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Do Our Children Sense Our Stress?

Several weeks ago, I took Big Girl for a Kindergarten play session (translation: interview). In my heart of hearts, I knew she'd be fine, and do great. She's a smart and happy child, kind and verbal, inclined to have fun in most situations. But still. I was anxious. I was.

I took her for lunch before the session. She nibbled on chicken fingers and fries. Her favorites. I slurped a Diet Coke and cracked silly jokes in an effort to make her laugh. I was trying extra hard that day. We went to the bathroom and the waiter handed us a key that was attached to a spatula. How funny is that? I proclaimed. Big Girl cracked a smile. It really wasn't that funny.

I was trying extra hard. Because I was stressed. And I wonder whether Big Girl could sense my anxiety. I'm pretty sure she could. I'm pretty sure our kids always can. This is scary, isn't it? That our feelings are not just ours.

On the walk to the school, I held Big Girl's hand and we skipped on the sidewalk. I handed her two candy corns. Just because! I said as she smiled and chewed. You can have more later! After you play! Was it bribery? Maybe so. Was it more evidence of trying too hard? It seems so. Were these chipper words and this little gesture the fruits of my mommy stress? Absolutely.

Big Girl was a champ. She did great. As I knew she would. But that's not really what this is about, is it? It's about us. Those of us who steer our little creatures around the sea of their days, anchored by fear, fueled by anxiety and deep love, wanting and wishing, trying and trying, sometimes, often, too hard.

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Do you think our children sense our stress? To what extent? What can we do, if anything, to ensure that our anxiety does not adversely affect our little ones? Do you ever find yourself trying too hard?

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