by Christy Gualtieri
I didn’t know if it would or not – to be honest, I didn’t really think about it, because he’s so young, but I should have guessed that it would happen to at least one of my kids.
My son is anxious.
His worries seem so small, but I know they are big to him – large, looming things – and all I want to do is take them away, because I know how miserable a life of worrying is. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
My parents were both smokers, and when we kids were growing up, the rule was that we weren’t allowed to smoke in the house until we were eighteen. “We smoke, so we won’t be able to smell it on you,” my mother would say. “We’ll trust that you’re telling us the truth if we ask and you say you don’t. We don’t want you to start smoking, but if you do, you have to wait until you’re old enough to be able to smoke in the house.”
I never got into smoking. But I really got into worrying.
I watch my son when he’s anxious, see his little hands twisting, his teeth quietly chewing his lower lip. I suffer from anxiety that ranges from mild (on my best days) to debilitating (on my worst), my son. I can smell it on you, but I don’t know how to quit. I’m worried I won’t be able to show you, either.
But I’m trying. This afternoon he came to me with a worry – about an upcoming dentist appointment – and we talked about what makes him feel good.
“When you get a lot of worries in your head, what makes you feel better?” I asked. “Mommy gets worries in her head sometimes, did you know that?”
He didn’t respond.
“When I get lots of worries, I like to listen to music,” I told him. “And get hugs.”
He doesn’t say anything, but he lets me gather him into my arms for a quick squeeze. And later, while I’m sweeping up the living room, he asked me what song I had playing on my phone, a light little ditty with a soothing melody.
“The Wrote and the Writ, by Johnny Flynn,” I answered.
“This song makes me feel calm,” he told me from his spot on the chair, and I made a mental note of it to have it ready to go in the car, or for those moments when the worries get too big and nothing else seems to work.
Sometimes it feels a bit fraudulent, having to navigate your child through a minefield you’re only just learning (even after a decade!) how to field yourself. Like leading someone to water and showing them where the well is, even though you’re dying of thirst. But there’s good in it, too, because it’s showing me that I do have things I can do to help relieve my anxiety. There are tools at my disposal, even if I forget them in the throes of an anxiety attack. There are people in my life who support me and who listen to me, even if they don’t exactly understand where I’m at and what I’m feeling.
I’m proud to be that support for my son, and it’s my hope that we’ll continue to grow together, every day closer still, to peace in our minds and in our hearts.
Until next time, be well!