Helen has pretty significant anxieties about a lot of things, that often interfere with her ability to enjoy being a kid. She’s terrified of Santa Claus, for example. Completely and totally terrified. At first we thought it was the hat/glasses/beard/mustache, but I think it’s just morphed into an irrational fear. She’s passed it to her sister. Faaabulous.
She’s afraid of loud noises. Always has been.
We might go horseback riding this weekend, and she gets emotional if we talk about it, because she really doesn’t want to go. Jones Farm has had horses for the past week or so, in one of their pastures. We pass them on the way to and from school every day, so I point them out and talk about how soft horses’ noses are and how they like having their noses rubbed. And how the horses at the place where we’re going will be very nice. She asked me a lot of questions about what would happen if the horse tried to throw her off. It makes me sad that her imagination comes up with this stuff, because I want her to wait before she gets old, you know?
A month or so ago I asked her if she minded if I did some of the worrying, because I wanted her to just be a kid and not worry quite so much. She started to cry and said no, because I’m not good enough at worrying.
Perhaps Helen’s biggest anxiety obstacle is her shyness, which unfortunately we’ve enabled. She does not transition well when she arrives anywhere that other people already are. It doesn’t matter if there’s only ONE person there, and it doesn’t matter if she loves and adores them. She takes a while to warm up and stop hiding behind me. When I take her to any of her grandparents’ houses, she clings to my legs and hides for a good 10-15 minutes. If people come here or we’re the first people somewhere, she does fine. Well, relatively, anyway. She transitions better if she has time to acclimate to a space before other people inhabit it with her, I guess.
I try to be kind, but unfortunately my kindness has backfired and allowed her to continue this behavior long past the times when she really should. Her separation anxiety from me gets worse instead of better, and it’s very emotionally taxing for me to watch my child agonize like this. I don’t even want to imagine what it must be like inside her head.
I’m told that almost always after I leave, she’ll relax and turn into the Helen I know, until there’s a new situation that sends her scrambling back into fear, pulling the hair from her left temple down across her lips for comfort. But sometimes, sometimes I get a blessing and get to see her interacting with other children in the same way that she is at home. Vacation Bible School at church this summer was once such incidence, and I was there most nights of it helping with the crafts, and taking pictures when we weren’t busy.
I love it when I get to see this face on her. It’s the “Mommmmmmm” face that so many parents hate, but right now? Right now I love it. I love that deep down inside I can see a strong kid, stretching and growing and learning how to be independent. And sometimes I capture it in a photograph.