It was Friday, and we were at the soccer field. It was game time for Zane's team, who were running their hearts out. My mother and father were sitting with me, while Larry, the team manager, was on the other side of the field with Zane. The nearby airport was bustling with Friday travelers heading for other cities, and next door at the stadium, high school students were preparing for Friday Night Football.
I had one eye on the sky. Thunderstorms were in the forecast, and the sky to the west was darkening. The Weather Bug app has a nifty little tool that lets you know how close lightning is to your location, but any good sporting venue will have a system in place, because lightning can hurt or kill. Everyone takes it seriously, especially when kids are involved.
My son has a thing about tornadoes. He's never been in one, and the only ones he's seen have been on television. Zane knows that tornadoes happen during thunderstorms, but he wasn't paying attention to anything but the game, for which I was grateful. He gets his anxiety from me, I'm sorry to say. I have been anxious my entire life. My anxiety has been extreme this year, with panic attacks, insomnia, and lots of hyperventilating. It's not pretty. Sometimes the crazy comes out.
When Zane starts hyperfocusing on the weather, it's bad for both of us. His anxiety is my anxiety. For every millisecond that he is wringing his hands, crying, or just sitting there frozen in fear, I am feeling the same. I want to grab him and run screaming from whatever it is that is causing him any panic. I think that most parents want to protect their little ones, but not many have an anxiety disorder on top of the normal parent feelings.
But here's the difference: I cannot let Zane see my crazy when his crazy comes out. Kids take their cue from their parents. My parents were always calm during emergencies when I was growing up; as long as they were calm, I was calm. As anxious as I am, therefore, I can't show it. I have to appear calm, ready to handle anything. My child deserves nothing less.
The lightning alarm went off, as expected. Zane froze, not understanding what the alarm meant. He thought it meant that there was a tornado, and he lost it. He barely managed to quickly shake hands with the opposing team. While all the adults were scattering, trying to move all of the children safely off of the soccer field, Zane ran to me, crying.
"Hey!" I said firmly. "When I freak out, THEN you can freak out! Do you see me freaking out?"
I put on the calm face, talked to him in the moderate voice. He bought it. He took my hand and we walked to the car, one of the safest places to be in the event of lightning. Zane talked about tornadoes; I pointed out that if there had been a tornado, he would have been able to see and hear it coming. This was a good point; Zane wanted to know what tornadoes sounded like. We waited calmly for Larry.
Then Zane remembered that he left his backpack on the field. I let Daddy handle that one.