Friday, February 19, 2010

Mommy Worries

I am having one of those days. I need to vent and nothing makes me feel better than writing, so here we go. I decided on a whim this morning to take Colin out to a railroad museum that features model trains and a toddler story time. Colin LOVES trains and my mommy group had a playdate scheduled there this morning, so I thought it would be a fun trip. Colin slept great last night after expending a good deal of energy chasing after his older cousins and it seemed like the perfect morning to go for a trip. The event was on the other side of the Metroplex, almost a full hour from home. When we arrived, Colin was jumping up and down in his car seat exclaiming "Trains!! My favorite!!" and I thought that he was going to have a blast. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. As soon as we walked in the door, he saw other people. This spelled disaster. The little museum was adorable, but rather small, and it was full of other moms, toddlers and siblings. Colin is such a shy little boy, and he would not let me put him down. He saw some of our good friends, but it did not make up for the crowded feeling that he so dislikes. He began chanting immediately that he wanted to go home and I made a real effort to calm him down by pointing out the different model trains and other displays. He lasted about 15 minutes and ended up at the door begging to leave. I walked outside with him in a last attempt to calm his nerves and he spotted the attached playground close by. He perked up immediately and was all smiles as he ran through the blustery cold wind toward the park. He played there for a good half hour while I shivered (I did not bring my coat...oops!) and asked repeatedly if he would go back inside for the story. He vehemently refused. We ended up leaving before I was able to say goodbye to anyone and I was that mother again...the one who disappears after mere minutes at a playdate. These situations are always the hardest for me. Colin was not doing anything wrong at all and of course did absolutely nothing that required punishing. I can't force Colin to have fun somewhere and I certainly can't force him to not be shy...nor would I want to. I love everything about who he is and would not change him at all. I internally debate myself sometimes wondering what the right steps are to make Colin feel more comfortable in his surroundings. There are times when it is right to push Colin, but there are also times that I know the situation cannot be recovered. I can judge that almost the instant that we arrive somewhere...if he is slightly shy or cowering, I can push him to try what is making him nervous and he will warm up and enjoy himself. If we walk in the door and he immediately starts crying and clinging to me like a baby monkey, it is pretty much over right off the bat. I keep trying new things however...I am not going to give up. Even though I can't fully judge what will bother him and what he will tolerate, I still have to give everything a shot. I don't want Colin to miss out on the world because of his sensitives. It is hard because I can't pinpoint exactly what will bother him. He loves going out with me and we have such happy days together. He does not mind being in crowded restaurants or play places of any kind. He loves Chuck E. Cheese, McDonald's and any and every park. He gets upset when there are other people involved in an outing...places that we are interacting with people he does not know very well or he feels crowded or overwhelmed in any way. We can be with friends that Colin knows well, but the event itself may overwhelm him. It is hard for me to explain in writing and harder still to get the thoughts into the correct words.

Sometimes I feel alone...I suppose that is the right word for it. I don't have any friends with children who display sensitivities like Colin does and I don't have anyone to talk to about it. I think a lot about how to raise Colin, how to introduce him to things that bother him and how to teach him. He is such a sensitive, brilliant and complex child and there are times that I feel like I am going about everything is in those moments that I wish I had someone to bounce ideas off of. When I arrive at a playdate and all the other two year old boys run off and start playing and Colin stands paralyzed at my side, it hurts my heart a little. Not because I mind Colin being shy, because I don't at all, but because I hope that I am doing the right things to make him happy. He is so loud and funny and silly...he is almost the opposite child of the one people see when we go out. He is, however, sensitive at all times. When he is punished for something, the only thing he is concerned about is me and if I am "still sad" and "are you happy now, Mommy?". He cannot stand for someone to seem upset at all. He is so vocal and precious and brilliant and also painfully shy when faced with certain things in the outside world. It is so hard to put into words and now I am just rambling. I don't think there is a bottom line to this stream of thought...I just find myself standing in the back of whatever event we attend with a precious little boy paralyzed by shyness and fear. I want to take that away for him, but I can't...or don't know how. I don't want to change him, but I do want to help him.

Jer has told me that he felt much the same way that Colin does when he was little, so I don't worry too much. Jer turned out to be a brilliant, funny, amazing man despite being a shy little boy. :-) I can handle the world with another Jeremy, that's for sure! Heck, maybe the whole problem is simply that Colin has such an extrovert for a mother that he just seems shy in comparison! ;-)


The Murrays said...

Chalna, I know it's hard to put feelings into words sometimes, especially when it involves our children...but I think you did a good job! I really do "get" what you're saying.

One of my very best friends (Lindsay, who I sometimes refer to on my blog), has a little boy who is MUCH the same as you describe Colin. Very very sweet and smart, and extremely outgoing around those he's most comfortable with, but he gets really UNcomfortable in new situations. I think the only difference is that between her and her husband, Lindsay has the introverted personality and her husband Chad reminds me of you - super outgoing, extroverted, etc. It's been a lot harder for Chad to get a feel for Chalin's behaviors than Lindsay. He worries more about if he's pushing too much/too little etc. and Lindsay has been able to be more laid back about his behaviors because she relates so well to them. Does that make sense? It's so hard to know if you're doing the right thing when it is a trait that is probably very foreign to you personally?!?! That's what I'm thinking anyway...

I honestly think you are doing the best thing for Colin. Keep trying new experiences - sometimes it may work and sometimes it may not, but it already sounds like you have a pretty good gauge of when to push and when to hold back. Trust those mommy instincts :-)

Another thing to think about is the many phases our little ones go through. My mom said I was an EXTREMELY extroverted toddler, but really went into my shell when I hit school and didn't come out of it much until junior high...this may be something that Colin loosens up on with age.

Lindsay also noticed a difference with her little guy when he started Mommy's Day Out last year (granted, the first few weeks were a bit rough as he acclimated), but it has been so good for him to be around other children in a new situation and learn to adapt. He has a great time there now, so I'm thinking Colin starting his school program in the fall could be a really positive thing when he gets used to it!

And although Schafer doesn't have the shy issue like Colin, he instead has the "I'm so strong willed I will stop traffic to get my way no matter where we are and how much of a scene it causes" attitude...which has made me do the same "leave in the middle of playgroup/dinner/event with little or no notice" that you speak of, so I CAN feel your pain in that way.

I'm sorry this is so long - just wanted you to know that I think it sounds like you're doing what you need to be doing and aren't you glad we have places to vent our words?

Love you friend!!!

TanyatheMom said...

Oh is so hard to know if what we are doing is right. Every kid (especially mine) has days and times when things are not going the way we wish. Greyson may not be super shy, but I have been "that Mom" TOO MANY times to count for other reasons. Be it throwing toys, not sharing, flat out refusing to leave, or the like....I feel your pain. I promise I don't think of you as "that Mom" EVER...Colin is such a soft hearted sweet boy, and it's hard when we throw them into new situations with weird people and lots of noise. You did the right tried to regroup with a change of scenery, he was doing better and found something more to his liking, so you changed course. That's what parenting is all about...we try to keep up with our kids' ever changing desires and needs. Your a FAB Mom and super FAB lady! Hugs:-).

elegraph said...

Just in reading your post, I can say without question that Colin sounds like a well-adjusted, tender-hearted kid who is so lucky to have such caring parents! It sounds like you are handling things in the most kind, thoughtful manner, and I’ve never known that to be the “wrong” way! And hey, if I had a little boy who actually wanted to know if I was happy instead of, say, slapping me square on the cheek during a temper tantrum (uh, yeah… that happened the other day!), that'd make my day! ;-)

From the age of four months to a little younger than 1.5 years, M had the toughest time being around other people (even family members!) or in busy public places – the worst panicky meltdowns. EVER. That was a pretty isolating time for me, too. I have a friend whose little boy is 10 months younger than M, and he is intimidated by no one – never has been. I secretly envied that and also wondered to myself if I was doing something to facilitate his uber-sensitive nature (a nagging feeling that wasn’t helped by family who would tell me that his “problem” was probably a result of my not “getting him out there” enough). Gosh, M is just a different kid now, almost a 180 from those days – he has his moments, but he is so much more social and enthusiastic… there wasn’t a “turning point”, so to speak, and nothing we did to cause a change… I just pretty much stayed with the course and, like you, tried to be aware of when it was good to give him a nudge and when to throw my hands up and call it a day.

I also know how it is when you make big plans and are so excited, you just *know* that your little guy is going to LOVE it, and it’s just not so. That happened to us last summer when we took him to see a Thomas LIVE! show. Complete lack of enthusiasm on his part!

ANYway!! I hope what I meant to share – that you’re awesome, and so is Colin! – came across in all that blather.

Anonymous said...

First off, you are NOT alone!! EVERY mom has that same feeling...questioning whether what we are doing is what is best for our kids, not knowing if we are doing the right thing or not, and seeing our kids in comparison to all the kids in a group and noticing that it is our kid that is the one standout (for whatever reason). And I know for sure I have moments where I wonder if I am going about things all wrong too.

Although Gabby doesn't have the same anxieties as Colin, we did have a good bit of that same nervousness when she was younger, and even now she has her moments. I DO know the feeling of seeing a group of happy go lucky kids who are all having a blast, and wondering why Gabby can't just let go a little and go have fun instead of being nervous, clingy, and sad. It is a yucky feeling, and it made me feel like a big spotlight was on us, highlighting the difference.

It sounds like you are doing the right things...pushing him when you know you can, and not forcing it when you know you can't, and not giving up. The more positive experiences he has, the more he will build confidence. Also, the more security you provide him, the more comfortable he will feel to separate himself from you and take risks.

The only advice I have comes from my own personal experience of being a PAINFULLY shy child. I was loud and boisterous at home or with close friends, but trying new things were agonizing for me. I remember having so much anxiety about EVERYTHING from pre-school through mid-elementary. Once I tried things I was usually fine, but I was scared to death to try things. What I later MOM is the exact same way. She has social anxiety and I think she had some semi-traumatic experiences in her school days. I know that anxiety projected onto us, and looking back on it, I KNOW it exacerbated things a good bit. I would have been shy regardless, but I would have been more prone to step out of my comfort zone a little more if I had a parent who was a little more carefree. My mom ATTEMPTED to be carefree about things I was nervous about...but I remember it seeming so forced that I could see right through it, and actually made things worse.

So with Gabby, I try to be cognizant of what I am projecting...if I am feeling personal anxiety about what we are doing, if I am trying to hard to cover up what I am feeling, or even if I am just feeling anxious about how Gabby might react to something. I don't know if it has made any difference, but it IS something I focus on.

You are a fantastic mom, Colin is a fantastic kid. As it is with parenting, there will always be something to struggle with...but all that REALLY matters is that he is surrounded by lots of friends and family who love him to pieces!

kimmyjo221 said...

Chalna, you know we've experienced similar things with Hayden - ie terror at baseball games, pig races, airshow (you saw it first-hand there), anything with stadium seating, or loud noises, or lots of people. So I completely know where you are coming from!! It's very hard to decide when to push, and when to just throw in the towel.

I think you are doing the right thing by continually exposing him to new situations (that you know are safe but maybe a little overwhelming for him), and just seeing how he responds and trying to steer him emotionally in the right direction. If he is terrified I think the only solution is to leave, which is what we've done with Hayden. Eventually, there will be a place or situation where he will want to stay....and it will start getting better from there.

They are only 2 years young....they will outgrow these fears. They are so young that I think they can't mentally wrap their heads around the ideas of trust and safety, you know?

Anyway, I just want you to know that you are a great mom and Colin in a great boy, and I think you are doing exactly what you need to be doing. They all have their little quirks and fears - I think is very natural.


Alieson said...

I agree with "The Murrays"...I was actually going to suggest a mommy's day out program to you! I think it would be good for you AND good for Colin to get to know other kids his age without you around. I think that's a great idea! :)

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