The Scariest Thing of All – Part 2

My fear has changed since having kids.  Keeping my children and family safe is at the top of my list. This recently led to an epiphany for me on how I differ from others in how I deal with stress (or fear or anxiety).

When we went camping a few months ago, a lightning storm unexpectedly arrived. The thunder was loud and lightning was getting closer. As my husband was tending to the tent and campfire he was building with our oldest son my anxiety went through the roof.  I didn’t experience a gradual increase in anxiety.  The thunder boomed, my anxiety shot up and I immediately thought, we need to get inside. Our car was parked nearby and I felt this was much safer than being outside. Our youngest son was upset by the thunder and asked to go into the car. We went into the car and I tried to wait as patiently as I could for my husband and older son to arrive.  It took them several minutes and a lot of nonverbal communication between my husband and I (picture me giving him the “what are you doing?” and “get over here now” looks). My husband wasn’t pleased, but eventually complied and they got into the car.  While I thought it was obvious we needed to get in the car my husband didn’t feel the same. He didn’t appreciate my anxiety because he wasn’t experiencing the same thing I was.

I would love to tell you I came to this realization on my own, but I didn’t. Someone shared some very good insight with me.  People experience stress (which takes many forms including anxiety or fear) in different ways. Some confront stress, take it on and work to get through it. Others avoid it altogether. Simply put, some people handle stress by taking action, others by inaction.

When you and your spouse disagree about something, each of you thinks you’re right, and it’s common to try to coerce your spouse to your way of thinking. Except it doesn’t work and can lead to unwanted compromise and resentment.

I experience fear in real-time.  I trust my gut. I do not have an off button or a way to avoid feeling it. It is front-and-center when it occurs and can get very intense very quickly depending on how fearful I am.  My husband doesn’t experience stress the way I do, and we’re learning how to better communicate what’s really going on which each other when we experience stress, and what we can do to meet each other’s needs.

It’s not easy, but it’s needed. I realize I can no longer expect him to feel what I’m feeling, but need to make it clear to him that I’m experiencing stress (e.g. I am getting very uncomfortable being outside with this lightning and thunder).  If he is unwilling to share my stress, I need to be clear on how he can help me feel better (e.g. can we get in the car for the next 15 minutes until the storm passes?).  It’s little tweaks for us to better communicate and understand each other.  It’s about feelings (talk about scary!) and being confident enough to know when you are experiencing them and when they’re not.

How do you handle stress?  Do you take action or do you avoid dealing with the situation?

By not taking action, do your family members experience stress?

The Scariest Thing of All – Part 1

There is a lot about parenthood that scared me when I first became one.

  • How will I care for the baby – feed, diaper, dress, bathe, soothe?
  • How will I take care of my house – shopping, preparing, cleaning?
  • How will I take care of my husband – be attentive, connect, enjoy?
  • How will I take care of myself? [Notice there are no examples – I didn’t have any example when I first became one, I didn’t know what taking care of myself looked like]

In the beginning, my top priority was to keep my baby alive and healthy. The realization that my husband and I were now responsible for this precious being was terrifying. The fear and anxiety I had were a result of this being something new I didn’t have much practice in, and an understanding of what a massive responsibility I had in raising my child.

What used to give me anxiety before my child before, which quickly waned once my son arrived, was keeping up my house.  Spotless countertops and everything being in its place just didn’t happen. I experienced some discomfort over the situation, but had to modify what I got stressed out about or I would be a mess all the time.

My husband and I have been a good team, but it hasn’t always been the smoothest of sailings. When things aren’t smooth it can feel scary.  What’s going to happen to us?  What’s going to happen to our family if we don’t figure this out? Etc. Occasionally, we’ve needed to regroup, reevaluate and reconnect to get our relationship back on track.  Not always easy to do with busy schedules and little ones to raise, but we make working on our relationship one of our priorities and I’m comforted by our commitment to see things through.

I have blogged much about taking care of your self and spend a good deal of time on this in my book and when I’m speaking to parenting groups. Despite the popular belief that the more you sacrifice the better parent you are, the reality is the better you are at taking care of yourself the better parent and partner you will be. Yes, you may be scared of being seen as selfish, but there is nothing selfish about it and therefore nothing for you to fear.

The scariest thing of all for me now is not being in control. I understand that I can only control my own actions. As much as I want to influence the actions of others I can’t control what they say, how they behave or decisions they make, regardless of the impact on my family and I.  I love life and want my kids to enjoy it as well, so I try not to get myself too concerned with this. If I did, it could be paralyzing.  Instead I try to be more self-aware starting with my own words and deeds. How I speak to my children, spouse, friends, relatives, co-workers, other parents, and people I encounter everyday?  Am I treating them the way I want to be treated? Am I living my life in a way that is healthy for my family and I?  If not, what will I do to make the change that is needed.

Control is powerful, but something each of us own.  It’s nothing to be scared of when it’s ultimately in your hands to change.

To Be Continued…

Fall-ing in Love

I love fall. The first hints of crispness in the air, a hint of colder temperatures coming and the leaves changing. It was beautiful and I’m reminded of the beauty I’m surrounded by in nature with each passing season.

I recently visited Stowe, VT with friends. The connecting time was invaluable. The surroundings made it that much more special. Gorgeous red, yellow, orange and green leafs everywhere; pumpkins, warm cider and maple products around; the first fire in the fireplace since spring; and football on TV.  It took me to a nostalgic place reminding me of my childhood where my love of fall was born. Getting relief from the warm Florida weather, going to football games with family and friends, being cold and needing a blanket and a warm drink to stave off the cooler air. It was a special time.

Someone asked me how my trip was.  I responded “Stowe was all the things I love about fall in one place.” How often do we experience that?

I sometimes wonder how my children experience fall. Do they get as much enjoyment out of going to the pumpkin patch each year as I do?  Do they look forward to pumpkins carvings, deciding on Halloween costumes, trick-o-treating, and keeping warm with layered clothes and a hot chocolate or apple cider like me?

I’m not looking forward to the leaves being gone from the trees back home, or the rain and colder temperatures that will be around for many months to come, but I have a wonderful memory I can go back to when needed and new ones getting added with my family all the time.

If that doesn’t work, a cup of hot cider should do it.

Uno!

My childhood memories of playing games is vast: Sorry, Simon, Merlin, Dark Tower, Monopoly and Uno to name a few. I enjoyed them as a child, but my enjoyment seems to fade as I got into my teens. My Mom would suggest we do a “Family Night” or “Game Night” when I was a teenager and the thought of it made me cringe. Boring, I would think, that’s what kids do. As a parent now, I better appreciate what my Mom was looking for. To spend uninterrupted time together as a family, and to enjoy each other’s company before my sisters and I were out of the house.

My sons have accumulated many board games over the years and I often thought they would end up with layers of dust on them, never used. I envisioned myself requesting a game night when they were older and was preparing myself for objections and disappointment. My kids surprised me recently when they asked to actually play the games. We started with a board game, Snail’s Pace, and really enjoyed ourselves. While we didn’t make it an official “Family Night” or “Game Night” we have had many unofficial impromptu game dates since.

My oldest son is really into Legos and I stumbled upon Creationary, which is a Legos-based game. You roll a dice, draw a card and build a place or thing out of Legos in a given amount of time. It really is a game you can enjoy at any age.

My youngest son is really into Lightning McQueen and any car from the movie Cars. I stumbled upon Cars 2 Uno in our neighborhood Target and knew I had to get it. I loved Uno as a kid and thought perhaps my kids might one day too. In the interim, I knew my youngest would love a Cars-related item with our other games. As I guessed, my youngest was excited about the cards, but didn’t have much interest beyond looking at them. To my surprise, my older son was intrigued with the cards and wanted to learn how to play right away. My husband and I have played dozens of Uno games with my son since. He seems to enjoy the game as much as I did when I was a kid.

I had no idea how much fun playing games could be. What I enjoy most is the uninterrupted fun with my family enjoying each other’s company.

A note to my Mom: Sorry, I wasn’t more open to this as a teen!

What activities or games have created uninterrupted fun for your family?