Anxiety or Control?

I am an older mother of teenage girls.  That sentence alone could sprout all kinds of blog ideas.  The fact that I am 52, (almost 53) and have a 13 year old and an 11 year old is an entire series of blogs.

Today I am focusing on my 13 year old.  She has always been quirky and complicated. She has run my husband and myself ragged with her need for constant control.  It has not been until recently that neither of us know which end is up with her.  One day she is on the top of the world with her friends and her activities and the next she is sobbing uncontrollably because her pants don’t fit right and she does not want to go to school.

Puberty?  Could be.  But, having gone through her stubborn, manipulative and OCD type behavior her entire life, we don’t think so.   She was in an alternative based middle school, which we thought would be great for her personality type.  It was small and unstructured.  That turned out to be a nightmare for all of us.  Towards the end of her 6th grade year she became very anxious.  She was not sleeping.  She was crying all the time.  We finally got her to admit that there was some bullying going on.  We addressed this with the school, but that seemed to make things worse.   We took her to the doctor, who diagnosed her with anxiety and referred her to a Counselor.

There was a little over a month of school remaining and working with the Counselor we decided that she should not finish out her 6th grade year at that school.  Once that was an option, we saw a drastic improvement in her mood.  We went and toured the regular middle school and she was excited to begin a new year there with some kids she knew from grade school and her younger sister would be there as well.

Summer came and the tears disappeared and she was starting to act like her normal self again.  She was the pitcher on the softball league.  She had friends that she was hanging out with on a regular basis.  She was upbeat and pleasant and we thought that maybe we had figured out what the cause of the sudden change of behavior.  The first 3 days of the new middle school could not have been better.  She was happy and finding new friends and mastering changing classes.  She loved softball practice after school.

Today she could not find any shorts to wear for her softball practice and that was all it took for her to become anxious and step out of class and call home for someone to come and pick her up.  Through books on boundaries and talking with her Counselor, we have decided that we need to let her figure this out on her own.  We will not pick her up from school when she says she is not feeling well.  We will not go buy her more shorts because she does not like the ones she has to choose from. We will not let her moods govern the rest of us living in this house.

This brings me to my title.  Is this all her need to be in control?  Or is she truly experiencing some sort of anxiety attacks.  Or both?  Does she stress so much about her silly shorts that it brings on this major mood change?  Or, are my husband and myself just finally realizing that we have catered to her quirky demands for so long, that she is using her tears and fake stomach aches to see if we will continue to give her, her way?

In my day, you wore what you had whether you liked it or not.  You acted right in the presence of others, no matter how you were feeling.  Unless you had a fever or were throwing up, you stayed at school.   But, with the labels and medications that seem to be flying around, and notices sent home from school for identifying anxiety and depression in teens, could it be more than just an intense teenager who needs to be in control of every single thing?

Asking for help from modern-day parents or middle school teachers.  Is old school not a good plan for teenagers any more?  Help.

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I’m the boss now.

Since I quit my job a couple of years ago and decided to try the “stay at home” thing, I have discovered a whole new world.

In the months the lead up to my departure from the working world, my head was spinning with ideas of how my days would be filled.  I could get my girls off to school, tidy up my house, have coffee with friends, join in the ladies walking groups or the golf clubs.  In my mind, my house would be spotless, I would have more than enough to keep me busy and I would finally be free of the day in, and day out routine that had confined me for over 30 years.

The first few weeks were just as I had pictured.  I was able to volunteer for field trips at the schools.  I walked just about every day.  My house was beyond clean, including cupboards and drawers.  It was an amazing feeling and I could not imagine my life any other way.

But eventually I discovered that those friends I was going to have coffee with were working during the day.  The walking groups did not exist and I was weary of walking by myself.  I have not golfed in years and the people I used to golf with had all moved or were now working.  My house was as clean as it was going to get.  So, in less than a month my visions of this full and rewarding leap to the life of leisure were shattered.

My reasons for not wanting to hold down a 9 to 5 job any more were endless, but the main reason was because I did not have time to do the things I used to do.  I was tired of my days consisting of the same people, the same tasks and the office politics that normally followed me home.  I wanted to attend my kids’ softball games without having to ask for time off.  I wanted to catch up on things during the week and have my weekend free to enjoy my family and not have to spend them cleaning, grocery shopping and doing laundry.

I don’t miss work.  But I miss working.  I miss the structure that filled 8 hours of my day.  I did not like having a boss and a time clock, but can definitely say that I liked having my days planned and my time accounted for.   After the initial freedom factor wore off, I found myself doing less and less instead of trying the things I had wanted to try, but couldn’t because I did not have time.  I feel like I have come to a screeching halt and there is not any urgency to do much of anything.

Could it be that I thrived better when I had less time?   I could list the pros and cons of both working and not having to work and it would probably be about even, but the one thing that has taken a nose dive is my motivation.  Now I feel like I have all of the time in the world.  I will get to those now messy cupboards next week.  I still do the majority of my fun stuff in the evenings, because that is when my friends are available.  Of course my kids have benefited because I am here with them during the summer and I am at every event during the school year. That was what I wanted the most.

So in this next 6 weeks of summer, my goal is to envision what I want my days to look like when school is back in session.  I am going to start training for the leadership role and force myself to be my own boss.  I’m sure I will need to be strict because, knowing myself, I can see that I might tend to go towards the lazy side.  I am going to have to get really creative and make my tasks fun and not boring and routine.  Wish me luck in my new endeavors.

What can I learn from a bird?

This Morning I woke up to the same repetitive sound of one bird “chirp, CHIRP, chirp…eeech”.  Three times fast, a short break and “chirp, CHIRP, chirp…eeech”.  Ever since Spring has crept upon us, this one bird starts his day the exact same way.

At first I was annoyed.  The sun is not out yet.  The chirping is like a needle on the back of my eye lids.  “Poke, POKE, poke…wake up”.  Three times fast, a short break, until I wake up, on the wrong side of the bed, angry at this bird for getting up so early and not being able to stop his endless chatter.

Today, I felt like I could relate to him.  I wondered if he could be a she and if she could be a mother.  What if she just wants to be heard and if 4am is the only time she can get a word in edgewise.  It also bothered me that none of the other birds seemed to be responding.  Every morning for the last month she tells the same story over and over, why haven’t any of the other birds validated her?

If I were a bird and spoke in repetitive chirps, I would try to find her and get her story. Is she frustrated that nobody is listening to her?  Is she having a hard time sleeping because of something gnawing at her?  Does she wake up earlier than anybody else in her family so she can have quiet time?   Or, is she the one in charge of making sure all of the other birds wake up on time, eat breakfast and start their days in a timely manner.

The morning ritual of this one bird has become part of my morning ritual.  That string of chirps start my own string of thoughts and whether I like it or not, my mind is off and running before the sun even thinks about coming up over the horizon.

If nothing else, it is consistent.  That in itself is impressive.  7 days a week, same time every morning, same pattern of chirps.  How many other birds depend on that?   How is that consistency helping others?  What is the message in that “chirp, CHIRP, chirp…eeech”? What is the reason this bird has taken up space in my head?

Now that the sun has come up and the chirping has stopped, I think I will try to go back to sleep for a couple of hours.  While I drift off I may ponder some more about this bird and the story behind it.  That morning routine gives me something to wonder about besides the things that are on my plate for the day.  Maybe I can adapt that pattern of chirping in to my morning wake up routine as a form of meditation. “Chirp, CHIRP, chirp…eeech…..oooohmmmm”.

Mother’s Day Blog

 

 

Wow!  How on Earth do you write something about Mother’s Day?  For real, this is like take number 10.  I started with my own mom.  She passed away when I was 18, and although that was over 30 years ago, I am still sifting through all she meant to me.  Halfway through I needed to start again and table my mom for another time.

My next attempt was to bring up all of the mothers I know who have shaped my own parenting style.  This includes my sister, my aunts, my friends, my neighbors and even a couple of dads.  Too many avenues to explore for that angle.  Too many helpful hints and amazing advice.

I tried to look at being a mother as a job.  A job that I love and a job that I am not very confident about.  There is never a performance review or a chance to write a proposal that goes before a board to vote on, before you implement it as policy.  There are so many ways to write about that and I feel like it would be more a fun piece, rather than for Mother’s Day.

I thought I could maybe use that old “there is no instruction manual for parenting”.  So true.  I have heard this a ton over the years.  There is no sure-fire way to know if you are doing the right thing, saying the right things or being consistent enough.  No way.  This was a go nowhere blog.

I tried to write about my girls.  Once I started explaining the differences between each of them, and how I felt like each one of them was this giant puzzle with pieces missing.  That got very complicated because of how different they all are.  What works with one, may not work for the other two and so on.  I decided that each of them deserved their own blog.

Each time I deleted or back spaced or changed the whole post completely, I always came back to my girls.  If it were not for them, Mother’s Day would be me sending cards to those who have mothered me and thanking my mom before I went to sleep.  If I did not have my girls and all of their vast differences, I would not be able to see what each of them has taken from me.  I know I have not been the model mother. I truly believe that my girls needed to see me struggle.  They don’t need some cookie cutter, TV mom who always has the right answers and can make any situation turn out for the best.   They needed me to tell them that I don’t know what I am doing.  They needed to hear me apologize for what I was about to say.  They needed the meltdowns and the go nowhere lectures.  They needed the truth when it hurt and the white lies when necessary.

So, if you are wondering how to write a simple Mother’s Day blog?  Look at your kids.  Really look at them and watch for the brief glimpses of wisdom you have shared.  There is nothing better than loving something so much you are not afraid to make mistakes on their behalf.  There is nothing better than guiding your children through tough times and telling them with confidence that everything will be alright. Nothing better than getting a hug for no reason or even an eye roll and a door slam.  Nothing better than knowing that God trusted you enough to be a Mother!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Finely

My Fellow Bloggers:

It has been tactfully brought to my attention that I have confused finely (fahyn-lee) with finally (phi nel lee).  Until this was brought to my attention, I think I never knew that I was misusing and mispelling finally.

Finely shaped, not finally shaped.  Finely dressed, not finally dressed.  Finely detailed, not finally detailed.

I was shocked to say the least.  For years I have prided myself on proper grammar and spelling.  So much so, that I take extra time when writing or blogging, to find another word to use when I cannot get that pesky red line to go away.  Now that I am thinking about it, finely has always had that red line, but I thought it was because I had one too many l’s, or maybe did not need the e.  Never did it occur to me that finely was being used out of context.

To this day I repeat the “i before e, except after c” when I spell receipt or mention my niece.  Had I not been the executor of my grandfathers will and had to write “personal representative” on a bzillion (more than a million) documents, I would still bypass “representative”.  I know how to spell “equipment” only because I had an extra couple of letters for the first month I worked at Equipment Manufacturing and sent out mail with those extra letters included.  And, in that last sentence I wanted to use correspondence instead of mail, but did not want to figure out if it was correspondence with an e or an a.    I could never commit to “commit”. One m and two t’s or two m’s and one t?  I will put it on my calend….er or calend….ar.  License. Exercise. Excited.  All words that I have cemented in to memory for one reason or another.

And now, finally, one more word that I can type with confidence (or is it confidance) Who needs a dictionary when you have these types of situations finely etched in to your memory.

Square peg.

For as long as I can remember I have been more comfortable under the radar.  As a kid, I was shy and timid.  If ever I was asked to read out loud in class, or lead the pledge of allegiance, or work with a group of kids I did not know?  My insides would flutter, I swallowed back  tears and the anxiety would build to the point that I thought I would burst.  “You need to get over that” was what I heard from teachers and my parents.

In grade school, the stress of finding new friends each year and the creative ways I used to make people like me, was quite the process.  I pretended to like things I really didn’t.  I wore clothes that I was not comfortable in.  I looked past friends I had known for years, just to fit in with better friends.  Once I felt like I was accepted, I had to continue being someone I thought my new friends liked, rather than who I really was.  This cycle carried on year after year.  I managed to blend,—but never fit.

After years going along to get along, I can honestly say that orbiting around the outside  is not a bad thing.  There is no rule that states you need to settle.   I have given lectures to my kids about how being friendly with everybody is sometimes better than being friends with a handful of people.  Or how if you take your own path, eventually you will run in to others going in the same direction.   These words are based on what I know to be true.

After 50 plus years of trying to make myself the best fit for a new job, mixing in with the soccer moms, the Parent Teacher Groups or the Church committees, I think I have finely given myself the pass I have always been looking for.  It’s okay to march to the beat of your own drum.  Not everybody can smooth out their rough edges enough to fit perfectly.  To some people, a round hole is much to confining.  To some people, fitting in, means stuck.

That is the great thing about getting older.  The ability to make room for things that really matter, by letting go of the things that don’t,  comes much easier.   You can gradually figure out who you are and replace who you think you should be?   At some point you know without uncertainty that you were meant to be a square peg all along.

A Mindful Journey

I see a young barefooted man wandering through a catacomb, having to be careful which direction he took.  The minute he entered, he knew that there were several paths he could take, and that if he was not careful, he could, very easily fall in to the self-destructive side of things, which would make his journey take that much longer.  But, he knew that by taking his time, he would be able to make the right choices and eventually end up on the positive side.

As he shined his lantern to the left, he noticed a slippery slope.  The closer he got to the edge, he recognized that slope as impulsive.  He seemed to remember sliding down this embankment on several occasions.  Each time he did, his journey seemed to be over before it started.   Cautiously he moved past that portion and on to the next.

To the right he saw a bubbling green pool.  It looked very inviting.  He was just about to test the waters and realized that this pool was probably very deep and might be hard to escape, even if he were to just dip his toe in.  Just a little exposure to jealously and envy can suck you in without even knowing it.  No.  He needed to move on.

In the shadows of the darkness, he could hear whispers.  The words were not clear, but he was curious to know where these voices were coming from.  He walked quietly towards the conversation and stopped in his tracks when he heard the tone.  He had seen what gossip could do to all involved and was terrified to get caught up in anything that had to do with being critical or judgmental.  He was relieved that he was able to sneak past that cavern and was one step closer to what he was hoping to find.

After a small detour around self-doubt, almost immediately he was faced with a series of obstacles from the past.  As he prepared for a fight, he realized that these obstacles were no more than his imagination getting the best of him.    He told himself that these obstacles were things that had already been dealt with long ago.  Right or wrong, none of them should still exist.  He closed his eyes and pushed through to the other side.  He looked behind,  once he was on solid ground again, just to make sure that had let each thing go and nothing else would hinder him from moving forward.

Still shaken from the first part of his trek, he was contemplating finding a safe place to rest.  He was weary from what he had faced already and not sure he could go on much further.  But then he saw it.  A light.  Not just a light, but a bright light that changed colors as he got closer.  He picked up his pace and knew that all of his efforts to this point had not been wasted.  He knew that he was within reach of finding what he had been searching for, for so long.  As he reached the amazing light, he touched the small particles in the air and splashed them on his face.  The light instantly filled his soul and he knew that he had finely found what had been buried under years of guilt and self -sabotage.  He knew for sure that he would never have to make this difficult journey again.

He exited the catacomb of his mind a changed person.  Leaving all of the negative, self-destructive, bad behavior behind and making the choice to hold on to what was good.  He felt alive.  No longer would he stifle patience, responsibility, strength and self-confidence.  He chose to build on the foundation that he had been laying his entire life.  Nothing was going to stop him from being the person he knew he could be.  He made the choice to deal with things as they came and to never ignore those ugly thoughts and ideas to the point where they overtook what was right and real.

 

The boy was so happy that he did not give up.  That he trusted what he knew was inside him and was strong enough to move aside what was preventing it from shining through.   From now on he would be patient and kind, responsible and dependable.  He would take one day, one thing and one-act at a time. He would never wander off the path he knew he should be on, no matter how tempting it was.  He was no longer afraid.