We pulled up quickly and efficiently into the darkened parking lot in our cozy and warm minivan. As I put our family vehicle into park I heard a tiny voice emerge from the backseat.
My four year old sputtered, “I don’t like it here.”
I sighed silently to myself, then spoke softly, “it’s ok. This isn’t where we’re going. We’re going over there.”
I pointed across the street to a brightly lit and inviting church. We were attending a much-anticipated social event where the girls would find their friends from the homeschool group we were involved with. At the beginning of this semester my preschooler had cried when left alone in class with new friends, but by the end she had made new buddies and genuinely enjoyed herself. I knew this was something she wanted to do too, but still…
She asked, “Is it on the bottom floor or do we have to ride an elevator? ”
“It’s on the top, but only one floor, and we’ll take the stairs, ” I answered calmly.
I wasn’t always soothe. It was not only challenging to raise an anxious child, but also exasperating. I ranged from wanting to throttle her during her meltdown moments to wanting to cry right along with her for my supposed failings. After all, so many times I had wondered, what did I do that has built her this way ?!! i>
Did I not devote her enough attention when the new baby came?
Was I somehow lacking in the love she needed to construct her feel secure?
Was it that time I hollered like a madman at her?
The mommy guilt had been strong over the last couple of years as I watched her quirky, unwarranted fears come out. I couldn’t for the life of me pinpoint why my first child was so social and confident, yet the second that I had raised the same was so not. I tried not to compare, but as she developed her peculiar fears I questioned my parenting over and over. What had I done differently and why was she afraid? No abuse, neglect, or negative treatment by anyone else had occurred.
So why did she ask me if I knew where we were every time I took a different route to the store?
“Are we lost? ”
Why was she afraid of going anywhere that the door could latch shut?
Did that one time she got accidentally locked in the bathroom upstairs really equate to crying in the dressing room at JCPenney’s because she was worried we’d get stuck there ?!
“What if we can’t get off ?!! ”
I wasn’t sure why my child worried, but many times she reminded me of myself. She had a tendency to overreact and definitely was oversensitive in most matters. From an early age I had noticed she cried about something as simple as a shoe not going on right, but she hadn’t truly outgrew it like I believed she would. I came to realize she was my special, sensitive, and sometimes anxious child that required a different kind of approach when it came to parenting.
As we walked into the large dorm at the church my seven year old ran excitedly ahead to greet her friends. My toddler tugged at my hand eager to taste the display of sweet treats, but I sensed the anxiety immediately. I turned rapidly behind me where my middle daughter stood a mere two steps behind me, and immediately I caught the overwhelmed anxiety on her face. She was only seconds away from crying, and I scooped her up speedily into my one open arm. I carried my crew to an empty corner and started to speak to my frightened four year old.
“Is it the crowd? Are you frightened? ” I asked.
She nodded confirmation with unspilled tears in her eyes, and I immediately worked to calm her anxious heart.
“You don’t have to be afraid. I’m here. And Jesus is always with you, ” I explained. And then we prayed together.
Within minutes she was fine, and that’s always how it was. She ran around excitedly with the other children. She giggled, she sang, she danced. She played and ate cookies. She was fear and anxiety free for the rest of the evening. I watched with pride as she smiled brilliantly, albeit shyly at the galas. She was my beautiful, brilliant girl. Her heart was bigger than Texas, and she loved people with an enormous, unconditional love. But sometimes she was anxious. It was hard for us both.
Long ago I realise my baby was special, more so than merely the typical “my kid is awesome kinda thing.” I think God constructed her a particular way because He has special plans for her life. Perhaps He constructed her sensitive so she could better relate to the tender and hurting parts of others. Sometimes I assure her thoughtfully watching people and I’m certain this is true. When the idea of this post was floating around in my head I paused mid-thought at the sound of my daughter across the house. I could hear the water running in the bathroom, and I could hear her tiny, musical voice carry through the dorm. She was talking to one of her plaything again, I assumed, seeing she had always been an imaginative, independent player. I walked up to the bathroom and heard her speaking from inside.
I don’t want anything for Christmas, God, but all the people to be happy.
I love you, God, more than fund or anything you can buy.
I walked back into the living room without interrupting her little dialogue, smiling as I sat down on the sofa. I prayed for that child a lot, that is certainly true. Heck, a lot of the time I simply prayed for my own sanity dealing with it all. But largely I pray to be simply the mother she needed. I figured God devoted her specifically to me for a reason, and despite the challenges I surely didn’t want to mess it up. So I often prayed for wisdom that God would show me exactly the best way to parent this special little star. Sometimes she freaked out big over little things, but other days she loved the little things bigger than I had ever seen.
* While I might experience some silent judgment or even unloving advice from some for this post, I wrote it in a sharing mode with the hope that my situation might construct someone else with an anxious child feeling less alone. I hope that you too can see the special calling the Lord has for your child. May we all raise them to the best of our abilities, and cling to His strength for the rest.