Fight the Monster

This past Sunday I was talking to a friend at church. It started out as a normal conversation about the funny things our kids do/say and how we know we’re so blessed but we’re also so tired.

I have this thing I do, without realizing at the time that I’m doing it – all my “blessed but tired” stories have to do with Wonder Boy. I’m always talking about how wild and crazy he is, like he’s some sort of whirlwind and I’m just hanging on for the ride. These comments could be taken negatively though, as sometimes it seems like I’m complaining about him.

He’s called me out on it before – I told the story in the HTBAGM book of him saying I didn’t want him because I was always trying to give him away (always asking “You want him?” when someone would comment on his cuteness). That story was a basis for Rule #1: Don’t Beat Yourself Up.

On Sunday, my friend was telling me about how her young daughter, now 5, is exhibiting signs of PTSD from a necessary surgery she had under the age of 2. It’s amazing what small children can remember. I sensed that my friend was definitely breaking Rule #1, beating herself up for what her daughter is feeling now. So, I tried to steer the conversation back to funny stories and we reminisced about a time she inadvertently exposed Wonder Boy to the trials and triumphs of breastfeeding:

It was a probably about 4 years ago, and the Girl worked childcare once a week for a women’s evening Bible study. My friend was one of the study leaders. One night, I had a scheduling conflict and couldn’t go to the meeting, but I sent Wonder Boy (who was about 7 at the time) with his sister (I mean, she was already babysitting). Somehow, though, Wonder Boy didn’t go into the room with the Girl and the other kids. He sat down next to my friend as she began talking to the group. The casual conversation turned to breastfeeding and, given that it was a room full of women only, became pretty detailed. That is, until my friend looked down and realized Wonder Boy was sitting next to her. I’ve heard tell of the shocked look on her face as she tried to reign in the conversation. I’m not sure he really absorbed much of what was said though, because when she spoke to him, she said he was looking at her study book and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t do the homework.” When she caught her breath from laughing, she ran him out of the room.

As we retold that story together on Sunday, my friend said, “I was disappointed that didn’t end up in the book.” To which I replied, “Oh, [Wonder Boy] could fill a whole book on his own!” I’m not sure whether she realized it, but the look she gave me told me I was doing it again. #epicmomfail

What we say to and about our children matters so much. There’s already so much negativity in the world; they don’t need to hear (or sense) it in our words, even cloaked in humor. This is really hard for me because I’m very sarcastic and, though my filter has gotten better as I’ve aged, it’s still nearly nonexistent.

Wonder Boy, now 11, got home from school yesterday and crumpled to the floor at my feet. He said he understood what anxiety was. He’d been on the bus, just thinking, when everything around him when dark and he felt completely alone, like he was a mistake in this world.

What the what?!

What could make my fun-loving, kind-hearted, light of a child feel like a mistake?! Well, life. And sixth grade. And homework. And stress. And anxiety. And probably hormones. And maybe even mom’s sarcasm? Ugh. #epicERmomfail

So, we talked a lot about how he most certainly was NOT a mistake. About how dad and I specifically planned for him. About how important he is to us. We spent a couple of hours working on homework together and talking about staying organized and stress management. He went to wrestling practice and then we talked about how staying active can help keep anxiety at bay. About how it doesn’t go away completely but there are things we can do to manage it.

You see, I’ve spent my whole life living with anxiety, though I was in my 20s before I was actually diagnosed and really understood what my triggers are and what steps I can take to try to manage it. Just this morning, I started spiraling a bit: I was Googling whether I gave my kids “bad genes,” whether anxiety is hereditary. Then, I stopped. Took a deep breath. And started writing.

Tonight, I think Wonder Boy and I will work on homework more and talk about what really chases those monster thoughts and feelings away. I’ll share with him the scripture I pray daily (Philippians 4:6-7) and remind him that he is fearfully, wonderfully, intentionally made.

What do your children need to hear (or sense) from you? If you’re an anxiety sufferer, what tips or strategies do you have? How can we help our kids fight the monster?

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