Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family Anxiety: Childhood fears linked to parental stress?

My 11-year-old son is an avid Halloween enthusiast and has been since nearly birth.
Our family will never forget the year his near-obsession revealed itself, during the Halloween season of his 4th year.
Starting in about September, he jumped out of bed at 5:30 each morning, touting new ideas for the family and friends "Costume Contest".
A seating chart for the participants, complete with place settings and name tags was designated, along with the menu and guest list.
Long after Christmas 2006 had become just another journal entry, my little Halloween-o-phile continued to speculate on whether Batman, Dracula or the kid dressed up as a character from the Cars movie, would win the "Costume Contest's" next installment.
These days Halloween is still a magical holiday for good ol' No. 14.
But now, most of his creative energy is funneled into trying to build the scariest, house-front display in the neighborhood.
Obviously, he didn't inherit the fear factor gene that for many kids, comes with the season.
My 10-year-old daughter? That's a horse, err girl,  of a different color.
Purple to be specific. By day, she cheerfully dressed herself in a violet Afro, skinny pants, t-shirt and "sun" glasses to represent the color purple.
But night time was a different story.
During the nights leading up to Halloween, and on the great night itself, my typically sassy sistah, held me tightly under the covers of her cozy double bed, tearfully insisting that a warm, parental body be unconditionally provided.
Not just until she fell asleep.
But all night long.
Every time I got up up for a stealthy return to my own bed, she woke to unleash yet another breathy torrent of pleas: "stay with me!"
A day or two of extra special nuzzle time I understand.
But this had become a nightly arrangement of moaning, tears and hyper-ventilations of seeming unknown origin.
It wasn't until she said: "I feel anxious all the time!" that I started putting the pieces together
To quote the inspiring personal trainer Dolvett, of ""Biggest Loser" fame: "Kids pick up on the negative or positive energy that their parents send out."

No, Halloween doesn't make me jittery.
But wasn't I just telling a friend: "I'm always anxious!"
The mystery was solved: my little Lulu was picking up on the household anxiety I was unwittingly beaming out.
Now that's scary.
I guess its true what they say about having to "take care of yourself before you can take care of anybody else."
Reassuring my daughter that "everything was going to be OK" was the easy part.
Doing the same for myself is another matter.
To recycle one of my favorite, anonymous quotes: "I never said it was going to be easy. I said it would be worth it!"
One of my fellow bloggers, Jennifer Meyers recently asked: What are you afraid of?
Indeed. What am I afraid of? And once I figure it out: then what?
The jig is up.
Time to face the face in the mirror.
Ready. Set. Go.


  1. Great entry, Maryanne, and thanks for the plug to my blog entry. So what are we afraid of? What are we stressing about and why? I'm sure everyone's story is a different one. Some worry about financial security (or lack of it). Some worry about their health. Undoubtedly most parents (if they're honest) worry about their kids, how drastically society is changing, and about all the unknowns in today's world. I doubt the worries and fears will ever go away completely, but how we deal with them is still our choice. It's tough, that's for sure. A lot of our fears may depend on how we perceive them ... is the glass half full? Half empty? Or ... in one person's view that I know ... 'half empty AND there's a hole in it'. At least we can all be here for each other, if nothing else, we can listen to each other when we feel the need to talk it out. Hang in there. You're doing great and so are your kids!

  2. Thank you Jennifer! Baby steps. First thing this morning, I jumped in and attacked the big, scary pile of dishs in my sink. It might sound trivial but several hours later, still buzzing with that comforting sense of accomplishment that comes with facing my fears of overwhelm. Now if I just need to do thees kinds of things all day long and every day.