I admit that I’ve started looking forward to a little more “me” time now that she’s growing up and making her own friends. Life with five kids has actually become more manageable. Could it be that I might finally get away with my girlfriends for a weekend?
How about a weekend with my husband? In 20 years of marriage, we’ve spent only two nights away from our kids. Dr. Phil would have a few things to say about that.
But then something changed. One day when I dropped Haley off at school, she acted nervous. “You won’t forget me?” she asked. Shocked at her question, I assured her I would never forget her. I never had and never would. I was a bit embarrassed. Other moms within earshot probably thought I must have forgotten her before, but I never had.
The nervousness before school became a habit, and it got worse. I picked her up from school one day, and I could tell she had been crying. I asked her why, and she told me she thought I wasn’t coming to pick her up, but I was outside the classroom as usual, waiting for her.
Again, I was irritated because other kids and moms were looking at her puffy eyes and splotchy face, and assuming I was late or had done something to provoke her emotional breakdown. What was happening? I interrogated her in the car, trying to get to the bottom of this irrational fear taking over my daughter’s life. She finally told me told me that she was afraid I was going to die.
I sat there for a moment, feeling like I was suddenly in “The Sixth Sense.” It was creepy. Was she having some sort of premonition? I assured her that I was healthy. I try to keep in shape and eat right. I have no real health problems other than the normal ailments that plague 50-year-olds – gradual blindness, hearing loss and oh, my knees can predict when rain is coming – but other than that, I’m doing just fine.
She told me that when she hears sirens while she’s at school, she thinks I’m involved. Now as crazy as that sounds, I began talking to other moms and found out that anxiety in children is very common; in fact, it’s an epidemic. Just watch the nightly news. If you base the state of the world on that alone, it’s a very scary place. We don’t watch the news together anymore.
A good friend suggested I buy a book for Haley entitled “What To Do When You Worry Too Much.” It has helped Haley realize that other kids have these fears too, and that was a huge relief to her. But the book wasn’t enough. The other morning I woke with a start. Haley was standing by my bed with her finger under my nose. “What are you doing?” I asked, sitting up.
“I thought you were dead. I was making sure you were breathing.” Let me just say that I almost did die. What a way to wake up! Now I am beginning to feel anxiety about dying. I drive extra carefully and make sure the gas stove is turned off, and I clean my dryer lint trap way too much now. I take my vitamins, eat more fish and have tried to cut down on beer. (I failed that one.) It’s like seeing the Grim Reaper in your rear view mirror!
According to Haley’s teacher, my daughter has become increasingly distracted and spends most of the day watching the clock. She has occasionally suffered small breakdowns, and although the other kids are sensitive to her weepiness, it’s still a disrupting factor. All my reassuring words and hugs couldn’t stop her fear of me dying.
It was time to seek help, and we did. We see a counselor, who has given us some tools and tips to help her overcome her fears – and they’re beginning to work. Thank God.
Looks like that oncoming train has been derailed.