The Worry Makes the Wart

My little girl had a worrisome lump on the back of her neck. It wasn’t a wart, if that’s what you are thinking. So I called the doctor and insisted she be seen the same day, because that is what helicopter parents do. I’m not a full-time helicopter parent, but I do reserve that right in the case of neck lumps. FYI.

All day, I would reach over and check the lump to see if it got larger or felt feverish. I made her rest. She ate popsicles and chicken soup, because these things solve neck lumps, naturally. She basked in the attention. I felt my blood pressure creeping ever higher as we neared the appointment, where I was certain that she would have to give blood and pee, as well as disrobe for invasive testing. I scheduled a babysitter for the other children. I knew if the other children witnessed such offenses, then I would be dragging them into the doctor kicking and screaming for all future appointments.

Lunch time passed and I set an alarm to be sure I started readying the children, packing diaper bags and snacks for the sitter’s house, scrubbing slimy faces, etc. Not to mention loading the vehicle, which is definitely a ten minute process. I packed the iPad for the lump-afflicted child, but not before researching neck lumps. Neck lumps can be just about anything, but WebMD places Lymphoma and Leukemia at the top of the list. Naturally, I texted and called close relatives. The helicopter momma had definitely lifted off.

The time for loading the vehicle came, I delegated tasks to be more efficient. We walked onto the porch and the girls headed towards my husband’s vehicle. Wait. My husband’s vehicle? No, that’s not right. We don’t fit in there. There are no car seats. I don’t have his keys.

The lesson here is that worry gets you nowhere. Literally, we were going nowhere. I had spent my whole day worrying and still missed the one thing I needed to have – transportation.

When I shared that I had been a total worry wart to my mom later, it dawned on me why they use that term. The worry makes you a wart. Worry-wart.

In the end, the doctor suspected cat scratch fever, of all things. He started her on an antibiotic to see if the lump would improve. It seems they are not eager to poke innocent little girls with needles or force them into large magnetic machines for lengthy periods of time.

Who knew?

Talk to your Brain, because the Heart is Listening

For some time, I’ve dealt with my own monstrous inner dialogue. My brain has not always been kind to me. My thoughts, though meant to motivate me or spur me on, did (and many times still do) utterly crush me.

My own faults aside, I have worries for my children and I desperately want them to be aware of their inner dialogue. How do you help a child realize they even have an inner dialogue? Teaching them how to converse with it and care for themselves? No clue.

In what was either a moment of insanity or brilliance, I went for it. We were driving back from mommy/kiddo date time, when I decided to venture into this mystical unknown territory with an 8 year-old. She had just remarked at how she wasn’t very good at something. I knew this was one of those times where her brain was after a certain result – her working harder, but she was unaware of its intent or potential harm.

You see, when my brain tells me that I am a failure and I need to suck it up – this is usually an indicator of my desire to do better. However, it only makes me shut down, which only makes my brain get louder and nastier and downright bully-ish. My brain is driven, at times, by my amygdala (we can call her Amy for short). Long ago, Amy was responsible for keeping us safe from bears, storms and other imminent dangers. Today, when Amy is driving the bus (aka our brains), she can be a little overzealous, because bears and storms and nature aren’t really threats to me today. Today’s threats include screwing up my children’s lives, eating unhealthily and taking a nap (vs. exercising). When I screw one of these up, Amy gets all riled because I am going against what I know is right and safe and good. She sends messages to my brain that send it into def-con 7 mode (otherwise known as military general mode). When the military general takes over, its like boot camp. He’s yelling “Get up fatty and eat Kale!!!” at the top of his lungs. Meanwhile, my heart is reverted to the fetal position and is chanting “I’m fat, I’m fat, I’m fat.”

This gets us nowhere. Literally, nowhere.

I usually just end up eating donuts.

Amy, my brain, my heart? We need to have a conversation, peace talks if you will.

This was the concept I was trying to explain to my little one. I shared all of the above with her and then said (like it was so easy), “Sometimes you need to talk back to your brain.”

She started giggling and looked at me like I had lost my mind. So I demonstrated…

“Hey brain, you are so right that I need to do something healthy right now, but calling me fat hurts me and I don’t want to do what you say.” And then my brain says…

“Oh, I was just trying to help, because I know you want something different and Amy is really concerned that you are not going to get it sitting on your ass.” Generalisimo Brain says.

“Yeah, Amy is right that I won’t, but I need you to talk to me more nicely. And let Amy know that one slip-up does not equal death.” My heart says.

“Okay, I’ll let her know that this is not the end of the world. Also, you can do this. Getting up isn’t hard. I know you have done harder things.” Suddenly, my brain is sending the right messages to everybody.

So that’s why I talk back to my brain. She’s smart, but she’s getting a lot of messages from different places and can be hard to figure it all out.

“Does that make sense, kiddo?” I ask.

Hysterical laughter erupts from the backseat.

Well, at least I tried….

Me First, Then You

In college, I saw a band which had a white dude frontman featuring an Afro. He was hilarious and it was worth every penny spent to see them perform. One of his songs included a crowd sing-a-long on the album – so of course, this had to be done live. Except he assumed no one had even heard the song and made them repeat after him. Each time, he would say, “Me first, then you” about 8 times, just in case things were unclear. They weren’t. We all sounded “brilliant. Just fabulous. Really quite professional,” he said. “But just too quiet so let’s do that again. Me first, then you. Got that? Me first, then you.” And so on and so on. It was a great show.

Why is this important?

Well, for eleven years I have been trying to get my kids to put their clothes in the hamper. Yesterday, I walked into my bathroom and saw all of my clothes on the floor, because I did not have a hamper. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I had bought hampers for the girls last week, which were once again sitting empty while their clothes littered various rooms in the house.  Fuming, I began piling my clothes into the tub, no joke, so that I could clean the floor.

“This is ridiculous.” I grumbled. “I don’t even have a hamper and they do! But they don’t even use it. So unfair! Next time I’m buying myself a hamper first!”

Me first, damn it!

Que epiphany music.

Me first, then you.

They can’t learn the song if I don’t sing it first. Metaphorically speaking that is.

I ran up to Big Lots and purchased myself a $4 hamper of my choice. My bathroom has been pristine since.

And the girls’ bathroom?

Still a dump.

But I’m a lot less upset about that since my bathroom is clean.

Me first, then you.

On a Larger Scale

This had me thinking a great deal about my eleven years of parenting and feeling exceptionally guilty.

For years, I had my bedroom and bathroom under quarantine from my children. I reasoned this was simply because they were MINE. Yet, as I looked closer, I realized they were sectioned off almost entirely because I was ashamed, concerned for their safety (Hello, manicure scissors! I’m looking at you!) and because I didn’t want them to come in there when dad and I were doing the business.

The trouble with all of that is that they only saw things from a distance AND I stopped maintaining those spaces. Literally, I have spent 10 years of my life in a bedroom that resembles a storage facility more than an oasis.

And this is only the physical representation.

What other areas of my life had I stuffed away from my children, because they were embarrassing, unsafe or not age-appropriate?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in not sharing your sexual escapades from college and tales of your father’s abuse with three-year-olds.

I’m also a fan of sharing with your children in simplified terms. When I went to the hospital for suicidal ideation, I told my children that mommy had a sickness that causes her to be sad a lot. My stay in the hospital helped me to feel those feelings and learn how to handle them better.

The truth is this was a step of freedom for my family, because we took my mess and made it approachable, understandable and even safe.

And this is just one area.

I guess I’m hoping that everyone reading this will go buy themselves a hamper so they can clean up their dirty laundry.

Me first, then you.