I’ve been crying a lot lately. Last Friday, the start of a five-day family reunion with my parents, my sister, my brother-in-law and my niece and nephews began with a bang. A big, bad bang. After school, when Dylan realized his cousins were waiting for him at home to play and swim, he began a fast descent into a deep hole of fear and anxiety that left him trapped in a dark, irrational place with tall brick walls surrounding him on all sides. I don’t know what was happening in his head, but that’s what it looked and felt like to me. It lasted most of the afternoon.
I have anxiety. It runs in my family. I’ve been in therapy a few times in my life because of it, but I was an adult when it happened, not a four-year-old child. This wasn’t Dylan’s first anxiety attack, but it was the most intense one I could remember. Mike and I have talked about Dylan’s quirks many times before (fear of new food, new clothes, going upside down, Finding Nemo, being alone, growing up, etc.), but this episode stopped us in our tracks. He eventually snapped out of it, and by the end of the evening he was laughing and playing with his cousins, but the happy ending didn’t erase the horrible beginning.
Most of the time, Dylan is a happy, healthy kid. Some of the time, though, he’s not. As a parent, it’s terrifying to feel like you can’t hold your child and make it all better. It’s even worse to think of him feeling like he can’t make it go away either. Simply put, the older Dylan gets, the bigger his world becomes and the more independent he feels, the worse his anxiety becomes.
He’s not coping well, and no matter how hard Mike and I try, we’re not coping well either. We don’t know whether to push him into new situations or pull back, accommodate or make ultimatums, hug or discipline, or laugh or cry (obviously, I’ve chosen to cry). We may not always make the right parenting decisions, but never before have we felt so completely unable to make a choice at all. We’ve been in touch with a child therapist and hope to meet with her later this week to get Dylan the help he needs.
Ugh. I bet you would’ve preferred a story about shopping, packing or poop. Fear not. I have a poop story for you. On Sunday, in the midst of all of this tension, and just a few hours before 16 people arrived for a family barbeque in honor of my parent’s 40th anniversary, our toilets and showers clogged so badly that “poop” talk was unavoidable. It was as gross as you’re imagining. Dylan was in heaven! A Roto-Rooter truck in the driveway greeted my entire family when they pulled in. I poured my first glass of wine that afternoon before 2pm.
The plumbing issue was finally resolved, the barbeque went great and the whole weekend was full of fun distractions. Then came Monday, and the stress of it all knocked me off my feet. I cried in front of every person I saw. (To everyone who saw my tears, thanks for listening!) There’s always a lot at stake as a parent, but the mere thought of any of it standing in the way of Dylan’s happiness and his greatness is devastating to me.
I’ve written about a lot of personal stuff on this blog, but this time I feel more vulnerable than ever before. I have to believe, though, that I’m not the only mother who loves her kids but hates Play-Doh. That I’m one of millions of women with a shopping addiction. That I toast my 5pm glass of Pino Grigio with at least a few other Mamas trying to survive the daily dinnertime-bathtime-bedtime grind. And that I’m one of many parents with a child who needs a little extra help handling the world around him.
I’ll keep you updated on this new journey. In the meantime, I’m off to the store to stock up on Kleenex.
When was the last time you had a good cry?