While her fear factor rages, my frustration rises. Why can't we for once just get one simple errand done without a nervous breakdown? After the dressing room, it's the elevator. She's not going in there; I'm not staying out. Only the greater fear of being left behind forces her into that big moving box, and she squeezes her eyes shut until we reach our destination.
Recently it was being outside the front door for five seconds while I remained inside to set the house alarm. I gave in to her insistence to stay with me, but once outside no sooner had I shuffled all five kids into the car than I realized I'd left my cell phone behind. "Please, buckle your little brothers into their car seats while I get my cell phone." Panic leaped into her eyes and she shoved her sister aside to jump from the van and follow close on my heels. "I told you, I need you to buckle the boys in. You are the only one who can do it!"
"But Mommy, are you going inside? Are you going to close the door?" I was already frazzled with the sheer task of getting five children out of the house at the hottest hour of the day and had no patience for this paranoia. How can the child who asks to walk outside the gate by herself every evening - while the rest of the family is inside - be the same one who is now panicking at the very idea??
Somewhat comforting (but not really) was the reassurance that my frustration is at least normal:
defined as "apprehension without apparent cause." It usually occurs when there's no immediate threat to a person's safety or well being, but the threat feels real.
Anxiety makes someone want to escape the situation — fast. The heart beats quickly, the body might begin to perspire, and "butterflies" in the stomach soon follow …
When anxieties and fears persist, problems can arise. As much as a parent hopes the child will grow out of it, sometimes the opposite occurs, and the cause of the anxiety looms larger and becomes more prevalent. The anxiety becomes a phobia, or a fear that's extreme, severe, and persistent.
A phobia can be very difficult to tolerate, both for kids and those around them, especially if the anxiety-producing stimulus (whatever is causing the anxiety) is hard to avoid (e.g., thunderstorms).
But the truth is that parenting a fearful child is a challenge. It is hard to balance sympathy with a sincere desire to push our child through that irrational fog of emotion into the land of reason. It is heartwrenching to witness our daughter's tears when she is embarrassed because she has broken down publicly, and because she hates being more fearful than other children half her age. As her mother, it is painful and humbling when my own lack of patience leads me to respond in ways that hurt rather than help this child I so love.