Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Giving in to Fear
When you have children, "worrying" takes on a whole new meaning. My sister-in-law was lamenting to me the other day that she had no idea how much she'd worry about her newborn baby. They had recently spent a week in the hospital because of a virus and it had made her realize just how drastically different life is after parenthood. She said, "Everyone always says you love your baby more than anything else, but until you have a baby yourself, you just have NO IDEA how true that is." We talked for a few minutes about the realization that we'll never be able to protect our kids from everything - that if you don't make a conscious effort not to, you'll give in to fear.
A parent's greatest fear, of course, is that our beautiful children will be taken from us. But really, if we're not careful, we can live in a mild state of fear every day.
My oldest daughter is 5 and has grown very needy, mopey, and even more emotional than normal. I can look at her the wrong way and she breaks into tears. Her sister can threaten to hit her and she'll shrink back and scream. I, of course, respond in those moments in hopes of immediately influencing her behavior. But lately, I've noticed those moments are plagued with concern. I'm worried that she's going to be a wuss. That she's never going to be confident. That she will never stand up to people being mean or rude to her. That she will never be able to deal with any difficult situations.
I find myself pouring over books and the internet looking for some parenting trick that will solve this particular problem. I start doubting whether or not I should be homeschooling her. I notice myself worrying about her 10 years from now and what kind of teenager she'll be. I feel myself becoming anxious and even more frustrated when the same behavior happens again.
But there is really only one problem in all of this: my own fear.
The present moment does not require that I solve some perceived problem of the future. I don't need to figure out how to keep her from crying when she's 15. I don't need to figure out how to avoid possible embarrassing situations that she may or may not face in the next month, year, or decade. The present moment simply requires that I stay true to my values as her mother. When I give into fear, I forget that I already know the answer to whatever the moment requires. Usually, it involves love and guidance, a hug, and some reassurance that all is right with the world.
I'm not saying that if you stop giving into fear, parenting will be a breeze. Parenting is hard as hell. And for good reason. But I think that, sometimes, we make it even harder on ourselves.
So when you feel the fear coming on, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the only thing requiring your attention is the present moment you find yourself in. The Buddha said it best: