The Simple Phrase That Is Changing How I Parent
In the grip of anxiety, I feel scattered, small, and scared. Even though I feel that was, I don’t always act that way.
Last week I was leaving Trader Joe’s with my preschooler and infant in tow. Walking through the automatic doors into the blustery summer air, my son suddenly darted into the parking lot. “STOP!” I screeched.
I ran to him, grabbed his arm, and jerked him back to the sidewalk. With a cart full of groceries, a baby across my chest, and a red-faced toddler swatting at my arms, I probably looked as overwhelmed as I felt.
Sweating and seething, my heart beating fast, I reprimanded my son harshly and insisted that he hold my hand, ignoring all his protests and attempts to explain. A heated power battle ensued as I wrestled him into his car seat and we yelled all the way home.
My rational mind knew that I hadn’t handled the situation well (not even close). The more hysterical he became, the more empathetic I should have been. He’s only three years old. He depends on me to teach him how to self-regulate. Instead, I’d screamed at him.
The grounded part of me knew that I’d overreacted in the first place. My son hadn’t actually “darted” into the parking lot. In reality, he’d been walking alongside me, like he knows to do, but he picked up the pace a bit as we stepped outside, just as I was slowing down trying to figure out where I’d parked. I was already on edge, worked up about how much money we’d spent, how I’d fit everything into the car, which child to put in first, and how to keep the baby out of the blinding sun. I could have just told him to slow down and led him to the car, reiterating the importance of being careful around cars. Instead, I let the fear of what would happen if he ran ahead (it’s always the what-if’s) push me over that metaphorical edge and alter my perception of what was going on.
It’s what anxiety does.
Before becoming a mother, I naively assumed…