Anxiety As a Parent
The Various States of “Scaredom”
article by Cindy G. Foust
Happy 38 month anniversary to the BayouLife community. I’m sure it has become quite obvious that one of my favorite things to do is make fun of myself. I have no problem using my life as the “butt of the column” most of the time, but I got to tell you, until I put this column to paper, I myself had been struggling, and this time it was no joke. Until the words started flashing across my screen, and I began my research in an effort to diagnose myself (I am certain every medical professional in the universe hates the Internet), I was considering that I might actually need an intervention. It also occurred to me that until I poured my heart out in the words of this column, that I might even need one of you to stage an intervention for me. So what’s the struggle? Where do I start?
I think I will start March 23, 1998, nearly 18 years ago. I, Cindy Foust, first time mom-to-be, waddled around like someone who had swallowed a Volkswagon Beetle, scared out of my “ever-loving mind” (thank you, Bitsy) thinking about having to deliver that same Volkswagon Beetle. At this particular juncture of my young adulthood, I had only had stitches one time, at the age of sixteen, and had to be held down by three parents, a nurse, a doctor, two orderlies and a sturdy set of arm restraints, to get four stitches in my knee. Get the picture? If not, does the phrase “scaredy-scaredy-scaredy cat” illustrate it for you?
Okay, where was I? Oh yes, I was scared to death about the pain I knew was about to ensue upon my delicate (that’s the laugh of the day) frame. But, as Mother Nature does in fact manifest herself when the baby is ready, I did, in fact, have my first child on March 24, 1998.
“Mild Scaredom” as we will label it was then replaced by another emotion, and we will call it “Insane Scaredom,” because now, I have this tiny living breathing baby (with jaundice) to take care of. What if I overdosed him on formula? What if I didn’t change his diaper enough and he got a rash? What if I didn’t hear him during the night, in my sleep deprived stupor? I’m telling you, fear once again ravaged my body.
As the years began to pass and one milestone led to another, I found myself in a state of “Constant Scaredom.” I cried for a week when I left him at kindergarten. His teacher actually called me to say she could see me stalking him from my car while he was at recess, and that I needed to lay off the Nancy Grace because no one was going to kidnap him. What’s worse, my fears continued to mount daily, and compounded with the fear that he would be abducted, I began to worry that I would let a curse word slip out and he would repeat it at school. Or that he wouldn’t be able to write his name. I’m telling you, readers, fear simply replaced fear.
Don’t get me wrong, these were happy days. But always on the fringe, lurking close by was the “Mature Scaredom” that I had morphed into, because my perpetual state of fright had simply been enhanced by Father Time.
What if I couldn’t help him with his studies? What if he suffered from low self esteem because he hated his red hair, or his ears or his bucked teeth? What if he were riding with this 22-year old babysitter (who was also a registered nurse) and they had a car accident? What if he choked on a lifesaver?
It occurred to me as I was sitting at his 8th grade graduation, literally biting my lip until it bled, that I might be reaching the stage of “Obsessive Scaredom.” Perhaps, I might need a counselor. Or medication. Or both. Because I’m sure as parents of pre-high school kids know, “Obsessive Scaredom” is only replaced by “Mild-Insane-Constant-Mature-Obsessive Scaredom.”
What if he has a wreck? What if a girl breaks his heart? What if he gets hurt on the field? What if he licks his butter knife when he’s on a date? What if I don’t like his date? Is this resonating with anybody in the BayouLife nation? Anybody? Or was I just plain nuts?
I’m probably going to get some really strange stares at the grocery store or the ballpark after the publication of this month’s column, but perhaps if I put these “years of fears” (if you think I am going to write a column without at least one rhyme, you are wrong) out there, maybe I would seem less irrational. Because the unmitigated truth is I would go back to every “era of fear” that I have traveled through, if I didn’t have to face the one I do now, and that’s “Broken Scaredom.”
That’s the only way I know to describe this new phase, this new era that is descending upon my home as my son prepares for his senior year. Oh, I know graduation is a year and a half away, but as these blessed 17 years have done, it will fly by like a speeding bullet. And as this transition begins (we just turned in his last school schedule and picked out his senior ring), so does this new branch of anxiety, when he will leave our home to start his life.
As I sat at my desk this month, looking out my window, my eyes welled with tears and my throat felt like it had a horseshoe in it when I swallowed. The struggle was real. My good friend Cyndi Tatum said to me recently that when her daughter got married and moved away, she was unprepared for the profound sadness she would feel, and she was really struggling with the fact that her family’s dynamic would never be the same. Did she use the word struggle? Could there be others out there just like me? As I continued to wallow in my somber mood, I crept back over to my research and began to read.
Honestly, in all these years, it has never dawned on me that there might actually be resources out there to help me manage my fears. Or even though I “co-parent” with some really great friends, that perhaps they suffered from “Scaredom” in much the same way I did. Or finally, could it be that being scared is just part of being a parent? Maybe the intensity of mine has been unhealthy at times, but they don’t give you a book at the hospital with directions on how to raise these kids. Of course it’s scary. If you’ve never been gripped with these fears or anxieties, I applaud you. If you have, as I suspect is the majority, then welcome to the column that has “outed” your struggle.
There are other parents just like you, trying to cope with these same fears. And while I don’t believe I will ever live without some element of “Scaredom” in my life, I appreciate a little better that being a scared parent is a perfectly natural thing, I just need to get a little better at managing it. Perhaps the struggle will be a little less “real.”