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Leading the Way

Illustration for article titled Leading the Way

There are some genetic characteristics we hope and pray we’ll pass on to our children. Your grandmother’s piercing blue eyes, father’s mathematical efficiency, or uncle’s fiscal responsibility. But there are some character traits we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. I don’t want my son to inherit my insecurities, neurosis, or anxiety. Unfortunately, he already has.


The good news is, I’m fully aware of it and actively trying to combat it. He’s only 7. It’s not too late.

My son started worrying when he entered Kindergarten. What time was the bus coming? How long was he in school? Where were the bathrooms? What would his teacher be like? Would any of his friends be in his class? His questions were endless and I didn’t have all the answers. His questions prompted my own. Why, at 5, did my son have so much anxiety?


The elementary school guidance counselor put it beautifully. She asked, “Don’t you like to know what’s happening?” Good point. She also shed light on the situation by saying, “Some of us are natural-born worriers.” Yep. She hit the nail on the head.

I worry about everything. My husband has coined me, PP - Patty Planner. New and unknown situations fill me with anxiety. I didn’t think I showcased these neuroses in front of my son and I’m still not convinced I have. But somehow, someway, he possesses the same nervous habits as I do.


But the difference is, I am a grown woman. I’ve learned to cope with my anxiety. I know that if I don’t push myself outside of my comfort zone, I’ll be missing out on so many amazing opportunities in life. But my son doesn’t realize that yet. He still allows his fears to dictate his actions. I can tell him that he’ll regret not taking that dance class or attending that sleepover, but I can’t make him feel it. I pray for the day that his desire to participate outweighs his apprehension. I’m confident that day will come, but I can’t help but wonder what got us here. Did I do something to create his dependency, other than pass on the worry-wart gene?

Part of his anxiety comes from being away from me. Not only are we extremely close, but in his mind, I’m his security. He knows that when I’m near, he’s safe. I think that’s a natural feeling that most children feel. Proud Mummy does a beautiful job of discussing a mother’s natural worry over their children getting hurt. Both as mothers and as children, there are just some instincts you can’t fight. All the reassuring in the world won’t convince my son to do something if it means being out of my line of sight. I’m working hard to move him past this hurdle. He tells me, “I’m just not comfortable being somewhere without you or with people I don’t know.” He has a good argument.


The only thing worse than passing my anxiety onto my son would be burdening him with my insecurities. I’ve struggled with self-acceptance all my life - and still do. I never cut myself a break. I focus on the negative and dismiss the positive.

My son has said on several occasions, “I look fat, mommy.” I can’t say that hearing him say those words was heartbreaking. No. Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe the overwhelming feeling of disgust and dread that consumed my entire being. I am infuriated with myself. How many times have I stood before the mirror and said those exact words - “I look fat.” Do I think he doesn’t hear me? Do I think he doesn’t care? Well, he does. He hears, sees, and internalizes everything.


Even if I’m not prepared to make a change for myself, I need to change for my son. I am his role model. His personality, tendencies, and self-perception are a learned behavior. And it’s my job to make it a damn good lesson!

We can’t control the genetics we pass to our children. But we can help them work through the same issues that we find ourself battling. I will conquer the mountain so that my son has a shorter distance to climb.

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