Do I Make You Nervous?

I find when I’m out with Kendall and he’s playing with other kids his age, I always seem to be the mom who’s jumpy. I’m the one who can’t control her gasp reflex when any of the kids fall. I’m the one willing herself not to helicopter, and losing that battle more often than I’d like.

I think I make the other parents nervous.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just let them play? They’re FINE. A little fall, a bump, a bruise never killed anyone. 

But, when other parents see 2 kids climbing a little higher than they should, I’m betting that they don’t then see flashes of their kid losing his balance and falling head first to the ground, snapping his neck.

When other parents see their kid running at the pool, they probably don’t then envision them slipping and hitting their head on the edge of the pool and bleeding everywhere.

When other parents see their kid running with a stick, they probably don’t then see them falling and impaling themselves with it.

I’m guessing because I know not all other parents deal with anxiety like I do. I know not all other parents deal with these visions like I do.

And so some of them, I feel, get a sense of unease around me. They can pick up on my nerves. I make them uncomfortable.

I don’t blame them. They don’t know. I don’t go around the playground explaining my anxiety, how I have a tendency to fear the worst when it comes to my kids.

I’m trying. I really am. Over the last 8 months, I’ve made some great strides in dealing with it. The visions are just this weird residual side effect that’s hard to get rid of, and I’m not sure I ever will. I’m not sure that I need to. I think I just have to keep working to deal with them, to talk myself out of them, to rationally break down what is and isn’t a real threat.

Somedays I just want to keep my kids inside the house because I feel like that’s the safest place they can be, the easiest place for me to control.

But then I take a deep breath… or twenty, get dressed, and take my kids someplace they can learn and explore. That truly is my intention.

So, next time you see that helicopter mom at the playground and you think she’s overbearing and  not letting her kids discover and play with their surroundings, maybe consider for a moment that the step of even bringing her kid to a playground to begin with was a huge one.

Kendall is 4 years old and Leyna is 17 months old

  • Arnebya - I am the mom who can’t hold a conversation with the other moms b/c I’m too busy concentrating on remaining in my seat. Do. Not. Run. To. Him. I get the whole itchy underarms (thanks so much for that protection fail, Secret!), sweaty brow, please don’t fall, please don’t fall, please don’t fall chant going. And you’re right; we never know about the other moms.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - In re: sticks

    Yikes! I don’t know so much about falling and impaling, but when I was about Kendall’s age another boy was flinging a stick around and I got poked in the eye with it, hard enough that it blackened.

    Maybe I should have kept that to myself…I hope I’m not giving you new Mommy Visions. :( ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Hutchins - Jill,

    I am literally inches away from my kid at all times on the playground because I am afraid of them falling or getting hurt or possibly even running off the playground. Other moms look at me like I’m strange but Gabe is so daring, and I know that of my kid, that I feel like I should be right behind him. What is wrong with that? I want to protect him.ReplyCancel

  • Denae @ New Mom Adventure - Jill be nice to yourself. While you probably make the other moms nervous, I doubt they are mad at you for it. They understand scary can happen and how scary those consequences are. They get it. Even if they don’t know you deal with anxiety. When I had my pregnancy anxiety, I would counter my thoughts exactly as you are. 1. Own that you are over reacting, 2. Remind yourself why you are overreacting (anxiety vs real life and death situation) 3. Lots of deep breaths (I also add conscious muscle relaxation). 4. Take reasonable precautions against major consequences (i.e. no running with that stick!) Then, tell yourself you are doing a good job. BECAUSE YOU ARE! Also totally not dealing with anxiety me would be calmly standing next to that climbing Kendall so I could catch him if he fell.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Flora Ross - I can’t speak for every parent, but you are describing me to a T. And I don’t suffer from anxiety. Kids can and do fall and get hurt. I supervise my child. She’s only three years old. Some may call me a “helicopter mom.” I don’t care. That is their label, not mine. I let my child play and explore. I don’t hold her back. She’s fearless and loves to take risks, and I let her. But I make sure I am close by. I watch her. I know the vibe you are referring to. I get it from other parents sometimes, too. I don’t care. They can be however they want with their child(ren). I will be how I choose with mine.ReplyCancel

  • Beckykid - I thought I was the only one who had those visions with sticks and bloody heads running screaming towards me. Hell I get it even walking down the stairs with my son. It’s something I’m learning to breathe through and reassure myself with when nothing happens. Or tell myself he is okay if he falls and scrapes his knee. Its hard, and I totally hear you. Even on medication to control my anxiety I still have trouble. But it’s better.

    I think part of it is too that they ARE our kids. Of course nobody wants anything to happen. Except my mind starts thinking about the worst – instead of how much fun he is having learning how to go down the slide by himself.ReplyCancel

  • Tara - I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I just want to thank you for being so open about your anxiety! I have visions like that all the time of my own kids, and it drives me nuts.ReplyCancel

  • Jess Z. - Will it help if I tell you that I have those same visions every day? My family makes fun of me because I always see/expect the worst to happen in any given situation.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa B. - I’m glad I’m NOT alone here… I’m that Mom too… We rarely go to the park unless DH is off work and honestly, I generally wont stop unless there is next to no one there… We have a 3 year old and 4 year old (14 months apart) and they constantly go opposite directions. One has no fear and the other just likes to climb to high places. The park is a rough place… maybe not for them, but it is for this Momma.ReplyCancel

  • Nichole - Thank you for talkIng about this so openly! I have always been too embarrassed to discuss the
    Horrible visions I have. Reading about your journey with anxiety has already helped talk to my doctor and start on meds that really help. I love knowing I am not alone in this journey!ReplyCancel

  • Candy - I am working on those exact same issue but my are usaully when I am driving my kids around and the visions are crashing into something. Thank you for sharing and reminding us at we should judge each other because we don’t know they other persons story.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - OMG I am right there with you. I was like this at the pool last weekend. We went to a new pool with some friends. They had a 2 foot deep kid pool connected to the big pool by a tiled ledge. I didn’t want to get in the water with my four year old because I had my 4 month old with me and was trying to nurse her and keep her from getting overheated/burnt to a crisp or any of my other irrational scenarios. So I’m sitting on the side of the kiddie pool chatting with another mom and every 2 minutes telling my four year old to not go over the ledge to the big pool. She’s had swim lessons, there was a lifeguard and plenty of other parents around, but I still had this irrational fear that she would dive over to the big pool and I wouldn’t be able to get there quick enough because of my 4 month old in my arms. I think I made me other mom friend nervous, so yeah right there with you. It takes all my strength to not be a helicopter parent and just let my kid be a kid.ReplyCancel

  • Kelli G - Thank you.

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

    I’ve been dealing with postpartum anxiety as well since my twins were born and oddly enough they are not my biggest trigger – it’s my 2.5 year old. I agonize daily over how I would save him from these awful things with my two 9-month-olds in my arms. I’ve had every single one of those visions you spoke about and they’re equally terrifying. Hubby doesn’t get it. He thinks I’m being overprotective. And yes, I agree that I am and I’m working on it. But I feel that he isn’t protective enough (probably because his mother wasn’t at all protective and he had more broken bones as a child than anyone I’ve ever met).

    Postpartum anxiety and depression can be a lonely place. I often feel like I’m the only one who has to battle these feelings, so thank you so much for sharing yours. It makes me feel so much less alone. :) ReplyCancel

  • Leah - Wait, envisioning every possible way your child might meet a grisly end is NOT normal? Hrm, perhaps I should look into that.ReplyCancel

  • Haley - Wait, I’m not alone?! …I do the same thing. I just feel like I never want to look back and say “I wish I would’ve…” after having my child get hurt in some freak accident like being impaled by a stick! lolReplyCancel

  • Ginger - Those sorts of images are one of the biggest parts of my anxiety. I’ve visualized every single member of my family getting hurt/killed/maimed, including my kid. And that’s the thing my therapist has worked the most with me on working on. It really took medication for those images to fully disappear for me, but I know exactly the kinds of fears you’re going through.
    Whether you make other parents nervous or not, you have to deal with your anxiety how you deal with it–and if that means hovering around your kids, so be it!ReplyCancel

  • Brett - Will isn’t a parent yet and he’s exactly like you’re describing. Hell, so am I.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Oh Jill-

    I am so with you on this. This is me to a tee. Whenever my husband takes one or both kids I think that this could be the last time I see them all and imagine firey crashes. It’s awful. AWFUL! The part about the stick — yup, every single day! Oh and the other day I noticed that a stake was sticking up from the wall surrounding our garden and all I could see was my kids falling and impaling their head on it. I hate that you feel this way, but I have to admit seeing all these comments make me not feel so alone!

    AmandaReplyCancel

  • Ashley B. - I had these visions all the time, before having a kid. Now they are worse. I’ve taken away all these toys I thought were adorable when my nieces played with them. I always think ‘i will not watch that go down his throat when he trips and eats it on the tile.’ It’s a little over the top in my case but I am dealing. I have to step back and let him fall (after I take away long and pointy objects) it hurts me more than him. I never considered it as being anxiety, I just thought I had a morbid mind. Thanks for bringing that up, it makes me feel less weird!ReplyCancel

  • Annegirrl - I thought it was just me with those crazy visions of bleeding, choking, falling, breaking, and so on. My husband led me to believe so at least. Luckily, I have lazy on my side and that keeps me from acting too crazy and helicopter parent-like.

    I just wonder sometimes if my constant refrain of “be careful” will somehow hold my children back from exploring and being daring. The woes and worries of being a mom and ruining our kids.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - I am a helicopter, I hate going to the park, because of this, all the other older bigger kids who dont give a shit for the smaller, slower, younger kids. I am always saying say excuse me, ican you please move?, reminding my kids to be polite even when these little shit heads are running all over almost taking them out. I have visions too, my girls are incredibly clumsy, I let them do things, but it scares the crap out of me. They can trip over a crack in the floor. Riding bike is like going me a heart attack! As they get older, it will get better! Thanks for being honest!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Thanks for talking about these things. I am the same way and I don’t want to be. I work hard to keep it under control, I have a hard time letting anyone else care for my child, for the same reasons. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one…for a long time I thought I was just a *freak*.ReplyCancel

  • cali - I definitely imagine the ways that everything could go wrong, or how my son could get hurt, and I don’t struggle with anxiety. I thought it was a mom thing haha. Anyway it also makes me nervous because we have had experiences where other children will attack my son and the parents will sit there and laugh and/or completely ignore it. So I feel like I always have to be an arms length away to protect him. But I totally feel you, I am trying to work on it. I want him to explore and learn and make mistakes, and I definitely don’t want him to grow up being nervous and scared because he knows I am. Sigh, why is parenting so hard?ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - That picture of Kendall made my heart skip a beat – from nerves! I’m not normally anxiety-prone, but seeing a kid up that high – yowzers! Mine’s only 2 right now, but I know that’s the direction he’s headed.ReplyCancel

  • Emily at Tales of Fruit and Cake - I relate to this so much. Every. Single. Word.

    What is strange is I felt this way after my second child (second boy, born 26 months after my first little guy). But now with 3 kids 4 and under I feel like I’ve finally relaxed. Some days I don’t leave the house, because it’s easier to stay in, but I no longer feel guilty about it. And when we go strawberry picking I am okay that they run off and eat berries and get muddy unsupervised. I just try not to think about the 2 year old eating a berry with a bug inside. ::gag::ReplyCancel

  • Abigail - Oh I’m totally screwed, aren’t I? I’ve already have these visions and I don’t even have a child of my own.

    I always hoped that once I grew a child that would magically go away and I would become one of those laid back parents who let their kids climb trees and play sets without having a heart attack. Probably not a realistic expectation, huh? Sigh.ReplyCancel

  • Larks - I really appreciate you being so open about your anxiety and how it impacts your daily life.

    I feel like it’s so easy for people to go, “WTF is up with all this helicopter parenting? It never used to be this way back in the day. Parents are too overprotective these days. Relax.” or otherwise weave one playground anecdote into a larger tapestry that justifies their view of ‘what’s wrong with people these days’.

    So it’s really great to have posts like this out there to shed light on some of the reasons people do what they do. It’s a good reminder to us all to lay off the judging because you never really know what’s going through someone’s head or where they’re coming from.ReplyCancel

  • Jess @ MomEinstein - I can relate to this. I have such a hard time walking on the sidewalk with Vicki, even holding her had, because I’m afraid she’ll get away from me and run into the street. Or when we are playing in the yard and a car goes by I picture her being hit. I haven’t been to the playground alone with her in a while because I can’t keep up with her 9 months pregnant.

    I try to be relaxed, and I like to think that I am fairly laid back as a parent, but it’s not always easy to be that way.ReplyCancel

  • Jess @ MomEinstein - Oh, and it actually makes me nervous when parents totally ignore their kids on the playground. So the opposite of you.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey - Until I read this, I thought that’s what everyone thought when they saw kids running with sticks or climbing too high. I just read this post to my husband and he informed me that no, not everyone thinks like this. Good to know.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - As a non-worrier, your type of parent doesn’t bother,so one less thing for you to worry about. :-)

    I do appreciate this because it will certainly give me pause next time. Is there something another parent could say that could help in the moment? Or would it come off as judgemental, no matter what, so best not to say anything?ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Nah. I think it’s one of those parent and let parent kind of things. A smile is always nice :) Thanks for asking.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - I’m not a ‘helicopter mom’ AT ALL and other parents probably think I don’t care if my kid falls and gets hurt. Of course I care! So while I’m not judging the mom who is hovering over her kids (really, I don’t judge) those moms need to not judge me for giving my kid some space. Thankfully, I don’t suffer with anxiety (for the most part) and I am grateful to be able to give that freedom to my kid. It isn’t like you think that your kids are clumsy, it’s something that you literally cannot help unless you decide to take medication for it.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy @ The UnCoordinated Mommy - I always feel somewhat stupid and I spend way to much time caring what the other mothers think, but I would much rather hover and Noah not get grievously injured. I can’t imagine what you and others go through. I have those same images, I think most mothers do, but I guess it’s how we cope with them. I’ve always felt weird because I could have those thoughts and not freak out. I guess my brain can’t handle the reality of something like that so it doesn’t truly process it.

    On a slightly different note, did you have this after Kendall was born? It’s called post-partum anxiety right?I know you have PPD with one preg and not another. Wasn’t sure how this compared. Is it something that will slowly fade as long as its treated properly now? Sorry, showing my ignorance here but I was just curious. Not trying to offend at all!!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Not offended! I’ve had these visions since I had Kendall. Seems back then, though, they didn’t evoke too much of a physical response. Of course, now it’s him, the 4 year old that freaks me out the most. I think this isn’t so much an anxiety thing as a parent thing -the visions. I just think some are better at turning them off maybe.ReplyCancel

  • Janine @ Alternative Housewife - I don’t have much anxiety surrounding my kid (which is weird, because I have a lot of anxiety about other things), which is why I’m willing to say that playground parents are just sometimes neglectful, at least at our park. I am not a helicopter parent at home – My 2 year old jumps off the couch, runs around on top of the bed right up to the edge, and just got a nasty scrape just yesterday sprinting outside across concrete wearing (hand me down!) crocs. But the playground is a whole new game. Tall slides, slippery pool areas… I sort of shake my head at parents, especially of YOUNG children, who are not even close to arm’s reach away. At our park there are always kids in DIAPERS clamoring up the steps to the slide, which has no rails and is taller than my husband. I like to let kids work out their own stuff and big kids can handle a spill, but really, kids who still take breast or bottle and pacis, on their own 10 feet in the air? Just no.

    I wish I had more parents like you at our park, willing to help watch the kiddos and not make me feel like a freak when I’m watching other people’s kids more carefully than they are.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - In reading this a lightbulb went off. I am not a worrier or helicoptor mom…and can I just be honest and say that there have a been a few times when anxious moms have said things to my kids like “oh that’s dangerous” and “be careful honey, I think you’re too little for that” and it drives me crazy. Not because they are anxious, but because I feel a little insecure, like, are you thinking I’m a bad mom because I’m not hovering and am letting my three year old climb the walk wall while I’m pushing my 4 year old on the swing, and definately not close enough to catch him if he falls? Thank you for being open about your anxiety, and your insecurity about how that anxiety is percieved (judged) by others. I am guilty of judging, but only because I felt judge. This give me a new perspective, and more compassion. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Autumn Canter - I was that mom. I was. I would always see the worse situations. I would get anxious imagining zombie hordes coming down the street and how I could possibly protect my first born. That’s just one extreme example! I have always been very controlling. I can blame this mostly on my dad being an alcoholic. Controlling behavior is quite common for children of alcoholics. I didn’t even realize how I hovered or how anxious I was, until after my brother died. He died at age 25 in a car accident while I was 8 weeks pregnant with my second child. It’s ironic that his death led to my peace of mind. At first it made my anxiety so much worse, but then….I released. I just let go. I know I can’t always protect my children, but I will try my best. Horrible things happen every day. I pray they won’t happen to me and mine, but I refuse to live in fear. Life is too short to be afraid all the time. My brother taught me that. I hope you can continue to let go too. :) ReplyCancel

  • Catherine - I do this as well. But I’ve also dealt with extreme anxiety since I was at least 12 (I’m 35 w/ 3 kids). I definitely put on a “cool” facade when I’m out and about, but trust me, I’m worst case scenario girl. I always have horrible visions of something terrible happening. But, as has been stated above, I’m not going to let those things get to me in such a way that it cripples my ability to enjoy my children and my life. I owe them more than that because they DO see it. Even when I think I’m hiding my anxiety from them.ReplyCancel

  • karie - It’s good for me to read this. I’m not a worrier, my thought is well the worst thing will be a trip to the ER-that would suck, and then I move on. As we have yet to actually make a trip to the ER I feel very vindicated in my thought process. My SIL on the other hand is just like you. It’s not the trip to the ER (although she’s made several) it’s the long fall and the horrific scream etc. She can see it all. I’m often frustrated because like another reader I feel judged by those types of mom’s as being a bad mom. I really hope I’m not. :-) I watch my kids, check on them and won’t let them run by the pool but I also know that I grew up climbing trees that shouldn’t have been climbed and being whirled on the old playground ‘merry-go-rounds’ by uncles who pushed it WAY too fast. I lived, and no ER trips or broken bones… So I think the big thing is balance and not judging, I mean after all we all adore our children and want good things for them. Right? I’ll send a smile your way if you send a smile mine, and if my kid starts chasing yours with a stick-feel free to step in! :-) ReplyCancel

  • Hypochondria vs anxiety « In The Nest of Madness - [...] I’m a little freaked. I was reading a blog, a relatively new one to read. And I read this post And I was like oh holy hell that’s me! Granted I don’t have a kid. It’s not [...]ReplyCancel

  • Karen - This is also me. The visions started with my dog a couple years ago, and after having a child it’s much worse. I always imagine the most horrible things and worry. I’m glad to know I’m not the only crazy mom out there!ReplyCancel

  • Alisha Labello - Ah, this. This… this thing that is so much more than anxiety because some days I am so damned certain that the bad thing IS going to happen. Today? Today I had to check on my near-three-year-old at nap time because she could have choked herself to death with a shoe string or ribbon and I’d never be able to hear her to help. I would never know.
    I ran across this post randomly and fell into tears.
    Ah, OCD. I would love to turn off this destructive voice in my head.

    Good luck with yours.ReplyCancel

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