How do you know if your toddler has anxiety?

I have mentioned before how scared I always am of passing my anxiety on to my kids. Especially Biggie, who is almost 5. He is my cautious child. The worrier. Smalls is an absolute toddler tornado who has no fear AT ALL I AM NOT JOKING and I thank the universe that they both aren’t like that. Again, I don’t get enough credit for not being a raging alcoholic.

Biggie is notorious for asking “what can I do for you right now?” When we are hustling with the bedtime routine especially. Normal people would think how adorable and sensitive he is, and how helpful. If you’re me, however, you wonder if it’s because he thinks he has to do this to decrease our stress.

Before I got a handle on my anxiety, I would cry all the time. I was a mess. And he would see it. He would come over and hug and kiss me and I loved it, but it also breaks my heart that he had to witness it. All my comments about my body image, how I had food guilt… he heard everything. And still hears it because even though I say it less, I am not perfect.

Or what about every time he hears me say I’m stressed, that I am overwhelmed?

We expect a lot out of him, as a big brother and as a member of our family. We are always on the go and hustling from this place to that. We are always getting on him about not getting buckled when he gets in the car (seriously trying to get your 4 year old to move quickly is the most frustrating thing ever. Try and convince me otherwise. That’s right, you can’t. I rest my case.) I feel like we are always rushing him, and we sometimes have to remind ourselves to ease up and let him just be a toddler.

How many other 4 year olds are the same way? Is it normal for them to be cautious and nervous around new things? Is the fact that his little brother is balls to the wall 24 fucking 7 just due to his age, or is it because he is too little to understand what’s going on? I am thankful I don’t have girls, because I worry I would not be able to give them the body self confidence they need. How can I teach it if I don’t even have it myself? Every time he is nervous to try something new, every time he tries to help out when we are busy, every time I get on him about doing something that might cause him to get hurt, even if it’s a minor thing… I worry. I worry he is this way because of the way I am. I work so hard at being a mom, and being a good one, and that little voice in the back of my mom brain always wonders how much my struggles are affecting him.

I hope that one day he will look back and see how freaking hard his mommy worked to make herself better, to ask for help when she needed it, and to own her mental health and overcome her struggles. I hope it makes him better equipped to handle his own.

Will this keep me from worrying? Pfffft.

Dear younger me.

Dear early 20 something me:

Hi, cupcake. It’s me, your 32 year old self. There you sit, somewhere between starting to date Dading at 19 and starting to work at the company you do now. Here’s what you have to look forward to:

You’re going to marry this boyfriend. You’re going to have two beautiful boys and that family you always dreamed about. You did it- you found your other half. You never thought you would but no, you don’t end up alone and lonely. You end up fulfilled in ways you never imagined.

You’re building a house. Yes, you read that right. You are actually getting that dream house to go along with that dream family.

But guess what? You almost lost this man because you thought the grass was greener. You are thankful every day that you came to your senses before it was too late. You learned a hard, ugly truth about yourself that you will hate about yourself for the rest of your life. You learned that you don’t really know what you are capable of until you are in that situation, and sometimes you won’t like the answer. But you also learned that those dark times led to personal growth, and you wouldn’t be the person you are now without them.

You learned that you are strong. You carried two babies inside your body for 10 months. It was hard, so hard sometimes, and you wanted to give up. But you did it- and I don’t want to freak you out but they were BIG babies, to boot. You aren’t as thin as you were in high school, and it sucks, but you have done amazing things with this body and you try every day to love it for what it has given you.

You learned to struggle. Financially, emotionally. You were crippled under the weight of anxiety, and you learned to overcome with an amazing support system. You opened up to the world about it in your blog- yes, you’re a mommy blogger! Surprise! No, we don’t have a mini van despite Dading’s best efforts. By opening up, you found your voice and it helped you grow as a mom, as a person, as a wife.

You learned to say no, you learned to let go of those who didn’t help you grow. It hurt, but you did it. You have experienced loss, you have made tough choices for your family, and you have learned that things can turn out ok, even when it seemed like they were falling apart.

You still wear your heart on your sleeve, and it still blows up in your face sometimes. But you don’t change it- couldn’t if you tried. You still love fiercely and whole heartedly. Your firecracker temper is even worse now, but you own it. You have learned to stand up for yourself, although that one you are still working on. You have learned to do things without the support you sometimes needed, and it has made you stronger.

You have learned to have big dreams. You have figured out what you want to be when you grow up finally, and are working towards that goal right now.

Don’t change a thing, and be excited for the wonderful things that are to come. You are ok- you are loved, you are smart, you are making it. I am really proud of you, and all the things you have done, and the things I know lie ahead for you.

Love, Me.

Chips are for guac, not shoulders.

We all have that one friend, that one coworker, that one family member who is always negative. The wine glass is always half empty, everyone is out to get me, whoa is me blah blah blah. If you are saying to yourself “I don’t know anyone like that”- you might be that person in your circle! Time to re-evaluate your life choices, kiddo.

I am like the most hypochondriac (hypochondriacal?) person I know. I think it’s rubbing off on the kids at this point. The sky might always be falling on chicken little me, but I am not a negative person. And I despise being around negative people.

I love Rachel Hollis. I credit her with firing up my entrepreneurial gene and fueling my self help spirit. If you are a female and have never listened to Girl, Wash Your Face or my current listen- Girl, Stop Apologizing- you are doing yourself the biggest disservice ever and go download it on Audible like yesterday. It is life changing, I am dead serious. In the book, I am at the part where she talks about your circle of friends, and how they can negatively or positively influence you.

This works in all relationships in my life. Negative coworkers make me not want to go into work in the morning. Spending time with negative friends leaves me feeling agitated and unhappy. Family members that can’t last 5 minutes into seeing them before they tell you about the latest injury or friend that passed away. It’s super depressing.

DadingWITHOUTanxiety and I are struggling with a lot of shit right now. Selling your house with two little monsters ain’t a walk in the park, I’m here to educate you. We have so many house showings where we have to be out of the house that we are basically homeless at this point. Having a ton of showings is a good problem to have, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t totally disruptive to our day to day life. The stress of hoping your house is good enough that people want to buy it, that it stays clean and decluttered enough that they can envision themselves living there. That nothing goes wrong with the house while we wait for a buyer. And a really big one- that we get to house closing ASAP because we are also making payments to the new house while this is going on. So, a lot of shit.

The power of negativity plays into this too. You feed off the emotions of others. When I get too stressed, Dading is there to say its ok and calm me down. I attempt to do the same for him, although I will confess he’s much better at it than I am. If we are both maxed out, all we do is stress each other out more.

It is so important to surround yourself with people that lift you up, instead of bring you down. And if you have people you can’t really avoid, like family or coworkers, it’s important to give them as wide a berth as you can. From experience, they are never going to change and it’s a hard lesson that I am still learning that it isn’t my fault. And for those people that are worth it, and are feeling down, lift them up and help them through it. We talked about this before, in my blog about return investments. Give your energy to those that deserve it, and those that will return the favor.

Eat your chips, don’t carry them around. They get stale, and nobody wants that noise.

Lifestyles of the moving and exhausted.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and that’s because…. we are moving! We are selling our house and building our dream house! This is something DadingWITHOUTanxiety and I dream about when we have those “what if we won the lottery talks.” We never thought we would actually be in a financial position to buy a house. I know I always say we are broke AF and don’t worry, that is still very true. In the 9 months it takes to build our house we are bunking with family, and the sale of our house allows us to pay off all our debt and live off one paycheck while we wait. It’s this perfect mix of events that allow us to do this. We are thankful to our parents for allowing this to happen- taking on a family of 4 with a puppy is no small task, especially with our particular breed of beasties 😉

Everyone who’s ever moved knows it is a bitch. Having the honey-do list of things that need fixing up before it is selling quality, having to pack all your shit so you can stage the house, etc etc. We are super fortunate to have the best realtors ever- shoutout because I know mine reads this blog- and we know we are in good hands. This will be our third time moving, and in case you were wondering- it’s still just as fucking exhausting. I’ve made and cancelled plans like a thousand times with our friends because I overestimate the amount of free time we have right now.

Something that has been nagging me is that I feel guilty for building this really nice big house. When we show off the model home to anyone, I feel like I am bragging about it. It isn’t a mansion by any means, but for us it might as well be. How screwed up is it to feel guilty? We work hard, and we worked hard for this house. It isn’t normal to feel guilty about something you earned and worked hard for. Is house guilt a thing? I’m going to have to work on this.

Obviously, my anxiety has been through the roof lately. Because I have an anxiety disorder, I never know how much is normal person anxiety, and how much is me. I know moving is stressful for anyone with a pulse, so I guess I’m going to have to give myself some slack on this also.

This is an exciting journey and milestone for our family, and thank you for allowing me to share it with all of you 🙂

Return investments.

Something that has really been on my mind these last few weeks is investing. Not in money (you have to have it to invest and we are broke as a joke y’all), but in people. I have a horrible habit of putting people on pedestals. And, of course, they end up disappointing me. I know it isn’t fair to them to do that, because everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. And they aren’t me, so they are never going to react the same way I do, or do things the same neurotic OCD way that I do them. Sad for them? Pffft, totally.

This is something I have struggled with for years. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I over share, and I pay attention to other people and what’s going on with them. I am a good listener and I try to be there for people. It has been hard to find my tribe that puts in the same effort. I’m not tooting my own horn- I am finally at a place in life where I have some self-worth, and know the things that are important to me and things that make me a good friend.

I think it is this self worth, that I have finally acquired through therapy this past year, that has made me see how much effort I put into people that don’t give it back. Sometimes it’s never texting back, sometimes it’s responding curtly to a friendly email, or someone who doesn’t listen to me when I talk. These are all examples of things that have happened to me, and unfortunately I have a longer list. It used to disappoint me so bad, but now it just makes me angry. Why do I waste so much time and energy on people who don’t really give a fuck? I used to think it was a reflection on me. Now, I know it has everything to do with them.

Life is short. Invest in people who will return it in spades. Let those friendships go that aren’t helping you grow as a person, and are holding you back. Be ok with it, because it isn’t healthy for you to be the one putting in all the effort to keep it going.

You guys, this has taken me YEARS to figure out, and it is so empowering! I still get hurt by it, but my first instinct is to get mad now. The world is so full of negative energy, and if someone turns up their nose to a little bit of kindness and caring, then I’m going to take my investment to a different bank. I would rather be surrounded by just a few people that care, rather than a whole crowd that really doesn’t. Is this a 30’s thing? Someone do a TED talk about this and get back to me.

The shit show of family outings.

Today we all went to Home Depot, including the dog. First of all, I live in South Florida and it is hot AF right now. Going outside is limited to a “needs-only” basis at this point.

So of course, per the laws of the universe, someone immediately started being unhappy. Smalls was pissed he had to sit in the cart. And once we got in there, he shit his pants. So I trekked him back to the car for a diaper change in the thousand degree heat. Then back to the store, where he continued to scream about having to be in the cart, being held, the injustice of his situation. Because I no longer wanted to hear the screaming, I took him and the dog back to the car, so Dading could finish shopping with Biggie. Again, long trek across the store back to the parking lot.

What do I look like at this point? Like a hot fucking mess. Covered in sweat, hair all frizzy and crazy looking. I pass a mom with her maybe 9 year old son in tow. The conversation went as follows:

Me: I thought the dog would have been the bad one but nope, it’s the baby. He’s been tantruming.

Mom: I would put him in the cart and let him scream. I have 4 kids. You gotta do what you gotta do. Are you ok?

Me: Oh yeah, I’m good. Dad is with the other one shopping.

Mom: I’ll put you (looks at Smalls) in my cart and push you around the store and let you cry.

I know I must have looked like a frazzled new mom. She doesn’t know I’m not. But she asked me if I was ok! That was so awesome. You always read about moms looking out for each other, but that’s the first time it happened to me with a stranger. For a hot minute, we were allies in the shit show that is parenting. So thank you, Home Depot mom. For taking one second to check on me.

Moral of the story: avoid taking children out in public at all costs. Next time we’ll leave them in the dog crate and just take the dog 😉

Anxiety… excitement… same diff.

Funny thing about anxiety- it doesn’t just show up when you’re nervous about something. At least for me, a huge trigger for my anxiety is excitement. See also- big life events. For example- we are selling our house and building our dream house. Big deal for anyone, right? Lots to figure out, lots of waiting for the house to be built, etc. I’ve been in high alert mode lately. Worried we won’t get to lock down a lot before they sell them all, worried we will have too much to do to fix up our current house. Worried about going nuts while we wait the long 9 months for our house to be built.

Why does this excitement make my anxiety stand at attention? I think I’ve always been like that. I don’t like surprises, they make me nervous. I feel the expectation of having to love it for the other person, so I don’t seen ungrateful. I tend to have to warm up to whatever it is once it’s revealed, and I don’t get excited until later. Dading is used to this and doesn’t let it bother him. I was even like this when we got engaged, even though I wanted nothing more than for him to ask me to marry him. Sitting here now, I wonder if it’s because it takes my anxiety time to calm down so normal emotions can show themselves.

I am also literally THE worst about gift giving. I always give them early because I’m too excited to wait. But again, sitting here I wonder if it’s just nervousness that makes me spill the beans.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am super nervous around grief. I remember being young, when my Poppop died, I could not be around my parents when they were upset. I also hid my grief and cried alone. Even to this day, when there is a death in the family, I never let anyone see me cry if I can help it. I feel panicky when I am around others who are grieving. Michelle Obama says “when they go low, we go high”- well when they get sad I get tough. It’s a coping mechanism.

Is anxiety linked to any strong emotion? This will be discussed in therapy. Stay tuned.

Live your truth.

So I spend a lot of time reflecting on my personal journey, both with mental health and finding out who I really am. Lately I have been thinking about what it means to live your truth, as we so often hear the expression. I have never been the person to spend money on myself, or buy things for myself- but lately that has changed. I have hobbies, my crafting business I have started (Self Shoutout: check me out on Instagram @MandyBearDesignShop), and goals for my life that I have just kind of figured out (full disclosure on that later, don’t worry guys. It’s top secret for now though 😉 )

And in typical #momguilt, I have felt so guilty about that! I feel selfish for wanting things for myself. How dare I? I have a family! But then I think- if I don’t show up for myself, what example is that setting for myself and my boys? Is it shameful to want to grow myself, both professionally and personally? Am I not also doing these things to give my family a better life and better opportunities?

We have to live our truth, boys and girls. Even if it takes you 32 years to figure out who you are, who you want to be, what you want out of life and where you are headed- you have to listen to that voice inside you (your gut, as my Granny would say). It’s ok to have dreams and ambitions, and they don’t make you any less of a mom, or dad, or spouse.

My truth is that I am not perfect. I struggle with my weight, my self image, and my anxiety. But I show up every day for my hubs, for Biggie and Smalls- and dammit I’m trying to show up for myself too. My truth is that I do exist outside of being a mom. I have hobbies, and interests, and dreams. My truth is that I want more out of life than the status quo. I want to grow, and keep growing, and keep learning. I want financial stability for my family.

We have to be truthful with ourselves. It’s really hard to admit that just being parents is not always completely fulfilling. It’s ok to want more for yourself. It’s ok to go out there and grab it by the balls and make it your bitch. Because in the end, our kids are going to see that they can do and be anything they want, because Mom and Dad did it their whole lives.

Stitches: another rite of passage

We hit another parenting milestone on Friday, people. Biggie got taken out by a toy to the head at preschool and had to get one stitch. Dading and I are getting way too good at restraining children for medical purposes. Luckily, their aunt is a doctor so she was able to stitch him up, and the stitch comes out tomorrow. Is it bad that I kind of hate the kid who hit him a little bit, even though it was an accident? Considering he is 4, Biggie was very brave about it, and I was proud of us for handling business.

It does remind me that parenting life can change on a dime. One minute your Friday night plans consist of dinner with friends, the next you’re fighting a toddler in an exam room. That part of parenting can be really stressful- the times when it hits you in the face and you just have to hold on and get through it. We’ve been through way worse with Smalls and his asthma and hospitalizations, so this wasn’t even on the spectrum of “oh shit” moments.

It does reiterate my belief that when they turn 18 you should get a big ass trophy, for getting them to adulthood without killing them or allowing them to kill themselves.

Third time is not the charm.

So the topic of a third kid is something I have been talking to DadingWITHOUTanxiety about a lot lately. When we had Smalls, we weren’t sure how we would feel about any more kids in the future, so we didn’t do anything permanent at the time of my C section just in case. Now we’ve been talking about making it permanent and I have felt so conflicted about it. He does not want any more kids, because he feels fulfilled with Biggie and Smalls.

My feelings have been more complicated. I think in this instance it has a lot to do with biology. I am still at prime baby-having age, and I adore my children. (Just because I complain about how annoying they are, doesn’t mean I don’t love them guys. Facts are facts.) It’s scary to think about closing that chapter of our lives permanently. Who doesn’t love babies?!

So I have been doing mental lists of pros and cons about baby #3. Because I need to feel at peace with the decision also. There are a lot more cons than pros. Firstly- the cost. We desperately need to be in a bigger house. The kids share a room and that’s becoming a logistical nightmare at bedtime. Childcare- moving ain’t happening if we continue to have to pay preschool tuition. If I told you how much we paid a month (assuming you aren’t in the trenches with us) you would vomit. How can we have another kid when we are so strapped as it is?

Then of course there is the fact that our hands are full (literally and figuratively) with these two little beasties. We want to give them the world, and being more financially stable would make that a whole hell of a lot easier.

Last night, I made my final decision. I decided I also do not want any more kids, because I have been unhappy lately with how little time Dading and I get to spend together. We barely have any time and/or energy to commit to just us, and it’s also really hard to get time away from the kids to do that. I told him last night that I don’t want to sacrifice our relationship by having another child. I want to be able to enjoy the boys as they grow and can do more things with us as they become more independent. I want to be able to have more date nights and mini childless vacations with just him. Our hands, and hearts, are full with the boys. And writing this, I feel at peace with the decision. I don’t want the boys to grow up too fast, I love them at every stage they have been at so far, but I am excited for the adventures that lie ahead. The baby stage is over for us, but I realize maybe that is not the bad thing it feels like. Because now, there are a lot of things in the pro column for what is to come.

My bank account has favorited this blog post. Probably Dading, too. 😉