Let’s be real. Watching your kids navigate their way through life can be incredibly painful. Sometimes our kids face things that are even out of their control. As moms we want to shield them and manipulate the circumstances and somehow make their road easier. There have been moments when I wanted to shrink my kids back to diapers and Sesame Street lunch boxes, when the problems they faced made sense and didn’t have lasting implications.
As my kids moved from babies to toddlers to children to teens, I began to realize how paralyzing mom fear could be.
When Brittainy was in seventh grade we noticed she was becoming more quiet and withdrawn. Shy as a preschooler, she had blossomed into a confident middle schooler, active in school and sports, but now we noticed she was spending more time alone in her room and was turning down opportunities for sleepovers and parties.
One evening she and I went to a movie and about five minutes after it started, Brittainy got up to go to the bathroom. Twenty minutes went by and Brittainy hadn’t come back. When I went to look for her, I found her lying on the bench in the movie lobby surrounded by people.
Her words struck fear in my heart. “Mom, I think I’m having a heart attack.”
In the hospital emergency room, the doctor quickly informed me she wasn’t having a heart attack but rather a panic attack. A panic attack? What was she panicky about? The doctor asked me some questions. Had Geoff or I ever had panic attacks? No. Had Brittainy suffered a brain injury or other traumatic event? No! Even the question struck fear in my heart.
Over the course of the next few years, Geoff and I became immersed in learning about panic attacks. We found out that a panic attack is a sudden, intense feeling of fear or apprehension that made you feel like you were dying. You couldn’t control when the attacks would occur and you usually couldn’t stop them once they started. They made you feel as if something horrible was about to happen and that you needed to escape. Many times it affected your breathing and your heart rate and made you feel desperate. Many times what brought them on was a complete mystery. Even the doctors said they didn’t completely understand them.
I don’t have words to express how painful it was to watch Brittainy experience these painful attacks that stretched over the next few years, sometimes multiple times a day. They affected her confidence and her resilience. They seemed to suck the joy right out of her. I had to swallow the urge to panic right along with her. What could we, should we, have done to prevent them? Were they my fault? Wherever they had come from, whatever was the cause, I just wanted them to stop this instant.
I wish I could say I handled Brittainy’s panic attacks with ease. I wish I could say I didn’t let my fear run away with me. Neither of these was the case. The doctor reassured us there was nothing medically wrong with Brittainy and the panic attacks were certainly not going to kill her. They talked about medications and coping strategies. But inside I just got mad.
God, I know You love Brittainy more than I do. You can do anything. So why aren’t You taking the panic attacks away?
Maybe as a mom you’ve felt this way.
We pray for our kids, we trust them completely to God. Why in the world does He let them go through pain and be exposed to things that are so devastating?
I don’t have the complete answer to these whys, but I do know that God has a plan for you as a mom, and for each one of your children from the moment they are born. God began to do some serious work on my heart and I began to learn what total trust was. I knew I couldn’t stop Brittainy’s attacks. All I could do was be there, reassure her, and let her know we were trying to help her as best we could.
Let’s Get Practical
When circumstances spin out of control, what is your initial reaction?
Instead of panicking, try keeping a journal of resources in regard to a frightening situation. Keep track of references online and in books and make note of discussions with experts (in my case, doctors and counselors). Surround yourself with people dealing with similar issues. Support groups exist for many issues you or someone you love might be facing, and if there isn’t a group meeting near you, find a support network online.
Pray, and ask those you love to pray, for a situation you are struggling with. You can’t fix everything, but you can turn it over to a God whose shoulders can handle the burden.
God, Make My Kids Dangerous
One day as I was praying for Brittainy, I felt a question rise up in my heart. What will Brittainy become? In my heart I wasn’t even letting my thoughts go there. I just wanted her to get past what she was dealing with today. Up to that time, I had always prayed, God, keep my kids safe. Keep them from harm, protect them wherever they go. As I began to spend some time dreaming hand in hand with God about what they could become instead of what I was afraid of right now, my thoughts changed, along with my fears. My prayers became refocused and proactive:
God, make my kids dangerous for you. Make Satan tremble at the sound of their voice. Make them so powerful that they change their world, instead of the world changing them.
Looking back, I know God was dealing with my fear and my worry and my hopes and dreams for my kids, all wrapped up in one simple question, What will Brittainy become? I began to slowly trade my fear and worry for a big dream.
Today Brittainy is a worship leader who stands in front of crowds large and small. I look at her now and I see a strong young lady, imperfect but courageous. She still struggles with occasional panic attacks, but they don’t throw her off course. She still faces fears and still has her moments of doubt, but I see her depending on a big God with a big plan.
So how about you? As a mom of little people or perhaps people on the road to adulthood, are you ready to make a trade?
God is so ready to take your fear and replace it with a dream bigger than you’ve even imagined for your kids.
Let’s Get Practical
1. What scares you most about having teenagers? Are these fears based on things you have experienced or stories you have heard?
2. Do you have specific “crazy mama” fears that you struggle with? What are they? Do you have a husband or wise parent friends you can share them with?
3. What’s the best “come down off the crazy ledge” advice that anyone has ever given you about being a mom?
4. What do you think God might be trying to say to you through this chapter?
Let’s Take Action
Put into words the dreams you have for your children. Start a Family Dream Journal and list out the dreams you feel God is giving you for your family. Consider sharing it with your husband and your children.
Watch the Brave Mom Video
Excerpted with permission from Brave Mom by Sherry Surratt, copyright Zondervan.
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Consider Sherry’s questions above and come share your answers with us on our blog! What are some of your worries and how are you praying about them? What would you write in your Family Dream Journal? We’d love to hear from you! ~ FaithGateway Women