Some days are harder than others. Some days, raising kids would be easier if I just left it up to someone else. If I could just tag team out. Because the truth is, most of the time I don't have a clue what I am doing. It’s like trying to learn how to hit a moving target. Kids are always growing and changing. What may have worked with them last year, might not work today.
When my oldest was six, we went through a year of battling fear and anxiety. The truth is, she has always been fearful and anxious even as an toddler. All the parenting books said that it was just a phase, but not for her. Her phase has lasted eight years so far (cue eye roll emoji). So we have read all advice, tried all the things and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There hasn’t been a magic cure for her. Every night at bedtime she would be afraid to go to sleep. Afraid of dreams, of robbers, of fire. And she would wake in the middle of night screaming at the top of her lungs for me. Afraid. Petrified. Trapped. After a year of this, we finally put our girls in separate bedrooms (strange logic to put her alone when she is afraid), but something about the change worked for her. She was excited about her new space. She stopped screaming and started sleeping.
Fast forward two years later. She’s now eight and the fear has crept back in. She threw an epic fit (I should really make sure our neighbors know that she's okay) that rocked the block. She doesn’t want to sleep because she's afraid of what she will dream. One would think that such an epic fit would wear her out enough to sleep through the night, but instead she woke at 4:00am afraid and crying, begging me to let her just stay up for the rest of the night. Then, later that morning I’m sure out of her sheer exhaustion, she unleashed her wrath on dear momma. I tried to explain that she needed to calm down which only turned up the heat for her. I tried to hold her tight saying, “I just want to hug you.” And then, like trying to wrangle a wild beast, I got pushed up against the corner of a wall. It hurt everywhere, but instead of my back aching, it was like that hit broke my heart into a million pieces. How could she be so mean to me? How can she love others, but look at me with such hatred? This sanguine, harmonizer has never had anyone treat her like this. So I quickly got up, went to my bedroom, locked the door and got in the shower where I experienced a panic attack. Uncontrollable sobbing while gasping for air. God, why won’t you just intervene? Why won’t you help her? I am trying to do all the right things. I am trying to show her Who to turn to you in times of need, but You remain silent. I QUIT. I AM DONE. I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.
My heart breaks for my daughter. So much fear and anxiety tangled up in her heart and mind. The day of the epic fit, she opened up about her friendships—how she feels left out, hurt and disappointed. She told her father about how ashamed she feels after acting out. I didn’t even know she knew that word! She carries such a weight to do things right the first time (I wonder where she got that) that the slightest mistake crushes her perception of herself. Oh baby girl, how much do I not want you to carry that throughout life.
A sleepover with her grandparents came at the perfect time. Sometimes that best thing for everyone is time away in a different environment. So I went on a date with my husband, slept without interruption and then sat with my Savior the next morning. And look at what He said to me: I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:4-5 NASB).
It is God’s character to answer, to deliver her from her fears. And do you see what happens? May her face be radiant and never be ashamed. Jesus heard me. He heard those tear filled cries in between gasping for air. He loves her. He is for her. And doesn’t want her to feel ashamed.
Then, I read: For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession (Hebrews 2:18-3:1 NASB).
In that shower, I was tempted to quit. I was weary of doing good (Galatians 6:9). I wanted to be done, to hand in my resignation. But He is ABLE to come to the aid of those who are TEMPTED. The author isn’t talking about the temptation to sin. He’s talking about the temptation to bail out of suffering. So when we are tempted to bail out on the suffering before us, we consider Jesus who didn’t bail out on suffering. He is the one we look to and follow. He is the one we hold tight to when life (or a kid) knocks the air out of you.
I may not have the three step answers for how to help your child with fear and anxiety, but I do know that God loves her and is for her. And God loves me and is for me. And when I am ready to quit and bail out of the suffering, I can fix my eyes on the One who was tempted to bail, but chose to be for me instead.