It happens a lot as a mom with anxiety. My kids are faced with situations that I find overwhelming and I project my own anxiety onto them. Or do I?
Ronin has had some struggles with anxiety in his early years. At seven, he’s so much more confident than he used to be and has flourished in school and activities the past few years. But as a youngin’ the anxiety was quite pronounced, especially before we discovered his gluten intolerance.
He’s had sensory issues, mostly with sound, but also visually and physically. Things can overwhelm him.
Because of my own anxiety, I often identify with his struggles and I truly don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing.
It’s made me overly protective mama bear.
I want to save him from the struggles that I’ve so often experienced myself.
I want to wipe them away, and make him confident and bold.
I desperately want him to escape the paralyzing fear I know all too well.
It doesn’t occur as often any more, but last week two new situations overwhelmed him. First at a make-up Hip Hop class where the kids and teacher were new to him, and then at his first ever baseball game this Saturday.
When he started baseball three weeks ago, shockingly (at least to me) he was the only kid on his team who had never played. And he’s only seven! At our first team meeting, his coach asked the kids to introduce themselves and say what team they were on last year. He panicked and ran to me crying and it broke my heart. First, because I remember that fear of having to speak in front of a crowd as a child (and even now my face gets hot at the prospect.) And second, because I don’t want him to be made fun of for crying.
But on the first day of practice, I nervously watched him enjoying himself. The coaches were kind to him, very helpful and encouraging. He ran over and told me “I thought that was going to be scary, but it was fun!” and my heart melted. My greatest wish for him is to escape my anxieties and just have a great time in life.
But this Saturday, as his first game was about to start, I had camera in hand near the dugout and witnessed his confusion. The other kids were getting out helmets and bats and he wasn’t sure what to do. The coach was calling out names and Ronin thought that he heard his own. He tried asking the coach, but the man didn’t hear him. Ronin asked a few more times, then backed away and stood looking around with tears in his eyes. He spotted me standing nearby and burst into tears. “I don’t want to do this! I want to leave!” he said.
I tried to calm him as the other kids started looking and asking questions. I said “You can do this. It’s OK to be scared. You were scared before your first Hip Hop class. Just get your helmet and bat and listen to the coaches. It’s OK. You’re OK.”
Ronin sat on the bench and started to calm down and I ran straight to John.
“He’s crying! Go help him!”
My anxiety was raging. Perhaps I projected my own panic onto him. Maybe he looked at me, with his fear projected in my own eyes and that’s what made him lose it. Maybe it was my fault.
In the moment, I know I said good things. I’m pretty sure it helped. John watched over him until Ronin was sure of his footing, and he had a great time playing in that game. He had so much fun. And now, with his first game under his belt, he probably won’t be scared anymore.
But I now have tears thinking about the moments of struggle he has ahead of him. The stress he will face. The possible panic, for both him and me.
Watching him will test my own anxiety, but I MUST NOT project mine onto him.