Saturday, June 28, 2008

Worry Wart

This summer has been a time of change and growing in many respects for our family. I've given the kids a more active role in keeping the house clean by doing a magnetic chore list that hangs on the side of the frig and we rotate the chores weekly. For the most part, they've really done well with that. It's funny to see the joy on the face of the person assigned to water the flowers when it rains three days in a row. And, I've been desperately trying to keep up with never ending the cycle of sorting, washing, drying, and putting away the endless amounts of laundry. But, the biggest changes and growing have to do with my oldest.

He's 11 now and will be in junior high in the fall. While he used to be content to just hang out with the family all summer, I can see that he's starting to sprout small wings and wants to do things with his friends. Since he still seems to like us and does still enjoy family time, it makes me happy to see him develop close friendships--all a part of growing up! However, through these friendships we've realized that while J likes to have fun with his friends, he's really a homebody. He likes his routine; he likes his bed; he likes what is familiar. This causes a tremendous problem when someone asks him to spend the night.

He's been like this in the past, but he was younger. There was a time period about 3 years ago where a couple of his friends really wanted him to spend the night and he just couldn't. He knew his friends' families well, but he was terrified to spend the night away from home. I chalked it up to him being young and figured that within a couple of years we'd be begging HIM to stay home with us. But that hasn't been the case and it's starting to concern me.

This summer he's been asked to spend the night with people several times. A few times it wouldn't work out due to our schedule, a few times he begged me to make an excuse so he wouldn't have to go, and a couple of times he's actually done it. He survived, but not without incident. He either convinces himself that he's injured in some bizarre way, or that his "stomach hurts". Each time this has happened, we've received a call from him and we've told him to gut up and just stay.

Last weekend, he went to a sleep over and didn't call!! Mike and I looked at each other at 11:30 that night and said, "Do we dare even think that he's actually going to do it without a phone call?" And, he did it. I thought he was cured and then last night he did it again and I totally lost my cool.

He was supposed to spend the night with his friend who lives about 2 minutes away from our house if you're driving. This friend had been with Mike and J at a baseball game, the boys were having fun and when Mike went to drop him off, he had developed this mysterious stomach ache. Mike said he was doubled over and in tears, so his friend was very understanding and told him to not worry about it. Mike said J actually looked like he was going to throw up, so this friend was probably worried J was going to throw up on him.

So, when he came home and told me why he wasn't at his friend's house, I just wanted to shake him. I listed all kinds of reasons why this fear of his is totally ridiculous. Next summer he very well might have to go away for 3 days to a basketball camp. How in the world will he handle that? I was disgusted with him and after I told him to go to bed in a tone that really wasn't very loving, I lay in bed trying to figure out why I was so angry. Did it really matter if he didn't spend the night with his friend? It didn't. I realized that my anger was based out of fear. I don't want him to be afraid of life because if he is, he's going to miss out on so much.

I lived most of my childhood in fear and worry. I was worried something would happen to my mom, I was terrified of my first step-father, I put way too much thought into what people at school felt about me because I wanted so much to be liked. Although my mom always meant well, she put so much fear on me because she was afraid something terrible would happen to me. I was a paranoid mess and as a result, I don't think I enjoyed things enough. I think I grew up too fast. Not in the respect that I was chasing boys or drinking at 9 years old, but I could not just sit back and take things for face value. My life was always over analyzing, deep thinking, and anxiety. Even in the midst of something as fun, there was always a part of me that held back.

I don't want this for any of my children and I feel like out of the four of them, J has inherited this awful trait from me. He went to bed last night feeling like he had disappointed me and I went to bed feeling like a jerk. Later when I couldn't sleep, I crept into his room and he was still awake and I told him what I was feeling. He listened intently and replied quietly, "Ok."

I hugged him and said in an aside sort of way, "Besides, if you keep this worrying up, you'll give yourself an ulcer."

"What's an ulcer?" he asked.

So, I spent the next 10 minutes explaining what an ulcer was before I left his room. A few minutes later I heard him say softly, "Can you come here? Do you think I have an ulcer? Has the worrying I've been doing made me have one? Will my stomach get a hole in it? Will I have to go to the doctor?"

"STOP!" I nearly shouted. Now I realize that I should've never introduced Mr. Worry to the wonderful world of ulcers.


MonkeyJoel said... son who's 12 still can't spend the night either, don't know the answer for you, but you're definately not alone. Connor will ONLY spend the night at my mom and dad's house, end of story...guess eventually they'll have to figure it out on their own.

june clever said...

Jennifer! I just found your comment!! I'm so sorry! This makes me feel better knowing he's not the only kid out there with this fear.