We recently went to my daughter’s middle school concert. To my amazement, my 18-year-old son sat through the entire concert without fidgeting, talking, or calling out unexpectedly to kids onstage.
It was the first such event I’ve ever attended without breaking into a cold sweat from anxiety over his behavior. That includes, over the years, many, many concerts, movies, plays, musicals and other performances during which attendants are expected to be quiet and attentive.
I’ve been a mostly solo (my partner, Pardner, is a chef/owner of a restaurant) or entirely single parent for most of my children’s lives. With a couple of notable exceptions, I’ve spent every weekend on my own with them for the past twelve years or so.
It’s been really hard—and REALLY wonderful.
Early on, I decided I wanted to be a person and do things, and so I’ve been dragging them along to events all these years.
I hadn’t realized how much G’s restlessness affected me until the other night.
There are so many little ways in which life can feel daunting. What we usually do is soldier on, right?
But it’s amazing to consider all the possibilities that open up when you actually feel free to enjoy an event rather than keep most of your energy on someone sitting next to you.
Sitting through that concert like that was kind of a big deal.
And it got me to wondering: How much energy have I wasted on worry over these many years?
I usually explain and justify my worries to myself as solution-seeking behavior.
But no amount of anxiety could possibly have hastened G’s development into the amazing young man he is now.
And, to be honest, my worries probably kept my brain too busy to come up with good work-arounds and ideas.
Plus, ALL ALONG, G has been the happy, kind, funny, fun, loving person he is now. Just a bit more fidgety. (And, truth be told, he wasn’t always all that into much of the stuff I dragged him to…)
Yet I persisted in worrying much of the time about G’s fidgeting and behavior—and not only insofar as it affected him at the time! I also future-catastrophized about potential impacts on his career and how it might alienate him from the “regular” social world.
What good did/does all that worrying do? How many other useless ways do I spend my time anxiously mulling over and anticipating possible disastrophes?
We all struggle with how to be in society. And knowledge around expectations and societal norms comes slowly to some. So do the sheer physical ability to settle down and key mental capacities, including emotional regulation.
So why do I torture myself unnecessarily?
I know I’m not the only parent (or guardian, or loved one) of a child with differences (or parent, period) who does this.
Frankly, I wasn’t much of a worrier, pre-kids. Somehow the little worries of new parenthood mushroomed over the years—sometimes with good reason—into a constant stream of nervousness.
Looking back, I wish I could’ve enjoyed myself more as a mom, instead of only now realizing all this.
I’m going to work on finding a way to avoid breaking into a cold sweat when I go places with my children.
More to the point, I’m going to take a close look at the ways worry has come to pervade so many areas of my life that it’s often depressing and sometimes even debilitating.
Because I have a hunch that in all cases there’s a similar element of complete futility.
I’m going to try to be gentle with myself in the process: This worry has developed as a result of a lot of hard stuff.
But I’m also going to be firm, because I’ve had enough!
Worry is my issue and I’m going to own it.
I cannot “control” my kids anymore now that they’re teenagers. Nor can I make everything right for them!! In fact, I never could entirely do either.
I can see now that G has moved on.
Time for me to do the same.
Full Spectrum Mama
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