I have pondered the nature vs nurture debate quite often when it comes to my anxiety. It always seemed that nurture would win in the cause category until recently. If I were to make a list of MY anxiety, it may still beat out another hypothesis as the root cause, but I am learning, in the parenting game, things are not always what they seem. I know one thing for certain. Someone without anxiety cannot understand another person trying to explain the reasons why and how to them, which make dealing with it quite lonely at times.
I contributed most of my anxiety issues to my grandmother. I learned as an adult, due to multiple tragedies in her life she had much to be anxious about. But when I stayed with her a lot growing up I didn’t understand that. As my anxiety began to take hold, I thought it must be because I was exposed to hers so much. Then I learned my daddy has it too, which would make sense. Except, except I never knew growing up my Daddy had anxiety.?
Now I see my seven year old experience it. She has exhibited signs since a young age and it manifest in different ways. But, I make a very contentious effort NOT to expose her to my anxiety. So much so that I have other family members help rationalize situations for me so I do not let it get the best of me. Believe me, I’ve come a long way since she was an infant! But to see her with it breaks my heart because I know how she feels. Could it be a manipulation at times? Sure, I am aware of that, just as I am aware of what true anxiety looks like on the face of my seven year old.
My husband, as great as he is, is not someone who understands. Oh sure, he understands my anxiety for the super Center and that look I get when I am about to melt down. But he doesn’t understand this gut wrenching, deep breathing anxiety. The kind that has kept me up all night to write this at 4:15 a.m
I only hope she can hold on to the parts of her soul that are wild and carefree. The parts that laugh at everything with a giggle that can warm the coldest of souls. The wander I see in her eyes as she studies something with her mind working on how it may operate. I want her to hold onto the part that operates on stuffed animals with ketchup and gloves and leave the heavy burden of anxiety to me. I’m her mama, her keeper, I can carry the load for us both.
Wasting time on Facebook today, I came across a shared post by Becky Thompson titled To The Momma Of The Stong-Willed Child. I smiled, not sure if I should share the post with an “I love you” to my mama, or if I should read it for tips on the miniture version of my strong-willed self. I have read Becky Thompson before and am quite fond of her writing. She has a soothing way about her words that when I read them I just feel as if I am in a fuzzy blanket and everything is calm. Since I am facing my eleven day stretch without my husband, and have the strong-willed penguin to face once I get home, I decided I should read the post. I could probably use the encouragement.
The post starts off with “I can’t remember where I saw you last”. I immediately think, oh no! she saw me last weekend on the sidewalk at Wal-Mart just after the penguin climbed a ladder in a store. Probably not my finest moment as a mom, but not the last moment like that either since I have a long time to go with this strong-willed penguin (just ask my mama, I’m almost 37). Becky went on to write this, and this is where the fuzzy blanket feeling comes out:
You know, it takes a special kind of momma to raise a strong-willed child. It takes a certain endless amount of grace to continually define the lines of what is and isn’t acceptable all while little hearts ceaselessly push back. It’s hard work defining the same boundaries a million times a day.
I know that it’s exhausting.
I know that most days you worry that you’re not capable of handling this job.
Did you feel it? That warm feeling when you read the words “special kind of momma”? I felt like I had won a medal when she acknowledged “I know that it’s exhausting”. I did think of my mama and how much we pushed and pulled with one another. I thought that even thought she acknowledged I was a strong-willed child, she was just as strong-willed and determined so it was a constant battle. I on the other hand take a different approach with raising my spirited (someone used that term instead of strong-willed the other day, as if strong-willed was a bad thing) penguin. I pick my battles. Because she is the EXACT version of me at five years old, I know what she is thinking, what she is feeling. So as the parent I choose what I battle with. This doesn’t mean she isn’t respectful and unruly. This simply means that I don’t always have to win because I am the parent.
This next part though. Oh, it just made my heart smile.
The truth is, what they are really good at is knowing their own mind – not being easily deterred – confidently proclaiming exactly what they want and how they want it done.
Deep down, we know that this is a good thing. Mommas of strong-willed children know that the traits that make most days feel endless, also mean that our children will also grow up to be motivated, determined, leaders.
Oh I just smiled again as I posted it into here. My mama has to be glad that started as a strong-willed child and grew into a strong-willed woman. I know I hope that for my penguin. I think of all the bumps and holes I have hit a long this journey of life and know that my stubborn determination is what made me get through. I see my penguin taking her own turns and twist and hope and pray that the strength and willingness she has today carries her through those times when she just has to push through. Do my days feel endless? Have you read my post about the carousel? I don’t even know day to night most of the time, especially during the 11 day stretch my husband is gone. But, do I have a motivated, determined penguin? Absolutely!
And this last prayer that Becky ended with is the one I pray for any and all
May you find yourself with grace to spare at the end of the day… as you prepare for another day of raising greatness again tomorrow.
I am so glad that wasting time on Facebook led me to this post. I have not posted on here in awhile simply because of all that strong-willed penguin has me involved in. My time is her time you see, and I have found it difficult to find any time to express the emotions or words of myself or Penelope for we are both too busy chasing after her.