I’m sitting on a train, tensing in fear. So I’m digging it up and laying it out. Warning: this is raw and vulnerable.
The Reasons I Am Feeling Fear
Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series exploring my fears around taking care of my 3 nephews for a long weekend.
Yep – that’s right. I agreed to watch the kids on my own while their parents went off to Mexico!
What was I thinking? Great question! Read Part 1 for the answer.
Sitting in the Fear Body
So here I am. I’m sitting on the train. Allyson sent me an information document, and I read through it. It is filled with information on activities in the area, supermarkets and other local amenities.
Suddenly this is getting all too real.
I feel the fear rise up. I’m completely present to it in my body. It’s in my hips and lower back. It’s gripping in my chest.
But why? Why am I so nervous? I decide to conduct an investigation.
Why am I so nervous?
I’m investigating. Here are my top 5 reasons.
(1) I’ve never done this before.
Let’s start with the obvious. This is outside my experience zone.
Note that I’m not talking about comfort zone. This may be outside my comfort zone, but until I have experience with it I don’t know that. I do know that I don’t have experience in caring for children. Not in this way, by myself, for such an extended period of time.
Of course Debbie, the boys’ nanny, will be there to help. I wouldn’t do this otherwise.
At other times when I’ve helped care for the boys while Adam and Allyson went away, I was helping my parents or Allyson’s parents. And Debbie was there. And often another aunt or uncle.
I’ve never been the one in charge. Now I will be in charge.
My parents and Allyson’s parents are parents. They raised kids. They got the secret handbook. (I know it exists.)
I don’t have kids. I didn’t get the handbook.
Parents get time to adjust.
Parents get one kid at a time (unless they have twins or multiples). Even if they have twins, they get time to adjust and experiment as kids grow up. Unless you adopt a child, you don’t get handed pre-conditioned children to care for. That’s a big deal.
My mom said even she gets a little nervous. She says caring for kids is different when it’s not your kids. That may be true, but at least people who have raised kids have some experience caring for kids. I didn’t really babysit much as a teenager.
(2) This is outside my “zone of genius”
Okay. That’s actually a nice way to say it.
Here’s the truth: I’m not always so great at taking care of myself. Or other living things.
I have killed every plant I’ve ever had. I don’t have a pet. I don’t have a significant other. I live alone. I can be extremely selfish. I can be impatient – especially around whining. And kids whine. Sometimes a lot.
I am not much of a planner. I tend to not think of what to eat until I get hungry. Sometimes I forget to eat.
This will force me to consider other people’s needs in addition to my own, and in some cases before my own. Definitely a good thing. Definitely something to work on. A healthy place to stretch myself, for sure.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder:
Am I too selfish and self-absorbed to do this?
Will I be able to do this in a way that still honors my needs?
What happens if one of them gets hurt?
(3) The potential to trigger my worst behaviors.
The boys have a secret weapon: whining.
Whining and crying push my buttons like nothing else. They trigger the synapse that unveils my short-tempered, angry, frustrated and annoyed inner bitch.
At other times when I’ve watched the boys, I’ve had the support of more adults around, so that I could take a break if the whining got to be too much. I won’t have that luxury this time.
It’s not that I am afraid I can’t handle it; it’s that I’m afraid that the experience will push the buttons that trigger the not-nice side of me to emerge. I’m afraid of what might happen if I snap.
Will all of my personal development work and spiritual training and meditation practice help me stay calm even in the face of my biggest triggers? Or will I snap back into the old dynamic of my short temper and firey reactions?
These are not reactions I want to have in front of the boys.
(4) I’ll have to do things that are not aligned with my true nature.
Being a parent often requires setting rules and boundaries for kids, and enforcing those rules.
Here’s the thing about me and rules: I don’t like rules.
I don’t like to follow them. I don’t like to make them. I don’t like to enforce them.
My leadership style is high-level: I share the desired outcomes, review potential challenge areas, and then give my teams flexibility to do what they need to do in order to meet those outcomes. If someone on my team feels stuck, I coach him around the issue and help him create shifts that empower him to move forward.
I don’t like to micro-manage people. It drains me and makes me resentful.
My style has worked really well for me. And it would probably adapt well if my nephews were a little older.
But kids at their age need structure, so this role will require me to make and enforce rules.
Yes, I know: we all must do things we don’t like to do. That’s part of life, sometimes (not as often as we think it must be, but … that’s for another time).
But this isn’t just about doing something that is outside my strengths. This is about my identity: how I perceive myself in my role as an aunt, and how I want my nephews to perceive me.
I like to think of myself as the “fun aunt.” This is how I want to be perceived by my nephews.
When I’ve helped any of their grandparents care for them, the grandparents have been the rules-makers and I’ve been able to retain my role as the fun aunt who is on their side. But this weekend, if they aren’t cooperating, or if they act up, I will need to enforce rules.
And of course, this isn’t a question of “if.” They are 8 and 6. They will have their moments. And I will be forced to step up and impose order.
Can I do this in a compassionate and graceful way?
Will I be able to stay calm even if they are misbehaving?
Will I be able to enforce rules without resorting to yelling or nagging?
Perhaps my biggest fear is that I will devolve into the stereotype of a nagging Jewish mother or the parent who yells at every trigger.
I would like to think that my years of training – personal and spiritual growth, extensive self-excavation, mindfulness and meditation – have given me the tools to adopt an approach to this tricky area that diverges from the ones I knew.
But what if they haven’t? What if this weekend reveals that my growth only exists in the confines of my own world?
(5) My practices and rituals are at risk
I’ve developed various practices that help me take charge of my day. These practices help me get centered and grounded and pave the way for increased productivity and a sharper mental focus. They are essential to my showing up at my best.
My “Fitness First” practice currently stands at over 940 days. It has become so important to my daily routine that I schedule my travel to avoid interfering with this (no more early morning flights). I recently started a meditation practice and that stands at over 90 days. I’ve kept those streaks through the toughest immersion events, travel, sickness and other scheduling challenges.
I’ve worked with many people on using my framework to revamp their mornings, and watched them transform their productivity, their outlook and even their relationships with their spouses. The one group of people who resist are moms. They push back that they can’t create something similar because of their kids.
What if they’re right? What if my practices only work for child-free people?
Will this be the event that brings those to an end? And what will that say about me? What will that mean for my plans to help others implement these practices? Will this prove that they don’t work in all situations?
Will I expose myself as a fraud to myself for asserting that my practices can be transformative?
So there are my reasons. I’m pretty sure I can come up with more, but those are enough, don’t you think?
And here’s the thing: none of those reasons even matter.
Why are the reasons irrelevant? I’ll discuss that in Part 3.