On Sunday my kid, Z, would not get out of the car. At first I thought Z was just distracted by a game Z was playing, so I opened the door so it wouldn’t get too hot. Then I discovered Z was too afraid to get out of the car because they thought they saw a bee!
Now this bee phobia has been around for a while and got worse when we moved out to the country. Right as I thought it was getting under control, the poor kid got attacked when a frisbee hit a wasps nest last summer. Then when we were going to go on a walk, I told Z we’d be fine as long as we stuck to the trail, and a friend went to pick something off a plant and a bee got up his shirt and stung. Now this irrational fear has some not entirely irrational roots.
I did not think about this as Z wouldn’t get out of the car though, I only thought of my exasperation at the fact that no one has ever been stung on our property and Z was perfectly safe walking from the car to the house. More concerning to me at the time was the fact that it was starting to get warm out and the car was heating up quickly. I snapped a little when I told Z to get out of the car and it didn’t end nicely!
This is the challenge when you are an intense parent raising intense kids. We each blow our own things out of proportion and when they don’t match up, or match up in an anxiety inducing way, it can lead to catastrophic results.
My kid had the misfortune of inheriting my chaotic brain with his dad’s inflexibility. Quite interestingly though, medication and treatment for ADHD has actually helped the inflexibility more than the chaotic brain! Z is finally at a point where they can reflect on the situation and ask me, “how would you feel if…” Yesterday, my kid got back into rational brain mode quicker than I did!
I have worked with significant behavioral challenges in schools and it’s a whole different experience when you are a parent. All those professional skills go out the window when you have personal investment and history involved. I am still working on this myself, but here are some of the things that have helped me:
Know your triggers
Growing up twice-exceptional, I have all kinds of triggers around feeling judged. As a parent, my triggers expanded to when my kid gets overly emotional due to the early years of colicky baby and feeling of helplessness. In later years, it’s been more around the lack of independence that comes with executive functioning challenges. Having EF challenges myself, it is often hard to support my own kid. The bee phobia thing in particular was triggering because it has prevented Z from engaging in active outdoor activities and Z already spends way too much time on devices for indoor entertainment. I had hoped moving out to the country would engage a love of nature but instead it seems to engender even more fear. I was also worried in that moment because Z gets so distracted that I was afraid the heat would make them sleepy and sedentary.
Have calming tools at the ready
When Z finally came inside, they went in their room to calm down. It started with high emotions, but it didn’t take too long to get back calm. I myself could use a refresher on my own calming skills as although I was no longer upset, it took me longer to rationally acknowledge where I had gone wrong.
Don’t be afraid to apologize
As Z pointed out how I might feel under the same conditions, I started with rationalizing my actions but eventually was able to tell Z that I was sorry and my actions were coming out of fear for their safety. Z acknowledged that the fear was irrational, but not entirely under their control. Acknowledging our own humanness goes a long way in getting back on track! It’s when we hold tight to our own perspective without putting ourselves in the other one’s shoes that we get stuck.
I’m excited to be at a point now where we can work together on those things, and know that we need to work on getting supports in place now before the adolescent brain really kicks in!