I'm probably not screwing up my kids; Anxiety and Parenting
I’m pretty sure every parent feels like they’re screwing up their kids at one point or another. With Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I pretty much always feel this way. Every time I say this there are a dozen people who assure me that it’s not the case, and they often feel the same way. “Often.”
I’ve passed my anxiety issues on to my children. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! My son will probably end up being diagnosed with GAD like me. The poor kid is just like me, as far as anxiety goes – severe social anxiety, always worried about what others are thinking, doesn’t handle rejection well, and he’s pretty much terrified of life. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel massive guilt for the crappy genes I have passed on to my son. He even inherited my practically transparent skin. Poor kid.
How do you help a 6-year-old with social anxiety? You sign them up for extracurriculars! You encourage them to be around other kids so they form relationships and get used to being normal. Of course because of my own severe social anxiety, I’m absolutely terrified of signing him up for anything, because then I have to interact with others, and that’s absolute torture.
I signed my daughter up for Girl Scouts a few years ago. She doesn’t have social anxiety – she’s a social butterfly. Whenever she’s around other kids she ends up with them following her around, doing whatever she says. She does, however, have a hefty case of separation anxiety. So when I dropped her off at Girl Scouts, she cried and said she missed me. This resulted in me having to stay at the meetings with her. The other parents would sit around and talk, and judge me. Normally, I at least partially understand that others aren’t actually judging me, but not this time. They would look at me and whisper. The one time I actually got up the nerve to sit with them and try to be social, one of them sat down directly in between me and the other moms, physically separating me from them. Yeah, they were judging me. Welcome to my life – I’m quiet and I read instead of talking to others, therefore I’m a freak.
I was so relieved when my daughter said she didn’t want to stay in Girl Scouts. I know, I should have encouraged her to keep up with it, but I was just too relieved. No more trying to get people to buy cookies, no more sitting through meetings by myself while the other moms clung to their cliques making me feel like more of an outsider.
Of course with that relief comes more guilt – my social butterfly is back to spending her evenings at home. That’s not so bad, though, right? I’m fun… right??
The only thing more horrifying than extracurricular activities is sleepovers. My social butterfly is always telling me she wants to have a sleepover with friends. The problem with that is, I would have to speak with the parents to coordinate a sleepover. If I had to choose between reaching out to another parent and being stalked by Freddy Krueger, I think I’d take Freddy – at least a lifetime of watching horror films has prepared me for that. You’d think a lifetime of dealing with people would prepare me for dealing with people. Nope!
On the other hand, in certain instances, my kids can be the one thing that pulls me out of my anxiety. If someone else isn’t treating them properly, I have zero qualms with giving that someone a piece of my mind. I turn into a five-foot-tall mama bear. Maybe others don’t think that’s incredibly intimidating, but for that brief time, I don’t give a damn what they think.