Okay, so I had a kind of revelation this weekend about my heightened anxiety levels. And it relates to a very strange parenting guidepost I use in certain situations:
Whatever you do, don’t do it like Dad did.
There are a lot of things I try to emulate in the way my Dad parented me. He did a great job in a lot of ways.
But there are also VERY CONCRETE ways in which his approach negatively impacted me in ways I sometimes still cope with.
For example: My Dad was very serious about grades/school. He thought we should have homework ever night and so if we didn’t, he would give us homework. But he was an engineer, not an educator, so his homework was traumatic and his “teaching” was non-existent. He had no patience and he had a short fuse. To say some of my most negative childhood memories surrounded my inability to understand something my Dad was “teaching” is an understatement.
So I lied. I lied about having homework EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. I would do things that looked like homework. For a lot of my elementary years that meant I was “practicing my handwriting.” But I also mindlessly copied vocabulary or re-did classwork as homework just to keep him from giving me homework. And if – GOD FORBID – I ever got a bad grade (it was rare) – I lied about it. And to this day I still have weird insecurity issues rooted in those moments in my childhood.
Now, when it comes to my kids and grades, I try to do everything exactly opposite of what he did. And because I’m so aware of how his decisions negatively impacted me, I end up spending way too much time over-analyzing my actions around my kid’s grades. Luckily, my kids have brains suited for our education system so grades aren’t a huge concern. But Wes hates school and often his bad grades are simply a reflection of that and we just had our first end-of-semester exams and he ask for my help and so for two weeks I was vibrating on high alert around his school and his grades, constantly overthinking every approach I made and thing I said, terrified I might somehow recreate any the things my Dad did. Normally I don’t think about my own parenting style/decisions that much…but grades are one of those things that trigger it in me because I’m so determined to not make the same decisions/mistakes my Dad did.
Here’s the thing, it turns out there are a few parenting issues that trigger this high-vibration anxiety response in me because my Dad handled it all so poorly during my teenage years. Some examples are: Drugs and alcohol (I knew nothing about either and it’s no wonder I didn’t die before I was old enough to drink), sex/protection/birth control (I knew stuff but didn’t know how to talk/ask about it so I ended up knocked up at 18), romantic relationships (I never had anyone to talk to about such things which mean I learned some things way too late in life) and social habits (even things like sleepovers confused the fuck out of my Dad who was raised poor and on a farm, and when he didn’t understand something he fought against it and it made him angry so I hid even the dumbest things from him just to keep him chill which mean a lot of things that are normal ended up stressing me out.)
Okay – now, remember how I said for 2 weeks the “GRADES/SCHOOL” high vibration trigger was in full effect because of Wesley’s exams? Well…the last month also had big and small examples from some of those other triggers too and so it occurred to me this weekend that I’ve been double/triple/quadruple level High Vibration parenting for the last month which really helps explain why my anxiety has been so hard to cope with and why I haven’t been sleeping and why I feel so freaking overwhelmed. Because for almost a solid month I have spent every moment worrying about certain parenting issues. And not just your general/normal “worrying” but my very specific high vibration worrying that comes when I’m trying not to replicate my Dad’s mistakes.
AND OF COURSE all of this happens as I’m also prepping for Christmas which also taps into the DO IT DIFFERENT FROM DAD well because he kinda hated shopping/presents and so it made me have all of these weird anxieties around Christmas as I try to make my kids enjoy it more than I did as a kid.
NO WONDER I HAVEN’T BEEN RELAXED IN A MONTH.
Of course, understanding the WHY of my anxiety does not really help me fix any of it. Because I can’t just tell myself, “Stop worrying you’re making the mistakes your Dad made,” because I am intimately aware of the results of some of those mistakes and I just desperately want to protect my kids from those issues and so I can’t stop worrying.
BUT I ALSO HAVE NO IDEA IF I AM DOING ANY OF IT RIGHT.
So this morning I’m trying to reflect on the fact that my kids tell me things I would have never told my Dad. My kids let me help them study. My kids come to me with hard questions. My kids are honest about a lot of challenges they’re facing. I’m sure there are things they don’t tell me, but I truly feel like I’ve fostered a relationship with them where they can tell me/ask me anything. And that right there is proof I’m not like my Dad.
Recently I had to go pick up one of my kid’s from a friend’s house because the teens got into some trouble and the parents thought they should be picked up. My other kid went with me to pick them up. Later, when we were rehashing the kid that went with me said, “I was actually amazed. You did such a fast reset on the drive over there. At first you were angry with them but you kinda talked yourself out of that anger and by the time they got in the car you were totally chill and just talking calmly making sure everything was okay.”
I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot this weekend because I think that’s when I started realizing that I do lately frequently exist in this high vibration mode. Because sometimes my instincts are to do things like Dad did, so I am constantly analyzing what I’m saying/doing during these “trigger” issues so that I can do a fast reset when I feel his response coming on. And I don’t do this around all parenting, but most of the triggers do occur at high frequency with teenagers and so lately It’s like a permanent state of mind.
I think I need to figure out how to turn that vibration down most of the time. When I’m in the crux of it, responding to the situation/questions/conversations…it’s okay to be vibrating high. But the problem is I spend the rest of the hours of the day rehashing/wondering/worrying about if I handled things right, how are they doing about the thing right now? What if I handled it poorly? What will the ripple effects be?
Like I worried about Wesley’s exams all day at work this week. WHAT GOOD DOES THAT DO? And I often find myself trying to predict the future in my kid’s lives when any of these trigger issues flare up. Like…I try to see the result of my handling of the situations on the 5-10 year plans. THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE! Why am I spending so much time trying to predict an impossible future?
ANYWAY…all of that is to say that I’ve worked out what is so different about my current anxiety/worry levels and what is the root cause of them. I just have NO IDEA how to remedy that fact.