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an uphill battle

I really wanted to get to the library Monday because I have three books on hold: one about cleaning, one about cooking, and one about dealing with anxiety in children. So I convinced Harvey it would be a great idea to walk up to the library with the stroller. Heck, I told him he could eat a piece of (vegetable fortified) chocolate cake in the stroller. To my amazement he agreed to go! So I got the kids all suited up and the snacks all ready and pushed off away from home.

Halfway there Harvey started to scream: "I don't want to go up the hill! I'm scared of hills!!!!"

Scared of hills? Now this is a new one. I've heard 'scared of generally leaving the house' but not of hills. Apparently he was traumatized during a recent bicycle ride to ChipIn farm when he realized he couldn't control Dan's speed going down the hill. Now he's terrified of anyone pushing him up or down a hill in bike or stroller, though this is the first I heard about it. That's the thing about Harvey. Something could seem like a lovely walk in the park, and a week later he tells you he was really attacked by wolves and he's never leaving the house again.

It's hard to control my anger in situations such as these, especially because I had REALLY gotten excited about spending a morning out of the house. I told Harvey if we turned for home there would be no more cake, ever, and he said he didn't want cake ever again in his whole entire life. That's when I believed he was really scared.

Now, I remember what it was like to be a child with anxiety. I remember thinking to myself, "If she really loved me she wouldn't make me get on this plane." I know I have the right to push a screaming child up the hill, plenty of parents would do it. But it would be unkind.

Someone said something to me over the holidays, something about me not allowing PlayMobile toys in the house because Zion could choke on the pieces, something like, "Is it really fair to Harvey?" And I said, Is it really fair to Harvey? Is it really FAIR to HARVEY???!!! Zion and Rascal and I are going out of our minds with cabin fever because Harvey won't let us out of the house; I spend 10 house a day as a preschool teacher on steroids, singing songs and running dance classes and acting out the nutcracker and rotating toys in and out of the basement to make them seem fresh, all the while preparing 1-3 hot meals and 2-4 healthy snacks and I can't open my computer during the day because I limit the shows to one half hour after lunch for THEIR benefit and I go outside only to walk the dog only when the sun is rising or setting and you wonder if what I'm doing is FAIR TO HARVEY???!!!

So it's hard to turn he stroller around and walk towards the house, but I did it.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure I should say that I do force him to leave the house three times a week: for church, for small group, and on Thursday nights to go to the library and community dinner. Mostly these times are easy because Dan is there too, and having Dan around seems to turn off the crazy tap. (Or maybe it's me who turns on the crazy tap. If so, I don't think it's something I can change.) There are other assorted times when Harvey actually wants to go out during the day, like when I got him to go to the feed store to get Christmas-pageant-straw and last Friday when he announced he wanted to go the museum. So it's not like we're shut-ins and I wouldn't say he's agoraphobic. It's just that he's afraid of some very specific things (some of which he doesn't tell us) and not leaving the house has at this point has become a "thing."

I remember when fear of the bath was a "thing.". Anything that made it more of a "thing" (like talking about HIS FEAR OF THE BATH BOOOOOOOOOO) made it much much worse. When I stopped forcing him to take a bath he got over it. Okay, so sometimes I forced him to take a bath because he smelled bad. But I stopped forcing him to take a bath as some sort of "strategy" for overcoming his "pathological fear of baths." And one day it just kind of went away.

Which is to say I'm advocating giving children autonomy, even when it saps all of mine. Even if it wasn't a magical reverse-psychology solution for anxiety, it would still be more kind.

We'll see if that psychology book agrees with me ... if I ever get it from the library!

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