An Open Letter to my Anxious Son

My dear son,

Your dad began whispering through the phone and I began to feel frustrated. I was having a hard time hearing his voice on speaker phone and he wasn’t hearing my request to wait while I turned the speaker off.

He quietly recounted how you exited school with an intense scowl on your face. You weren’t talking and he knew that talking to your teacher might give insight to what had transpired. He said that you had jabbed a friend in the stomach a little too hard and as a result, you had to move your clip down to black on the behavior chart. He wanted me to know that you were emotional and meltdowns were being triggered rather easily.

As I walked through the door, I could hear the shrieking sounds of you and your brother playfully wrestling. The energy escalated and eventually you were both in a place where you had little control of your bodies. We tried to encourage you both to separate but you were like frenzied magnets and your ears were not in tune with any requests.

Once you separated, you washed up and began setting out the placemats as requested. You were distracted by the Magna Doodle and I began to grow frustrated as you started to shut down and ignore my requests to put the toy away and continue setting the table.

I tried to simplify my requests asking you to just set out the forks and I would do the rest but you sat there with a vacant look on your face. It appeared as if you were being defiant and at a loss for direction we decided that you should go to your room until you could choose to engage with us. When you didn’t go, your dad took you by the hand to escort you to your room and as you passed the pile of forks, you made sure to turn back and scatter them all across the table. In that moment, it felt difficult to hold the details of your day and I in turn got big and loud and made sure you knew that I was angry.

Your hardness broke as you cried and I could feel that the cries were coming from a deep place inside of you. A place where fight or flight are the only reasonable responses for the fear that you are feeling. The unrest in your body that you have no words to explain because you are only a child. Goodness, who am I kidding? I barely have words to explain the unrest for myself so often until after I have spilled out all over the place.

Your dad told me later that while I was attempting to persuade you to set the table, I missed you sitting at the table, pantomiming with your finger a picture of a jail cell as you said under your breath, “bad guy, in jail.” Oh buddy. How my heart sank. It sank, knowing that in that moment, you were your greatest enemy and nothing I could say would take away how you felt about yourself.

In this parenting journey, I am learning more about guiding a highly sensitive and anxious child. There is an awe I experience with you at times that brings tears when your sensitive heart is kind and tender. At times, your sensitivity also brings tears as I watch you draw inside of yourself, becoming overwhelmed by the perceived danger that you experience, causing you to lash out on yourself and those around you.

Andrew Peterson sings a song that you’ve heard me play many times. I wonder if you’ve listened the words as it plays. Whether you ever realize what he is saying in his song or not, I hope you know that this is the cry of my heart for you.

“You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean
And you’re drowning in a deep, dark well
I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice
You would rather be anyone else

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He made your precious heart

Be kind to yourself

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can’t believe your Father knows best

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He’s shaping your heart

Be kind to yourself

How does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve got to forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself

Be kind to yourself. I am right here with you learning this lesson as we face danger together, my son.

Love you always,

DSC_0533Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys.  A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.