She makes faces when we ask her to drive, she runs and hides if its time to text a friend. I worry about the future of my daughter, the smart and funny girl who no one realizes is smart and funny. It’s because of crippling social anxiety. It occurred to me this summer that she only had two years left of high school and then it would be college and job interviews and moving away. I began to wonder, had we held her hand too long? Is it time to push her out of the nest, let her stumble and fall with our open arms waiting to catch her?
My goal isn’t to have a child with 50 close friends. My objective is to make sure she’s able to speak with her teachers and professors if she has an issue, to be able to walk into a class and find someone to sit and chat with, to go on a job interview and deal with her boss should something come up. Sometimes we’re programmed to be able to handle these relatively mundane activities and sometimes, fear grips us and we’re frozen.
Whether she admits it or not, she needs to be pushed. She needs to not make any more excuses as to why she can’t do something. And she should no longer be able to tell herself she’s fine the way the situation is, she doesn’t need any friends. I know she’s lying. There are those times she’s upset she wasn’t included. She gets angry when she thinks she should be in Honors classes and isn’t. Deep down its there. And as a parent I know what’s coming.
It boils down to the desire to not grow up. To remain a kid forever. But we all know that’s simply not possible. The kid gets great grades, works two jobs, is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. She’s almost already there and yet her preconceived ideas block her from moving forward.
Medicine isn’t the only therapy for someone with severe anxiety. We learned that pills can only do so much. There’s a rewiring that needs to go on, and learning and understanding that fear is nothing but the lies we tell ourselves. She tells herself plenty. And that’s why I’ve chosen to be the mean mom, force her out of her comfort zone and make her face the things that scare her. She will learn one of two things: the first is, that wasn’t as bad as I thought and I was being really goofy or she’ll learn how to live with the anxiety and learn to maneuver through it so that she doesn’t end up alone and hiding in her house with twenty cats.
I keep telling her life is more fun if you share with friends, if you go out and experience anything. She still doesn’t believe me. I hope someday she’ll understand. Reluctantly she’s been trying. She’s been texting, we’ve had her driving. It’s a struggle, its work, but in the end, my goal is to raise a child who can live in the world, understand what frightens her and hopefully she’ll have those magical tools in which to pull from to help her through what’s hard.
It breaks my heart to throw the kid out of the nest, to watch her tear up when it becomes uncomfortable, but after some time, I know, I’m not here to be her friend. I’m here to be her parent. I still know what’s best for her. And whether she likes it or not, adulthood is looming around the corner. If I dig my heals in a little deeper than her, she’ll be alright.