Throw out the Names


I’m always looking for perfection. This idea gets in the way of movement. Where is the perfect article to start my day with? I could write if I just read the right words. I could fix myself if I could just stick the right parameters around myself. And then I cast the net wider to capture my children. I could fix them if I had the right label, the right book, the perfect reply to their every action. Heck, I write parenting articles and talk to parenting experts for work, which I find to be fun. It’s delightful to talk to people about what they know.

Heck, maybe I should read a book about parenting an anxious child. I mean, I seem to have an anxious girl who is now ten. Perhaps I should catch up with understanding her brain by reading the book our doctor recommended?

I tried to read this book when I had the flu. Bad idea. The descriptions of very anxious kids made my brain race with worry. I put the book down. I picked it up last night while I was at swim lessons for my other daughter. God, I love the cover of the book. The striped tights, the way the girl’s feet point awkwardly inwards, the way it’s just her legs, no body necessary. Even I could handle parenting just part of a kid, one with no brain!

But then I start reading. Goodness, the book outlines a 3-month program that promises to change your anxious child, ease her mind until we can erase the word anxious from our vocabulary. It warns how you have to be committed to the task and your whole family should sign a contract committing to the task. Gulp. OK, I’ll just read the book so I can learn about the program, no contract needed.

But the first task is teaching your anxious child about the word anxious, giving her detailed descriptions of the different ways you can be anxious. Of course, you tell her 1 in 10 kids suffers from this trait, no worries, you are fine!

Jesus, I’m an anxious person and when I was a kid I read the medical dictionary until I had every illness in it. My mom hid the dictionary from me. It was a brilliant parenting move. If I tell my daughter about OCD, she might practice having OCD. She might stay up late wondering if she has it and maybe take a few breaks form worry to wash her hands.

This brings me back to my latest idea, which I have talked about here. What if a problem is not really a problem? What if my daughter’s anxiety is just part of her, like her fine hair that frames her beautiful face? What if I read about the best way to talk to my anxious girl but I leave the word anxious out of my description of my daughter? What if we love her the way she is, be with her when she is worried and can’t sleep, and help her do the hard things, telling her we are right her to help? What if I throw this parenting book on anxiety in the Goodwill pile?

One of my friends is a child psychologist. When I go out with her and a group of friends, we always end up talking about our kids. We turn to this expert and say things like, how do I parent my anxious kid? Every time she says, “Just love her.”

Just love her. I’m just going to love my girl, and throw the anxious label into the Goodwill pile, too. I hear you, I know that I need to read up on anxiety some, to figure out how to ease her angst when necessary. But I refuse to read her the medical dictionary. She doesn’t need to know the specifics of OCD. We can talk about how having dyslexia makes her worry about school, but does she need to know the tics she picks up to ease herself into the school day could be matched to medical jargon?

Just love her. Hug her when she is anxious about leaving for school. Hand her a Kleenex and talk about what she is looking forward to at school. Tell her it’s OK to cry. Hug her again. Just love her. Love what is in front of you. She is in front of you. All the books in the world won’t bring this moment back to me, the one where she is crying before she dives back into school. This is our moment to connect. To love. I shrug off the thought that parenting an anxious kid is so much work. I get to love her. Lucky me. No book necessary.




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