Thursday, May 8, 2014

Do They Still Make Smelling Salts?

Mothers always get the shaft, don't they?

It's like they can't do anything right.  Work while your kids are little, and you're neglecting them.  Stay at home, you're coddling them.  Send them to public school, your kids are gonna end up heathens.  Home school them, they're gonna be weird.

I absolutely believe that a fair portion of all this finger pointing and blaming is done by other parents and just about anyone who sees any little thing a tiny bit differently, but the majority?  The majority is done by us, the mothers, to ourselves.  The guilt.  The second-guessing.  The inner conflict.

I don't even think my husband knows what second-guessing is.  It is a completely foreign concept to his brain.  When he makes a decision, BOOM, that's it, that is his new reality.  He also doesn't worry about what other parenting philosophies might have to say about our style of discipline or how we spend time as a family or anything else because he just doesn't care.  Like, not even a little bit.

Me, though?  I worry.

For instance:  a couple weeks ago, we decided to order pizza for supper.  Derek suggested Adelaide be the one to make the order over the phone, which is good practice for a relatively shy kid who could use some practice interacting with the world at large.  She agreed pretty readily, which surprised me, but also used my written script as a crutch (yes, I made a script of how the conversation would probably go- this was to help prevent any over-the-phone panicked pizza crying, which might throw whatever teenager was on the other end of the line a bit).  She did great.  The pizza was ordered.  There was no panicking.  But as soon as she hung up the phone, Adelaide buried her face in a pillow and didn't come out for five minutes, no matter what we said.  She just needed a few minutes to have her delayed social interaction-induced freak out and its subsequent recovery.

I worry:  Did I make her this way?  Is it because I stay at home with her and her brothers?  Did she not get enough time with other toddlers when she was teeny?  Did she inherit this shyness from me?

It didn't help that the previous day I'd had a little panic attack of my own.  Derek had suggested I go to my favorite restaurant with some friends, which I wasn't about to pass up, so I invited a group of friends, expecting one or two to say yes, given the short notice.  Perfect for my small group comfort zone.  Instead, the affirmative replies kept trickling in.  And honestly, I was excited with each "Yes!"  Because by themselves, these women aren't scary.  These are my friends!  They are kind and lovely and funny.  My first thought was, "Eight!  Oh, how fun!"  And I may have performed a dramatic rendition of the theme song to Eight is Enough.  But as the day ticked by, my anxiety levels started to climb.  I felt nauseated.  My heart was beating so hard is felt like it was trying to launch my blood outside of my poor body, not just do its good old-fashioned circulating.  An hour before everyone was supposed to meet at my house, my fingertips were numb, and I was in my room, flapping my hands and engaging in some lamaze-style breathing exercises.  Fortunately for me, Derek is used to this kind of thing, and folded me into a hug for longer than 30 seconds (I recently told him about an article I read stating that research shows one of those feel-good neurotransmitters is released when one is held in an embrace for 30+ seconds.  He has since been very dutiful about hugging me for the prescribed time, possibly because he knows I need all the help I can get), petted my hair, and only half-patronizingly said things like, "You're okay, everything's going to be fine."  And everything was fine.  The food was delicious and the company wonderful.

Because of all this, I wonder if I'm consigning Adelaide to a lifetime of anxiety and nerves, even when it involves her own friends and she's the one who invited them out in the first place.

Ah, but then there's my mother.  My mom is social and has always had a gaggle of friends (whoop, whoop, Big and Louds!).  I can no more imagine my mom panic-jogging in place in her room and reaching for her inhaler before a social event than I can imagine me writing a post without a single parenthetical statement (isn't gonna happen).  She threw parties all the time when I was growing up.  Most of them were Crap Nights, but every once in a while she'd have a theme- OH, like the Miss America party!  That was one where a bunch of her friends would come over not to just to watch the Miss America pageant, but also dressed as a hilarious parody of their chosen state.  Food was eaten.  Contestants were made fun of.  Kansas was rooted for.  Strangely, the only costume I can remember with any clarity was Debby's; she dressed as Miss Arkansas, and I'm pretty sure she wore cut-off denim overalls with just a bra underneath and she mussed and tousled her short dark hair.  And she blacked out one of her teeth.  And spoke in a charming Ozark twang.

So if my mom, Miss Party Central, could produce me, Flaps Her Hands and Hyperventilates (that's my Indian name, you know), then perhaps there's hope for Adelaide after all.


  1. There is so much here I want to comment on. I'm trying to limit myself.

    I love your exercise of having your child call to order the pizza. This was one of the main tasks that I applaud Boy Scouts for promoting - requiring kids how to communicate with the 'outside world' and especially with adults.

    Sometimes I still use a written script for phone calls. I often must rehearse what I am going to say in my head. And sometimes after the phone call I have to do the adult equivalent of putting my face in the pillow, which is to eat Turkey Hill Chocolate Nutty Moose Tracks Ice Cream.

    I didn't know why I felt so anxious about placing phone calls (I have no anxieties about answering the phone, just making the call myself) until I read "Quiet" by Susan Cain and "Introverts in the Church" by Adam McHugh. I don't like placing people (especially children) in boxes, according to some list of personality traits. But for me, reading those books, learning the traits of an introvert and realizing that I am one and that my way of operating is perfectly valid was an eye-opener for me, and helped me in parenting my kids.

    I did not say to any of my kids "You are an introvert." or "You are shy" but these books helped me to know how to give them affirmation for being the way they are. When the scoutmaster told my son he was not leader material, I had lots of resources to show my son that 'quiet' people can be great leaders. When my daughter came home not energized but exhausted from a big party, I told her (without putting the label 'introvert' on her) that she is probably the kind of person who needs quiet time to reenergize after being around a lot of people.

    And, yeah, a party of more than 8 is just frustrating to me. How can I really get a chance to listen deeply to each one?

    Okay, I'll stop.

  2. Hmm . . . are there people who make phone calls without rehearsing what they're going to say?! I have to make one today, to someone I want to hire to take the winter cover off our pool, and I've thought through that conversation several times already. I envy anyone who doesn't have to do this!

    Emma's school has required that the kids make phone calls to businesses for several projects over the years --they have to write out a script, and then make the call. I think at Adelaide's age doing something like that is absolutely amazing! Really, she's probably going to be just like your mom --who, by the way, I'd like as a friend. I'd hate to host those parties, but attending one every couple of years sounds like a lot of fun :-)

  3. I rehearse phone calls and love a good party (although the older I get, the more nervous I become first) and I had to laugh at myself and make 3 attempts before finally making a decent voice mail message at work last week.
    I think A will be just fine. She might be an introvert, she might be a party-lover, but she will be just fine. :)

  4. PS: At work this week, I looked into the first aid kit (which was horribly ancient) and found a bottle of smelling salts!


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