Plum and I struggled to add color to our weekend, he was in black and white mode. If he didn’t color his apple homework pages immediately (bedtime on Friday evening) he would never remember to do it. If I didn’t let him play this game, I was never going to let him. I always tell him no about downloading more apps. If we made a list about games he wanted, I would lose the list. My bright sweet grandson was taken over by the all or nothing monster, it wasn’t pretty. On one reprieve from the war, with a moment to reflect, I was able to determine that we were both fighting his anxiety. While this knowledge set off alarms I at least had a new strategy. I would not feed the anxiety monster. We would get back our colors.
This precious child has some very complicated genes. Addiction and mental illness could be lurking behind the blue eyes, height and crooked smile. Those ugly traits don’t need to be nurtured, rather I must give him the skills every day to confront them and let his intelligence and sweet soul overcome them. This is not to say that should depression and anxiety win out some where down the road that he has failed, that we have failed, but creating habits now of life choices of finding hope and seeing color surely will help. Please God let it help. A friend of mine posted an article about 4 traits that put kids at risk for addiction. I devour reads like this like my evening cookies. I want to know what I am up against and use every minute with him to overcome those damn genes. This article listed specifically anxiety sensitively. This weekend we worked on that devil.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, cookies, water bottle and a blanket filled our bag as we walked down the gravel road, along the woods. We immersed ourselves in nature, got away from screens and dishes and homework. He loosened up, I waited for my opening. Finally as we sat on the blanket, our picnic down to crumbs, I asked him if he knew the difference between a rocking chair and a bicycle. We explored the benefits of each, one great for resting the other for racing ahead. Paraphrasing Erma Bombeck, I explained worry to this child. “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.” This was an image he could grab onto, this child who likes speed. He decided he wants to be a bike, go somewhere. We looked at the battles we had been having in the light of the rocking chair/bike choice, he was able to spot how he had been worrying and going nowhere.
We continued to use this language for the rest of the weekend, our battles diminished. Sunday morning brought a small squeamish, I asked if he was being a bike or a rocking chair. He paused and winked at me. He labeled his anxiety quickly and chose to stop worrying. It won’t always be this easy, I am confident we will need to revisit this issue again and again. This weekend though we found the leaves were turning, we discovered caterpillars, we ate lunch under the autumn sun. Colors reemerged into the black and white.