Two nights ago, I had a really hard time falling asleep. Not because my 14-month old was fussing, or because there were annoying loud truck revving sounds outside, but because I couldn’t stop my brain from going. It was the night before I was going to take my daughter to a new activity with a group of 15 other 1-year olds. She had never been to something like that before, so I was worried. I was worried that she would be scared, that she would cry and scream through the whole thing, that she wouldn’t like it, that she would cause a ruckus, that people would think she was a bad child, that people would think I was a bad mother, that it would be one of those horrible experiences that traumatizes her forever. My sister told me that someone said that motherhood is a lifetime of worrying. And isn’t that the truth. But when I think about the amount of worrying I do, and the anxiety I have about how my child is going to fare in whatever situation – I think that perhaps I am quite a bit off the middle of the road.
It’s hard sometimes to remember what it was like before I had this little person to take care of. But when I do have flashbacks, I remember having a lot of anxiety about new things then too. Of course a certain amount of anxiety is normal when starting a new job, or going back to school, or going on a big trip. But I remember feeling anxious the night before going to the doctor, and thinking about what I would say so that he or she would understand what I felt was wrong, and worrying that I would be considered crazy or neurotic.
I guess my higher-than-average levels of anxiety have played a role both in nature and nurture in my child’s temperament.
She is definitely a sensitive little girl. And definitely an introvert as well. For many months, her stranger anxiety was so bad that only myself or her daddy could hold or touch her. We never left her alone with anyone else. And though she has begun to finally outgrow some of that, she still seems more anxious and sensitive than other kids her age.
Case in point: the activity I took her to the next day. She did cry a lot. None of the other kids did. Well, I think 2 of them started to cry a bit because she was crying so much. And maybe some of it was just her, but maybe it was me as well – and she sensed my anxiety which just made her own even worse.
How do some people make motherhood look so easy?
I guess it’s just that every kid has a different temperament. And mine really is like me. Sometimes my greatest fear is that she will turn out like me – and have the same fears and sensitivities I have. So how do I help her? How do I make sure she grows up without the trappings and negativity and pressures that weigh us down as adults? I guess I can’t. I guess I just have to do the best I can.