I have an irrational fear of flying, which I manage these days by flying with the kids. Don’t all good parents cope by exposing their children to the things they fear most?
Um, anyway, flying with my spawn is very therapeutic. One, the rational part of me knows (or at least hopes) that I wouldn’t expose my children to situations that actually endanger them for no good reason, so this helps me remember that flying isn’t actually that dangerous.
Two, I can’t act anxious because of Jesse’s unerring anxiety radar. Once she senses my anxiety, she turns it on me and the world around her like a toxic mushroom cloud. Bad, very bad. Also I can’t just act not-anxious superficially, because Jesse sees through that sort of thing. So I have to dig deep and make the pretending as real as I can, calling on distant memories of Stanislofski. A mommy prepares. Pretending hard makes it more real, and I find I’m just not as anxious anymore. Ta-dah. Behavior modification therapy 101.
Three, explaining all the strange noises and bumps to curious kids takes the edge off my own out-of-control feeling. It gets me out of armrest-gripping mode and moves me closer to reality mode.
Four, I think I experience some sort of emotional transference, but I can’t decide if it’s a push or a pull. My kids exasperate me so completely. They don’t listen well and they run around like monkeys. They’re often loud. So that’s the pull option: I’m so anxious about them that I don’t have any anxiety left for flying fear. They’ve used it all up, sucking it out of me like leeches.
The push option is that I’ve simply transferred my pre-existing anxiety about flying onto my poor hapless children, who actually behave as well as other kids during air travel. In this scenario, I’m obviously the problem, overreacting to completely tolerable behavior and unfairly maligning Nick and Jesse, who deserve more tolerance and patience of me. I’m giving this some thought…
Nah. I think I’ll keep blaming the kids for now. I’m not mature enough yet to face emotional reality on this one.