Monday, July 14, 2014

One day it will end...

[8:52pm, my eight-and-an-all-important-half year old boy, R, meekly descends the stairs after bedtime.]

R: Mom, I'm too angry to sleep.

Me: What's wrong?

R: I can't stop worrying. And it's making me angry. And my brain won't shut up.

Me: Come here.

[R crawls into my lap, all coltish knees and elbows, slinging his arms loosely about my neck. He's my one who needs softer parenting, who tries so hard to be good he cries when things fall apart at the seams, who wants the world to be black and white and perfectly straight lines and easy decisions, because everything should always be right and fair. He's my one who's content to be alone tinkering on a project by himself for hours, whose shoulders cinch up at a cross word, who barks at peers because his nerves are so easily set on edge. He's my one diagnosed with mild anxiety.]

Me: What are you worrying about?

R: I'm worried about the end of the world.

[I look into his eye and answer sincerely, with the slightest trace of a smile—not a condescending one, but a relieved smile that this pop parenting quiz is less sticky than I'd imagined, what with the outbreak of summer; parents speaking of world politics within boy earshot; the eight year old's newly found and quickly voiced mortification at random acts of parenting; and our recent policy of battling anxiety through honesty—by allowing him to learn what is going on inside his own head to better understand why he gets distressed, and thereby helping him slay the monster and giving him more control over his agitation. (It's all baby steps. And so far it's working for us.)]

Me: Well. You are not the first person to worry about that. At all. I think everyone at some point in their life has worried about the end of the world. You are not alone. Does that help?

R [sighs]: Yes.

Me: Does it also help to know that you don't need to worry about it because it's likely not going to happen in your lifetime? The world has been trucking for a long time, and it'll keep trucking after we're gone.

[I erred on the side of NOT discussing climate change with my anxious eight year old at bedtime. Sue me.]

R: Yes.

Me: And who's job is it to worry?

R: Yours.

Me: Right. And you did the right thing, coming to talk to me. Always come and talk to me. Especially if your brain won't shut off with worry. Do I help?

R: Always.

Me: Okay. Off to bed. Love you.

R [Unfolds himself from my lap and kisses my cheek.]: Love you too.


  1. Yup, my boy came to me after bedtime many times to tell me he was "having bad thoughts about getting old and dying". I had to tell him that it was normal, that lots of people dwell on that, and that it was a long ways off with nothing to be done about it. Our solution was to build a happy thought at bedtime, so that after I leave the room he has something to occupy his brain in a good way. It usually ends up being a plan for what his stuffed toys will do after he falls asleep. Not as easily answered as worries about the end of the world, but it works. Sounds like you pretty much have things figured out.

  2. Ha! Oh, Dawn, we're parenting the same kid! :)

    And I've had a post percolating about our use of happy thoughts for a while now. :)

  3. My motto is "whatever works"