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Jul 13

Success looks different when you’ve had a child with severe anxiety

Every one of my kids benefits from having older siblings.  Except for Jessie, obviously, and I’m sure it’s only one of the reasons she’ll end up resenting me as an adult.  But yesterday, I did everything differently with Julianna and karate, and count the day as a total success – and if I hadn’t been down the anxiety road with Sam, I would have walked out of the class completely discouraged and probably wouldn’t have gone back.

Julie had wanted to take karate for a while now.  With Sam as a big brother, I suppose it makes sense… but it was still a little disconcerting.  Karate.  I had enrolled her in the Terrific Twos dance class, and now that I’m looking back at it, I stopped going a lot earlier than I should.    She was miserable in dance class, clingy and scared and was begging to go home five minutes after we got there.  Every other little girl was happy to dance, to answer the teacher back, and to just off their mom’s lap and not look back.   We dropped out of dance, and decided to wait until she was older before starting another activity.

Over the past few months, she’s started asking more and more for karate classes.   Frequently the request would be followed by “so I can learn more karate moves” and she kick at the air or move her feet really fast while punching out in front of her.

So… karate.  I was hesitant, especially after the dance debacle.  I found a karate class that was relatively inexpensive, and even better, allows me audit a class before I enroll, and I can pay by the class, as opposed to enrolling for a 13 week class.   It was for 3-5 year olds, at the local YMCA.   When I told Julie that we’d be going, she was delighted.  For about ten minutes.  Then she started rethinking the whole thing, and promptly decided she didn’t really want to go to karate.  Sam valiantly offered to go with her and watch, and after that, karate sounded a whole lot better.  Because in Julie’s world, everything sounds better if Sammy’s along with her.

Her class started at 8:15, which is super early for this girl during the summer.  I woke her up and carried her to couch, she promptly wiggled off me and staggered back into bed.  I gave her another half hour, and then she was good to go.   Got dressed, got  her a little sports bottle and packed she and Sam into the car.  We walked into the Y, and met her instructor.  She high fived him, and was totally excited.  We walked into class and she got a little quiet.  She took her shoes off, and lined them up with the rest of the class, and then… crawled into my lap and stayed there for the rest of the class.

I still count it as a success.  Because she walked in on her own feet with a smile, she actively engaged with the instructor and followed directions (in that she put her shoes alongside everyone else’s).  She sat thru the class with a minimum of complaining, and high fived the instructor at the end, and agreed that she’d come back.  The best part is that the whole rest of the day, she was so happy to tell everyone that she had gone to karate class.  She practiced moves with me (I’ve got that whole block/punch thing down), and you’d never know, unless you were me, that she actually hadn’t done a damn thing in class.

Sam taught me about anxiety.  About how to manage it, how to get past it, and how to persevere, even when it looks like a total disaster.  Instead of seeing that she didn’t participate in class – I’m able to see that she walked in on her own and talked to the instructor, participated a tiny bit, and agreed to go again.  I might not get her to participate for a few weeks, and that’s okay.  I’m so proud of her for wanting to go, for trying something new, and for doing her best.  Two years ago, I would have been completely discouraged, and thinking that I was a failure as a parent because my kid was sitting on my lap, miserable and not doing what all the other kids were doing.  I know better now.   And I bet a few months from now, Girlfriend will be karate chopping like a champ.

Have your kids ever gone thru something like this?  What counts as success for you, when it comes to kids and activities?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. reedup

    Thanks for sharing. My grandmother had 9 children and seemed sure of one thing: Each child is unique and needs to be parented uniquely. This is a perfect reminder of that.

  2. melissaannecohen

    reedup – I think you’re right, and that’s one of the harder things to remember.  I can’t tell you how many activities we tried with my son that ended up being total fiascos because he was so anxious.  I wish I had known then what I know now (and how many times have I said that as a mom…..)

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