My kids have taught me a lot about myself that I didn’t previously know or acknowledge. I never before realized, for example, how much anxiety I was experiencing. The reason I never understood my anxiety was simple. Before children, anxiety was my best friend. It helped me navigate strenuous and challenging work situations. Gave me a leg up on deadlines. Propelled me into success in my career. It made me reliable, efficient, and well-reputed.
My relationship with anxiety changed dramatically when my son was born. This thing that previously went unnoticed began to take over my life. Worry consumed me. I went days without sleep. My brain forgot how to turn off, and my wheels were spinning out of control. Thankfully with the help of my family and medical professionals, I was able to get my anxiety under control.
As my son has grown, I’ve watched him develop significant anxiety of his own. As it did for me, I’ve noticed that anxiety seems to serve him well in school and social settings. It supports his competitive nature and his overall brilliance. But from my mom’s eye view, the drawbacks are crystal clear.
He struggles with just about ANY change in routine, and he has particular expectations for most aspects of his days and experiences. This translates to significant upset and distress when life inevitably happens.
I’ve watched him lose his mind when things don’t play out according to plan. I’ve been the target of his fury in unclear circumstances. I’ve seen my own feelings of confusion, concern, and irritation mirrored and amplified in this much smaller, much cuter person.
In these moments, I find myself exploring a familiar emotional landscape. I walk him through anxious feelings with empathy, curiosity, and compassion. It occurred to me recently that I rarely receive my own feelings with the same grace or patience. Very often, I see myself in my child but rarely do I look to see my child in me.
I hope to change this approach and learn to love myself as I love my child. Unconditionally.