Time is my friend, and my children’s friend. The other night when I came up to tell Lola goodnight I was in a hurry. Bubba had been traveling a lot lately and we had some catching up to do on our couch-snuggling, Breaking Bad routine. He was waiting downstairs and I was hoping for a smooch on Lola’s forehead, a tug of the covers to snug her in and a quick exit. She asked me to give her a meditation. I whined.
Dude, it’s late. You should have thought of that before you goofed off for 15 minutes instead of brushing your teeth and getting your pajamas on.
I want to go down and hang out with Dad. He’s waiting.
You know that if you want a meditation, you have to be in bed before 9….
Saturday night when I made the trek to Eve’s room to tell her goodnight she stuck out her tongue for me. She has been fighting a chest cold for nearly two weeks now, no fever but congestion and a wet cough that she swears doesn’t hurt. “It’s just annoying.” She has been sidelined from her cross-country team and is anxious to feel better, so every night I plug in the humidifier and all day long I pump her full of homeopathic remedies and probiotics and hot tea. But now something is going on with her tongue.
It’s thrush, I tell her.
An overgrowth of yeast. Your immune system is wiped out from this virus and it can’t compete with the yeast.
She panicked. Ran to her laptop while I set up the humidifier for the night and shooed the cat out of her bathroom and looked up thrush online. She immediately jumped to the part where it talks about spreading to your esophagus in some cases, requiring an endoscopy or x-ray to diagnose. Eve has health-anxiety that I suppose relates to how sick Bubba was when she was little – always in the hospital for something or other – and she nearly always jumps into the deep end of worst-case scenario when she doesn’t feel well.
“What if I have to go to the hospital? I don’t want a tube down my throat! I can’t miss a ton of school and this is horrible!”
I rolled my eyes.
Seriously? You will be fine. I’ll do some research tonight and figure out how to handle it. We’ll tackle it tomorrow. You’re not going to need an endoscopy. Good night.
In both instances I felt guilty within five minutes.
In both instances the issue was my own inability to distance myself from the discomfort of my children.
I felt Lola’s stress acutely that night when she asked for a meditation and it was hard for me to be with her and hold space for it right then. I was feeling my own stress and, ironically, the meditation would have done wonders for both of us, but I reverted back to the “suck it up” school of parenting I know so well (it having been modeled by my own parents) and walked out.
Eve’s anxiety ratcheted up my own on Saturday. Not that I truly believed she was seriously ill, but to see my usually-confident and capable daughter so worried threw me off. I used the sarcasm my father was so famous for to make her feel small and shut her up.
In both cases, the next morning brought clarity.
When Lola asks me to be present with her, to help her ground herself, the best thing I can do is reinforce that. Instead of shaming her for seeking help or telling her to do it alone, I need to embrace the opportunity to teach her that this is a powerful thing to do for herself. Never again will I dismiss her request for a meditation before bedtime.
When Eve reacts so powerfully to something I say, I need to acknowledge her feelings instead of making fun of them. I ought to have said, “I know you’re worried right now and I understand that. Is there anything I can do to help ease your fears?”
I am so sorry that I treated my girls like this and I know I’ve done it many times before. I can only hope that from now on, I take a moment to remember what that night of sleep brought to me in terms of understanding how to support my children when they are asking for help, even if it doesn’t seem like a convenient time for me.