up, “I’M HUNGRY!” And I yelled, “THEN MAKE SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF!” And then I made him help me unpack the groceries (because after school I had taken Boy Woww to speech therapy, then K-Pants to baseball, then did the grocery shopping during practice, then arrived back to cheer him on during the scrimmage, then had K-Pants ask me for a fancy baseball backpack like the other kids have [answer: no]).

Then we went home, where I yelled at him like a crazy banshee. It had been building up for weeks, cracking the seams of the pressure cooker.

Then Boy Woww, the middle child, came upstairs and said, “Mom, what can I do to help?” It made me feel even worse, because he’s living into his role as the quiet peacemaker. And K-Pants is living into his role as the difficult one. And together we’re in this entangled Groundhog’s Day mess.

All this to say that this is how, on a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon, when blue sky seemed to be momentarily winning the battle with the rain clouds, I found myself sitting in the car outside our parent coach’s house as K-Pants met with her. He loves her. We’ve just started this process.

Soon she’s going to be coming to our house to observe. Before that my husband and I will talk with her via Skype a few times, and do the homework she assigns, and try out new strategies (or try to be consistent with strategies we’ve tried in the past).

I really like the fact that we’re working on this problem as a whole family, because it’s not just a K-Pants problem. Our whole family seizes and constricts in predictable and not always productive ways when K-Pants melts down.

We’re all exhausted from it, and we’re looking for a change. Wish us luck.

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Panic Attacks and the Opposite of Despair

She flew straight into that tree. MomsicleBlog

I had a panic attack a few weeks ago.

That kind of feels like the end of the post.

I had a panic attack, and I thought I should let you know.

I want you to hear loud and clear that things are not perfect and that’s okay.

Some writers make you think you can survive parenting through crafts and cute photos, some through sarcasm and wine, and I probably make you feel like home-cooked meals, humor, and cool local businesses will keep you afloat.

Not true.

Parenting, illness, anxiety, infertility—whatever you are fighting head-on with a sword in your hand, don’t feel alone. Some people have shinier web veneers, but the struggles are still the same.

No one thing—or cadre of adorable things—is keeping us afloat.

It’s a wild and constantly moving fishing net of support that enwraps us and tries to pull us out of the sea.

For me that net is woven of God, family, neighbors, close friends, professional counseling, babysitters, date nights, exercise, writing, being outside, and watching sports and trashy TV.

And sometimes, in spite of all of those things, I feel captured and have a panic attack.

I was driving my kids and my grandma—she was living with us very briefly—and I was in charge of too many things. I’d dropped off the kids, gone to the DEQ, the DMV, picked up the kids, gotten dinner…. So on the freeway, in traffic, with my little band of pirates, I had to roll down the windows, start breathing deeply, pull off at the next exit, and head home on the streets, tuning out everything in the car and focusing on just one thing: getting home.

You might not get panic attacks. I wasn’t a panic attack person. But even if you’ve never had one, you probably feel sometimes like you’re in a fog, like there are too many responsibilities, like you’ve bitten off too much, like the rules changed and no one told you.

Sometimes we feel like we need to be unfailingly positive, and constantly in search of perfection, or at least success. We should be always moving toward the light, getting better at what we do.

That sets up a lot of anxiety. And along the way we experience a lot of failure, and change course, or change our expectations.

I heard the most wonderful quote the other day. It was from Katherine Ann Power, an American ex-convict and fugitive who lived under an assumed identity in the Willamette Valley until 1993 when she turned herself in (A fascinating story you may know, but if you don’t, listen to this interview on NPR—but do me a favor and don’t read the comments. I don’t believe in hell, but then I read Internet comments).

Katherine said of her time in prison, “The opposite of despair is not hope. The opposite of despair is getting out of bed every day.”

I find this liberating. I don’t know if I am a good parent. I can’t promise that I won’t lay on my horn in the car, swear too close to the preschool, or yell at my kids. I don’t know if I’m going to live up to my expectations today.

But I can get out of bed. And I’m on my way.

***

This post is dedicated to some dear friends who are going through devastating infertility struggles, the death of a beloved parent, acute job issues, and other overwhelming valleys in their lives.

A rose from my garden. MomsicleBlog