There are a lot of things I like to think my son has inherited from me – his love for making (insanely creative) art, a totally corny sense of humor, the ability to enjoy an impromptu dance party in the kitchen for no other reason than Dance Yourself Clean starts playing on Pandora.
I’m more than happy to take credit for the good things.
But there are things about me I’d rather my children not inherit, like my terrible eyesight, my vertically challenged frame, my fiery temper, and most definitely my intensely timid nature.
Yet early signs are pointing in that very direction. My sweet Connor is – so far – a very cautious child. He has passed on countless activities – which I really think he would have enjoyed – simply because they make them too nervous. Perhaps because it means he would have to go without Mom or Dad, or Mom and Dad are there but on the sidelines, or maybe it just involves a wild mob of party people and a piñata.
If he was fine about not taking part, I’d support him. Smell the flowers just quietly, my little Ferdinand, I’d say. (Insert your best cow joke here, book fans.)
But I can see the internal struggle as he starts to put on his coat with a brave smile … then flings it down again crumpling in a defeated heap.
“I want to go, but I don’t want to go!” he cries woefully.
And I kind of want to bawl right along with him. I feel my muscles tightening, my jaw clenching, my blood pressure rising …
I get so worked up about Connor’s inhibition because it strikes a very familiar nerve. I was an extremely introverted child, and I am not a naturally outgoing adult. I’m much more comfortable tapping out my thoughts and feelings on a keyboard than opening up to even the most kindred of spirits.
(Luckily, my dear friends understand this about me and love me anyway. Thank you so very much, by the way.)
So this shy scenario? It reminds me of my own painful issues, and I just don’t want him to have to deal with that crap. I know, he has to have limitations. But not my limitations.
Because if his struggles are the same as mine, then isn’t it my fault? I must have passed them on in utero. If it weren’t for me, would he be happily trekking all over creation, eagerly meeting new people, and excitedly trying interesting things??
Instead it seems he is in turmoil at times. And I get how he feels in those moments, maybe a little too much. Instead of my experiences making me more nurturing and soothing when he’s melting down, the guilt and bad memories just stir up irrational anger. Not at him, of course, but at myself and the Universe. But unfortunately he probably feels my cross mood, which in turn I’m sure just makes him feel more anxious.
Ugh. I’m creating a vicious circle here.
Deep down, I know I just need to back off and let him find his own way. I’m working on it. I’ve been focusing on deep breathing and counting down from 1o in my head to stay serene when he needs calmness the most. All the things I tell him to do when he’s upset, but I somehow forget to role model when it really matters.
He’s only 5, after all. I do understand this could just be a short-lived age-appropriate developmental stage he is in right now (fingers crossed). After all, there have been a few breakthroughs. He talks about the (the) time he went to the neighbor’s house to play by himself, and he was scared at first but he went anyway and he had such a good time he didn’t want to come home.
“Remember, Mom?” he asks, eyes bright with pride.
“Yes, love,” I reply. (I don’t remind him of the 20 minutes we struggled to walk out the back door. Then 5 minutes to step off the patio. Three more before we open the gate. Ten to walk from our yard to theirs. A 30-second trip took 40 minutes, but whatever. It’s progress.)
I need to remember this feels much more extreme right now because we are in the moment. Very likely, he will develop his own self-confidence and courage at his exact right time. And having a supportive, sympathetic (not pushy and controlling) mother in the background will do nothing but help him find his way.
In a blink of an eye, I will probably be re-reading this post with a heavy heart knowing my son is becoming assured and independent, and he is also pulling away from (sniff) me.
I will think, What the heck was I complaining about anyway??