A is for Anxiety

I can tell by my horrible handwriting (I wrote this one on paper first) that my insides are freaking out–all the brain parts that control the nerve bits and pump the heart valves and give me this ridiculously shaky feeling. You know, the panic one.

My sister and I talked on this for a while. On overwhelming-ness and underwhelming-ness and how sometimes, the simplest of things, like breathing, become terrifying to the point that you can’t breathe at all. Not now. Maybe not ever. But it isn’t forever. That is the plane ticket out of gripping terror–knowing, remembering, convincing yourself that it is only for right now. And it’s true, but I knew right away this morning when the dream I was having felt realer than real that it was going to be a day.

I sent my tallest boy to Kindergarten this week. It’s precious and it’s scary and he is in love with the whole school business already which is lovely beyond words. And I want to bottle his enthusiasm and make him drink it in later years when I know it will become impossible to get him thrilled about school. For him to rave about getting high fives in gym class, playing a tambourine in music, or receiving a cheesy note from his mom in his lunch box. I know this is a special little glowing moment of childhood where the world is magic and everything is new. But all I can think is how it must be so scary. Everything is just so brand new to him. It’s his first little bite of independence, but, to my surprise, he is gobbling it up.

He’s already reading, but now he’ll learn to spell. To add and subtract. To be social. To speak in front of a room full of people whom his teacher lovingly refers to as “our friends”.

As you age they stop becoming that, I realized. A moment of despairing poignancy struck me as childhood sweetness can sometimes do. The crippling fact that as we age, the magic fades. Everyone stops being your friend–not everyone, but everyone. In a few years they’ll be simply classmates. And then jocks, preps, nerds, geeks. A few years down the road and they’ll be sales people, pharmacists, engineers, police officers, and, unfortunately, some of them will become criminals, too. Now, in adulthood, the people who surround us are mere acquaintances. Somewhere along the way we stop, as a whole, referring to them as friends. And somewhere in there, seemingly light years from the Kindergarten classroom, A no longer represents Alligator and Apple. A is for Adult. A is for Anxiety.

Does it really have to be that way? It’s not so simple anymore as it once was. It’s not as easy as sharing a chocolate pudding and being best friends for life. We have to hope, as parents, that we keep their heads up. That we keep their hopes full. We have to give them the tools to succeed and teach them how to use them. We have to help them grow into the kind of people we would want to know. The kind of people we want call a friend. We need to do these things, yes, absolutely. But we also need to nurture them. We have to help them grow a heart big enough. To love enough. To change what’s happened, what will inevitably happen. To keep the magic even when the magic seems to always, always fade.

And that is no small feat.

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