Can 5 year olds have anxiety?

I think Biggie might have anxiety.

I’ve discussed in previous blog posts about being worried about passing anxiety on, and how there is a hereditary component to it. Smalls is too little and frankly too monstrous to be concerned he has anything but the desire to try and kill me with stress.

But Biggie is another story. Biggie is my cautious child. My thinker, my question asker. This past month he has been on and off going through a phase that I have been told is normal for this pre-kindergarten age. He’s trying to be more independent, while also being very clingy. He’s got a teenager attitude in that 5yo head of his sometimes.

Any deviation from the schedule makes him clingy. If we drop him off at a different time in the morning, he cries and doesn’t want us to leave. He spent a different night of the week at Gramma’s instead of the usual Tuesday and he couldn’t deal. He was crying big crocodile tears when we dropped him off, and had to call us before bed and cried when he was dropped off at school the next day.

He has to know the agenda for the day. And he has to ask questions until he understands exactly what we are doing and where we are going for the day. It usually pisses me off because I just told you what we are doing why are you asking me all these questions?! But lately I wonder if that gives him security and eases his anxiety. I’m an OCD planner- maybe he is too? He’s always liked things neat and lined up, even as a little toddler. So I’ve been trying to keep that in mind and really try to lay out what we are going to do on the daily- especially if it’s a change from the usual.

All this makes me feel some kind of way- that maybe he got his anxiety from me. Did seeing me so anxious before I started treatment affect him? Is he really anxious or just 5? (This is our first time going through the 5yo phase so fuck if I know). Is there something more we can be doing to help him? How will this affect him when he starts public school in the fall?

This will be discussed in therapy tomorrow.

What my kids have taught me.

Having kids teaches you a lot about yourself, both good and bad. You see the world through kid colored glasses. Here’s some things my little monkeys have taught me:

Always drive through the rain puddles at turbo speed.

Always enjoy how pretty the sunrises are.

Give someone a hug when they are sad.

Take time to notice something nice about a stranger, and don’t be afraid to tell them.

Bees are so nice because they give us honey.

Take the time to give the puppy belly scratches.

How to be brave.

That there is, in fact, a limit to the amount of questions I can answer before I lose my shit.

To be more accepting of other people, as we try to teach acceptance to them.

That mom friends are necessary for survival.

To sing at top volume, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

That I yell so much more than I ever wanted to or thought I would.

How to teach boys to potty train. ( I seriously will never get enough credit for this).

What pure, unadulterated pride feels like.

That you can carry 9.5 and 10 pound babies for 9 months in your body and not die, even though you want to and feel like you’re going to.

That peeing when you sneeze is a very real thing now.

They have taught me to push to be the best version of myself, so I can be the best Mama for them. I can’t wait until they are old enough for me to hold all these things over their heads.

Caffeine and anxiety- two star-crossed lovers.

“For never was a story of more woe, than this of a stressed out mama and her morning Starbucks caffeine load.” That’s how Shakespeare worded it, didn’t he?

Caffeine is fucking with my anxiety. I have known this for a hot minute. A few months ago, I asked my therapist the dreaded question about the relationship between the two. I knew the answer. But I cringed anyway when she confirmed my fears.

“Hey lady, why don’t you just drink decaf and quit being dramatic?” You might ask. Because cold brew doesn’t come in decaf YOU SAVAGES! So after some attempts at iced coffee, I went back to my usual morning deliciousness and ignored the effects.

It isn’t just coffee, it’s the diet soda I drink at dinner. I have been treating my body like a garbage dump due to stress about our living situation and the new house- I don’t look my best and I sure as shit don’t feel my best either. I know the caffeine is too much- I’ve only started drinking so much since we moved right fucking next to a Starbucks and I discovered what I had been missing all my adult life.

Considering the circumstances, my anxiety has been in check lately. But tonight at dinner I had a wake up call- I am tired and over it today, and three sips into my Diet Coke my anxiety hit me like a freight train. And my brain went- “yeah bitch we’ve done told you.” First of all- anxiety, you scornful bitch. I thought I had you on lock. Second- can I just live?!

So as in the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, I too am experiencing needless loss. I am going to give up Starbucks during the work week. And cut back on the soda. And hydrate with water and good shit.

It’s not you, it’s me, Starbucks. Please forgive me, and don’t shade me when I see you on Saturday morning for my fix.

Kids need kudos, too.

Sunday morning I let Dading sleep in and took the kids to church. And by church I mean Starbucks. They were actually behaving themselves. I realize I should have captured it on video as proof that a miracle happened. There was an older couple sitting at the table next to us and when they got up to leave they came over to say hi to the kids. He asked Biggie if he was the big brother. I responded “he isn’t just a big brother, he is the BEST big brother.” The look on his little face, how he beamed with pride across the table. It made me realize that in those little moments when you have the chance to make them feel special and important, do it. Adults need their egos stroked, and so do our little spawn. It reminded me to take the time to support him and compliment him. I went home and told Dading how his face lit up, and he told me I was a rockstar mom for doing that, because he probably wouldn’t have thought to say something like that as a response. And so the circle of inflated egos was completed. I will remember this, and try to find little ways more often to cause Biggie to flash that million dollar smile 🙂

Being real with your kids.

I recently had a discussion in therapy about whether it was ok to let your kids see you cry. Especially when my anxiety was not monitored, Biggie used to see me cry all the time because the waterworks were real and frequent. Now that he is older, he understands emotions better and will hug me, and snuggle with me, and tell me he will make me feel better. We think it’s important for the boys to see that we aren’t some emotionless dictators that run their life. (Dictators for sure, but not emotionless ones).

I want the boys to be able to tell us and show us how they feel, and not to be uncomfortable doing so. So we try to set a good example. I want to be relatable and approachable to them. My therapist agreed, and said they would be more emotionally healthy than if we didn’t talk to them.

There is no talking to Smalls about anything, he is a little baby grinch monster who makes us all insane. I’m thinking of letting him audition for the next Omen movie, as he has the maniacal laughter and evil stares on lock already. But we do talk to Biggie as much as you can without imploding a 5 year old brain. We use the new house as a way to talk about money- how Daddy works overtime so we can buy things for the new house. How we cancelled swimming for him because we felt he was ready, and now that he is doing soccer we needed to downsize our activities. We explain the bigger emotions- like feeling embarrassed when you act like a little shit at school, and being disappointed in yourself for not having good listening and doing your best. I hope by doing this he is learning that he is responsible for how he acts and talks, and that maybe he feels like a contributing member of the family.

Biggie is definitely transitioning from toddler to little boy. His emotions are bigger, his attitude is bigger (FML). But with this comes his eagerness to help out. Yesterday he helped me take out the trash and recycle, dry dishes and clean up after dinner. We give him responsibility, and then show him how proud we are of him when he rises to the challenge.

We let him see us make mistakes. We apologize when we lose our temper. He sees us forget things. He sees us not get it right sometimes. I hope all these things give him the grace to make his own mistakes, and maybe not be as hard on himself as I am on me. Hopefully this method of parenting fucks him up just a little bit less in the end 🙂

Validate me, damnit!

We all know those people- the ones that talk AT you. The ones who suck at listening. The ones who always play devil’s advocate to whatever you are saying. The ones who don’t just let you feel what you are feeling. Correct me if I’m wrong (I’m not) but it is the most exhausting thing to be around these people. They always know better, They always know what’s best, they always have all the answers. They just. Don’t. Fucking. Listen.

When I am pissed, get pissed with me or get the F out of my way. When I am happy, be happy for me! Can we just support each other in this ever increasingly fucked up world we live in?

It isn’t hard to just be supportive of someone else. Don’t be a dick, just be nice. It seems like I am always being talked down to. I don’t need your parenting advice, or your house building/decorating advice, or you diet advice. I am doing just fine on my own, tyvm. People give their opinions way to freely, and forget that no one asked them for it in the first place.

So before you try and tell someone how you think it should be done, take a step back and just listen to them. Understand that the only person who knows what’s best for me is me. And my therapist, obviously.

New decade, zero fucks to give.

I made a resolution to be better to myself this year. I thought this meant not be so hard on myself about my physical appearance. Maybe take better care of myself. What really ended up happening this year is I stopped caring what other people thought. I stopped putting energy into people who don’t deserve it. I put up my ballistic shield around my mental well-being. I don’t know if my initial resolution was the catalyst for this, or if I have just gotten so fucking tired of dealing with other people’s bullshit that I just grew a pair.

I talk about this a lot but I think a lot of it is the support system I have now that I didn’t before. Maybe it’s because I finally know who I am and what I stand for. Probably it’s all these things combined. And I can tell you that it is absolutely exhilarating. To not internalize everything, or absorb everyone else’s bullshit is so fucking empowering!

I still slip up from time to time. I forget not to let the negative shit in and I have to work hard to get back on track. But I am on to something here, and I won’t go back. For those of you who already wake up every day feeling like this- dude. You are the real deal. For those of us who are working on it, keep going. Keep pushing forward. And for those of you who haven’t taken the first step, no time like the present. Think about how much free space in your head and heart you would have if you controlled the flow instead of letting others control it for you. How much happier would you be if you kicked negative people to the curb and just did you? Let’s all ring in this new decade only giving a fuck where a fuck is deserved.

Diary of a former judgy mom.

I did a post a while ago about how everyone is a judgy mom. Even those of us in denial about it. But over the last few months I have really changed how I feel about this.

Hi, my name is Mandy, and I used to be a judgy mom.

Almost subtly over the last few months I started to notice that my attitude towards other moms changed from sizing up and judging to compassion and empathy. When I see another mom now my first instinct is to joke, or compliment, or offer to help.

Calm down, I’m still the sarcastic mama you know and love. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s majority rules here.

So why the change? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that too. I have found my mom tribe, is the big answer. I let go of friends that didn’t make me feel good about myself, I stopped holding on to toxic relationships and forced myself to let them go. I found friends who supported me and let me support them back. I extended this to my Instagram, and cultivated my follows to other like minded moms. Every interaction we have helps build this foundation of acceptance and support.

So maybe everyone is a judgy mom until they find a community where they feel supported and understood. And then out of that acceptance comes tolerance and compassion. If you’re a judgy mom like I was, maybe take a step back and reevaluate your circle and where you are putting your energy. Find your mom tribe, your REAL mom tribe, and maybe you’ll find yourself letting go too.

Things I learned on Christmas vacation.

We just got home from a two-week vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. We spent Christmas and New Year’s out of town. Nothing gets you to re-evaluate your life more than coming home from vacation and getting back to the real world. Here’s a few of the tidbits of knowledge I acquired while we were away:

1. Taking kids on vacation is a FUCKING nightmare. They are out of their routine and sleeping in a strange place. Nap time and bedtime get thrown off track. They are over stimulated after long days hiking and playing in the snow. And even though you plan amazing adventures every day, they still get fucking bored and drive you batshit crazy. I swear to god I have never yelled more in my fucking life. Their lives have never been in more danger than they were for these past two weeks.

2. Something ALWAYS goes wrong. Two weeks of fresh mountain air and NO sickness and we were living the high life, forgetting that parents don’t ever get that lucky. Idiots. Biggie’s breakfast didn’t agree with him on the 12 HOUR car ride home, and he spent the first few hours throwing up. By the third time I didn’t even bother putting pants back on him so I wouldn’t have to do a highway-side wardrobe change again.

3. Getting out of town is critical for mental health. Guess who didn’t have a single anxiety attack for these past two weeks? Yep- this mama. No work and no stress about living conditions made for a healthy mental health cleanse. My biggest stress was trying to survive the assload of stairs this Airbnb had- I better have J Lo calves now or WTF. A bazillion stairs plus adjusting to high altitude (we live in South Florida the only altitude we get is speed bumps) literally had me huffing and puffing like an asthmatic with COPD. This and trying not to abandon my children on a hiking trail was all I had to worry about. It was so needed and so worth it. Please remind me of this when I go back to work on Monday and question my entire existence again.

4. Experiences and memories don’t have to be made at Disney. Our kids were totally pumped when we reached the waterfall at the end of our multiple hikes. They were blown away by the nearly hand-tame deer that lived on the property, and how close they could get to them while feeding them. Hearing Smalls say “where deer?” And “waterfall” was awesome. Biggie got to go ATV’ing up the side of a mountain through the mud with Daddy, and got to go fishing in a trout pond. They got to breath two weeks of clean, fresh air. They got to see friends and family they don’t get to see very often because they live so far away. Dading and I aren’t big on theme park experiences, so these are the kinds of things we want our kids to do and remember.

5. Not being in town for the holidays makes them so stress free. The expectation that you have to see everyone you know and buy gifts for every person you’ve ever come into contact with gets tossed right out the window when you aren’t actually going to see anyone or spend the holidays with them. It really lets you focus on what’s important, and hopefully we passed some of that down to the boys. Instead of spending a fortune on Christmas cards, we sent a text to all our tribe with a picture of us on vacation. Honestly, I loved that more than the cards I print from Walgreens or Shutterfly every year. You realize who and what’s important when you take a step back and look at it from a distance (in this case 2000 miles and 5000 feet above sea level).

6. Traditions are made in the quiet places. We decided we are going to try and do this every other year. And we decided we would get refrigerator magnets from all the cool places we go, so our new house can tell the story of our adventures every time anyone goes in the kitchen. 2019 was the year our little family really started creating our own traditions.

So here I am, sitting at the kitchen in the house that isn’t mine, preparing to go back to work on Monday, blogging. You don’t have to drive 3 states away and risk certain death by a thousand stairs like we did for it to count. If you need to get away, do it. No matter what that means or where that takes you. I’ve been reading a lot of stuff online about how you don’t owe anyone anything for the holidays, and that you are allowed to do what makes you happy. The holidays are hard on everyone, some more than most. You do you. #NewYearNewMe.

Here’s to all our adventures for 2020.

Milestones, how I loathe thee.

I have been feeling lately that there are like a thousand things the kids still don’t know how to do that they should. Biggie is 5 and can’t ride a bike without training wheels yet. We haven’t taught him how to tie his shoes. Smalls is 2 and isn’t potty trained yet and we should have handled that shit already. Biggie hasn’t started any sports yet because swimming is endless and expensive. I don’t read to them like I want to. Biggie and I haven’t worked on his reading in weeks.

Why do I always feel behind with them? There are not enough hours in the day to teach them everything that they need to know. We both work full time outside our house, and we are always running around. After working all day who has the patience to teach a 5 year old how to tie his shoes? If you disagree you’re a liar because that level of patience does not exist.

But the last week we have stepped up our game with Smalls and going on the potty and he is having more dry pull ups than wet ones. This progress in him has really helped me see that maybe we aren’t as behind as I thought. I feel like we should be doing all the things, but physically and emotionally and the laws of space and time don’t allow for that.

Does this make me a good mom, trying to give my kids every skill they need? Or does this make me a crazy person who is worrying too much? I think the answer is both. I’m a female, and we are all crazy. Accept and embrace this because I speak in truths. But this goes back to my earlier post about being a good mom, and how you never feel you are getting it right. I guess there is always room for improvement- in life and in parenting. But then the beasties hit a milestone when they are ready and remind you that maybe things are gonna work out.

But those training wheels gotta go- please send positive vibes cuz Biggie is NOT about that change at all. Sometimes, you do have to push them 🙂