If parenting was a ride at the amusement park it would be the biggest of all Behemoth coasters. One that catapults you from bed, hurls you out the door and plummets you 7 stories down before your eyes are even open. Daily. But it would also throw in some 3 D effects, just enough to rip your heart out, before it stops and you wobble away, stomach trailing five stories behind. And it would yell SAVAGE and probably blare Musical.ly videos at you too.
In my daughter’s room I have a framed picture of her on her first birthday. Her hair is KOOKY, so Kooky it makes me laugh still, and she’s propped up and happy, sitting on a Blue’s Clues rug near her crib. I printed that photo out and put it on a matte frame and wrote I Wish For You Beautiful Life on it and had all of her guests, Aunts and Uncles, Grandma, cousins and friends all sign it. This little keepsake moment in time sits on her dresser in her room.
Yesterday this same girl, now 13, and I were driving in the van back from a doctor’s appointment when I spied an ad for a concert in our town. The Names, the featured acts, are amazing and the event itself sounds incredible. My daughter named one as we drove by – “Allessia Cara.” “Lady Antebellum,” I said. “I LOVE THEM.”
On her tenth birthday I led her around the house on a scavenger hunt for clues. Her gift eventually was a trip with her sister and myself to Ottawa to see the Katie Perry concert and spend 4 days traveling through Ottawa and Montreal. I don’t remember traveling with anxious kids on that trip. We had an incredible time and took the train and the girls both still talk about that concert and how fun it was. Just us three. A girl’s trip.
Acts change, Fads and bands come and go and children age. They slip in and out of crushes on celebrities, music and even social media channels. They hear things, remember some, and others fall away barely even acknowledged. But sometimes the things that stick you don’t see coming at all.
“Wait, that’s here in this city,” she said.
“Yes, in July,” I told her.
I wondered out loud if the concert was remotely appropriate for teens, particularly a 13-year-old girl. She’s thinking what I am thinking, at least I think she is….and she asks me: “Would kids be able to go to that?”
“I don’t actually know. I have never been to that one. It would depend partly on the prices and the timing of the acts. I’d have to check, but I can find out,” I say.
Kids go to concerts and shows all the time. When they are young, we take them to Dora Live or Disney on Ice and we get to relive our own childlike wonderment watching them witness characters and skaters come to life. It is magic. And then one morning they are simply too grownup and too busy with friends, or other things, to want to do something so youthful any more. So, you come up with scavenger hunts and trips by train to Montreal, or Toronto. Fun diversions to keep them engaged.
And you scaffold them. Giving them progressively more independence over time at appropriate stages. In small increments, staying nearby if needed. Can I go to the movie with a friend? Sure. Can I go to the Mall with Alice? Sure as long as you have your phone. And can I go to a concert? Maybe. Let’s check a few things out first.
Thinking that we are going to maybe research going to this concert I plan it out. Check Prices. Ask friends on Facebook if they’ve been, and if it is appropriate, or if people are drunk and rowdy. Make a decision.
“Part of me thinks it would be cool. But the other part of me never wants to go to a concert again,” suddenly I recognize this thing. Anxiety. Anxious kids.
“Wow.” WHAT? I think to myself. Puzzled.
“Ever since the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, I am scared to think about going to a concert.”
Swear words and sadness in my head. We talked about that horrible tragic violent act when it happened and then the girls ran out the door to karate or riding, or acting rehearsals. Didn’t even consider that it was still weighing on one.
When my kids were little we kept the news off when they were in the room. There are many parents who talk news all the time with their kids but mine are anxious kids. They have been anxious kids for years. This one, my youngest really is the least anxious of my girls. But here it is. ANXIETY.
There’s no avoiding the news when you are on Youtube and Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook all your waking hours. Nor do I want them to avoid news and world events. But the world is horrifying right now. It is terrifying for an adult, much less a 13-year-old. So, we talk about the news. Violence and terrorism and horrible senseless things that happen sometimes.
“I just think that could happen here.”
Yes. She’s right it could. It seems unlikely and yet so did all of the horrifying things that have happened most recently in Britain..Manchester, London…some new horrific violence every single day. Unlikely, doesn’t really hold much weight anymore. That would never happen here and couldn’t happen here also don’t mean what they used to.
So what do you say? What do I say?
We keep talking for a bit. My daughters are both growing up in a pretty frightening world. I wish for you a beautiful life. And yet so probably too did every single Mom and dad of every child killed at the Ariana Grande concert.
Would love to tell you we resolved her anxiety in a quick 20 minute conversation, but we didn’t. Anxious kids don’t work that way and neither does anxiety. Just remembered today when a friend noted she is heading to a concert in Toronto tonight that I need to revisit this and help my children both through it. These are anxious times, maybe even more so for anxious kids. But we keep talking. Sometimes it helps to point out the helpers and the good things that happen even in a tragedy. The benefit concert to help and the outpouring from so many celebrities.
Mostly I just keep listening and talking and showing her, showing both of them, we don’t live our lives fearing everything. We can’t. And sometimes I remind her I knew someone close to me who was anxious and fearful all her life. Fear kept her from embracing love, or travel, or fun new things and that breaks my heart even still. You can’t live your life like that.
Anxious Kids Can Become Anxious or Depressed Adults.
Nobody wants that for their children.
Dear Anxious Kids: You Can’t Live Life in Fear.
Do all the fun things (as long as they are legal and don’t hurt anyone.)
Love and let yourself be loved.
Embrace life, experiences and love.
Take some risks.
And always trust your instincts.
Most of all Live a Beautiful Life.
And remember to call your mother.