at what point do the habits we create in order to survive our situation, become the very behaviors that keep us tripping over our own feet?
and what happens when we see our little ones following in those same patterns?
when I was about 12, I convinced myself for a whole summer that I couldn’t jump rope. not that I wasn’t good at jumping rope or that it was hard. I convinced myself of the physical impossibility. played over and over in my head that my feet would not leave the ground when faced with jumping. like, the summer pastime was a complete hoax and every other kid who said they were doing it was just saying they could because it was cool.
keep in mind, I had jumped rope before. probably a million times. but the thought process stuck relentlessly in my mind until eventually it just disappeared.
looking back, most of my atypical mood/behavior patterns started about school age. every day activities were done normally one day and then became almost unmanageable the next. my energy was either super high or depleted. speech patterns were hurried. the truth was never more important than being in control. if life was not in the exact order that I need it to be, and ever-changing order, it might as well have been in chaos. it’s hard to fully grasp how many of the things I do/think/feel as an adult stem from these coping mechanisms that I created when at a critical age of needing to function in school and fitting in.
flash forward to motherhood…
my sweet little cookie is probably the toughest ten year old I know. she has been brave through surgeries and poking and prodding. she navigates the peer pressures of “looking pretty” while wearing a glasses, which shouldn’t be a thing but occasionally is because kids are jerks. she loves and forgives her friends, roots for the underdog, and supports her siblings with enthusiasm. despite it all she shows up with the most giant heart and the coolest sense of humor. on the outside, it seems like thriving. and I’m not saying she isn’t a happy child but it’s starting to be evident what layers she has built up to keep herself feeling in control of everything going on.
in the last two months she has been to a dozen (literally) doctors appointments and had weekly med changes that sometimes involved them being administered in the middle of her school day. on top of this, a lot of changes have happened in our family structure over the last six months. different parenting styles and questionable situations have put her in more uncomfortable situations than a kid should have to be in. I don’t talk about that often and won’t elaborate but just know it hurts my heart to have to share them sometimes when the situation is very far from ideal. and it’s taken a toll on all of the kids to be honest. but especially cookie, because she’s very clearly an empath.
it started with nearly constant stomach aches. we blamed it on her meds. tried cutting out dairy. thought she might just be saying it because she wanted to avoid what I made for dinner. add to that the frequent headaches that could also be caused by pretty much anything. and then there’s some nervous hand gesturing that she does, which I mentioned to our pediatrician and was brushed off about. now she is asking to co-sleep almost every night. she even calls or facetimes me to help with falling asleep when she’s at her dads. every time her reasoning changes just slightly but the overwhelming theme is that she doesn’t want to be alone and that her brain “just won’t shut off”. brought to tears most nights and unable to keep herself from spinning into a meltdown.
as a mama, I want to believe anything other than the idea that my kid might be struggling. I try to be her safe space and talk through each of these rough nights with her. I don’t want to call too much attention to an already developing anxiety. but really, I wish someone had picked up on these sorts of things when I was kid. being an empath with ocd tendencies and anxiety makes being a mom tough sometimes because I want to fix it for her or show her all the tricks I’ve learned and all the tricks I’ve had to unlearn. my ways won’t work for her though. so, do I let her sleep with me until she feels better or do I come to terms with the fact that this mechanism will soon be replaced by another, and we are avoiding the inevitable need for her to start creating healthy habits of coping. it also should be mentioned that, of course, I love a good little human snuggled session and I do miss co-sleeping with them sometimes. but I work full time and cookie is guilty of some sleep karate that make it’s nearly impossible to rest. I realize there’s no one magic answer here and ten year old logic isn’t the easiest to go up against. is getting her into some sort of therapy our next step? where is my grown up who says it will be fine, she’s just… sensitive or just a perfectionist or just stressed. I’m up for at least an hour after she’s calm and asleep because now my brain won’t shut off.
I’ve starting doing three deep breaths with her and then having her do three deep breaths when she gets tucked back into her bed. nothing else has really worked and who knows how long this will help. the mom guilt of not letting her sleep with me is really wearing me down.
I usually stray from taking parenting advice, no offense, but I’m open to suggestions if you’re reading. it doesn’t always to help to have someone say, “oh that’s happened to me,” though in this case it would really ease my heart.
-sleepless in Dayton,