Monday, May 9, 2011

Tough Enough

I've heard lots of people make the joke about birth being the easy part of parenting. You know, like this. I sort of assumed, though, that this hellish childrearing experience would come with adolescence. I imagined screaming fits, tattoos, poor clothing choices and Libya-level engagements around curfews and cellphones. Maybe that stuff is coming, but I've already seen the worst I can imagine.

My daughter has always been chipper, easy going, free-thinking and adventurous. Not much throws her and she's got a natural badassity that does my heart good She's my idol in a lot of ways. But in the last three weeks she's become a different kid. A kid I recognize because I was that kid. The timid, "Mama don't leave me," cling, terrified kid. The one with the red eyes and the constant tremor. My darling girl has somehow inherited the anxiety I tried so hard to hide from her. Not just inherited it, but been attacked by it. It's crept out from under her emotional bed and has her cowering under the covers- and she's missing out on big chunks of her life as a result. Brownies? Nope. Sunday School? No way. Play date? Uh-uh.

I've done everything I know to do. Therapy, mindfulness, sitting with the feeling until it passes (it never does so this is fairly fruitless), keeping her so busy she can't think, more rest, less rest, changing diet, changing bedtime stories...nothing's getting us closer to the goal of a return to my brave, happy girl. A few good friends have pointed out to me that all of my efforts may be convincing her of just the opposite- that it may be reinforcing her belief that there's something to be scared of because otherwise why would mama be giving this so much attention?

Damned if I do, damned if I don't right?

So now I've taken to what my friend Katie calls Bored Indifference. When the worry starts to well up, when the panic sets in, I'm trying to respond with "Oh, that? Yeah, we're used to that. We've seen that before. No big thing girlfriend. Just keep moving and it'll pass."

But that means that I have to not show how much it kills me to see her quiver. How I have to feign nonchalance when the tears well and her hand tightens in mine. It means peeling her off me at school and bedtimes with a cheerful kiss and a reassurance that she'll be okay and that she's safe. I'm not sure I'm tough enough to do it. I'm not sure anyone is- but I'm doing it. Just like I did childbirth when I was sure I couldn't (right around hour 20). That was the second hardest thing I've ever done. Coincidence?

Essentially, it means doing every single thing I don't want to do and I hate every single moment.

I think that's the bad side of badass. Incidentally? It sucks ass as well. Just in case you were wondering.


  1. My heart goes out to you. And my hugs and love.

    I'm with you in spirit.


  2. Would you consider hypnotherapy? My friend Sheila, who doesn't live in your area unfortunately, is a hypnotherapist and has had some success helping kids overcome issues that adults would address in talk therapy. She went to one of the country's only hypno schools. If you're curious, she might be able to hitch you up with somebody in your area. Just a thought