Originally published on Medium.com.
My son is eleven years old and he has anxiety. Not just worries or concerns. His triggers can be large or small. Change plans and you’ll create an emotional response. Take something away, discipline, ask for him to do something he doesn’t want to do and all this can lead to emotions that take time to calm.
He told me yesterday that sleep makes him nervous.
Yesterday was not easy.
Fears come from pressure, real or imagined. Pressure comes from adversity. We have two options when faced with adversity; fight or flight.
Make yourself better. Now. In the moment. Get tougher to rise with the occasion.
I read about this stuff and, almost forty years into life, I get it. The message is not complicated. Every day I page through my worn copy of Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle is the Way.
My son has started to look at it. He’s interested.
The larger concepts are not easy to cross over.
When you are facing middle school. You are facing a summer that will not look like the last few. When you haven’t seen your friends in months. When the last day you entered a school was to drop off your stuff from home and you went as fast as possible to get the mask off quick enough to not have anyone see or make fun of you.
These changes in his personality have been coming for a few years.
In 2018, my wife and I experienced a miscarriage. He did not take it well. He was excited for a sibling and the loss hurt him, and all of us, deeply.
I’ve come to understand that loss offers us a choice. We can stay in it or use it to move forward stronger.
In his eleven years, we’ve dealt with other things large and small.
Nothing like this pandemic. Nothing like trying to explain why he has to distance and why he has to wear a mask in a store and may have to wear one eight hours a day in the fall, in a new school.
Nothing like this time of civil unrest, explaining to him that physical appearance means something in this world no matter how much we’d like to think otherwise, explaining that his job as a young man and eventual adult is to love everyone and work purposefully to stop hate whenever he sees it.
The biggest challenge I’m facing as a dad right now is this:
Standing in the center of this storm with two sons reaching for my hands looking for encouragement that the winds and waves will subside.
Looking to be steadied.
When the lesson is that adversity will never go away.
That forces moving against us call for us to rise up. That fear may be tempting you to run away but, in the end, running towards the source of the fear is the only option.
That’s the challenge.
Looking in their faces and saying no, the storms won’t stop. The waves will keep coming.
You two, my boys, will rise up and grow stronger.
Your sails will one day catch the wind and you will take off away from mom and I on your own journeys.
Until then we’ll be here. In good times and bad. When you laugh and when you are scared. When you fear. When the shadows seem too long.
We’ll be here to call you forward, to catch you when you stumble, and set you on your path once more.