Tag Archives: Anxiety

As easy 1.2.3 cake

How to survive your baby’s first birthday party

My nerves have never survived a party.

Birthdays, babyshowers, farewells…. whatever the occasion, I find myself wound up tighter than a two dollar watch.

My parents, bless them, are great entertainers and have covered the vast majority of my birthday milestones with aplomb. But when I ventured forth into the big bad world of adulthood I realised something was wrong with the “hostess with the mostess” scenario inflicted upon me. It left little room for failure in my anxious mind.

I used to have one fail-safe way to survive my own parties. I would drink my way through them.

But that tactic doesn’t really work when it comes to your children’s birthday parties, now does it? 

I used to think baby parties would be a piece of cake (pun intended) compared to adult ones. But when I actually started attending these parties I realised I was a whole bucketload of wrong. I was way, way out of my league.

My daughter’s second birthday was a stand out, Oscar-worthy “worst party experience of the year” moment for me.  I ruined two batches of cake before I finally gave in and bought packet mix, furiously trying to finish off the cake ahead of the guests’ arrival. If my neighbour had not literally rescued me at the 11th hour, I’d have been a crying mess on the floor, covered in flour and threatening to slit my wrists with the nozzle of a piping bag. (I don’t know if I ever truly thanked you for saving my life, Gemma?). 

2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!
2nd birthday party for my daughter. My neighbour saved the cake!

I was a wreck when my guests left that day and vowed “never again”… Only to have another party for her 3rd birthday, this time with a six week old baby in tow.

(Yes, at this point you can officially call me an idiot.)

Maybe all you awesome mums out there can do the cooking, baking, cleaning, gift wrapping, music sorting, and game inventing for your children’s birthday parties with no sweat, one hand behind your back, and the other wrapped around a margharita. Or maybe you just have more help on hand than I do. Alls I know is that I throw a lousy party, and I think this – along with driving and making phone calls – must be one of my biggest anxiety inducing events.

So, having just thrown the first successful birthday party of my life for my son, I have learned a few tips that some other anxious mothers out there may find useful.

HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR BABY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY 
1) Don’t throw  a party. This year, I had the best non-party party ever. I “surprised” my neighbours on the day of his birthday, inviting them to the local park with their kiddies for cake that afternoon. That’s it. There were no invitations, just a chat across the driveways. We supplied cake, one balloon, and free entertainment (my energetic 4 year old). Maybe you think that’s tight of us?  I think it’s perfect. A run outdoors for the kids, a bit of a sugar-fix, then home in time for tea. Winner.

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2) If there must be cake, make peace with packet mix. There are two rules to cake. First, make it the day before. Second, use packet mix. Freeze it. The Australian Womens’ Weekly birthday cakebook, ahem, BIBLE, says it’s OK to use packet mix. It actually says that. So no guilt required!

As easy 1.2.3 cake
As easy 1.2.3 cake

3) Get out of the house – Host your party anywhere except your house. Even your local prison yard’s exercise park is probably going to be less trying on your nerves than hosting it at home… Forget cleaning to the point of madness, and go out and soak up the fresh air. Ain’t no one going to judge you if there’s a spot of dirt on a playground picnic table!

4) Buy your kid a gift. One gift. When my daughter was born, we weren’t in a great financial situation. I looked at beautiful toys (and pined for those soft, flat koalas you see in every inner city Sydney suburban home) and knew I couldn’t buy them for her. I was very grateful for the generosity of the gifts she received from others, but was truly unable to buy a “wow” present from myself. It’s only in hindsight that I realise it doesn’t matter. It does not mean you love your child any less. They’ll never remember anyway. So this year I gave my son a letter. I posted it to him, and it will remain sealed for decades to come until I finally decide for him to have it. The card, and postage, cost me a whopping $6.50 and I am sure he’ll cherish it when he’s old enough to appreciate it.

5) Avoid Instagram like the plague. Pinterest too. These sites will only have you obsessing over the exact shade of bunting to coordinate with your cake-pop icing and sooner or later you’ll collapse with exhaustion. Or…. if you’re like me, these sites will just make you feel like a complete and utter party-cripple.

Follow my steps above and you’ll have a ball!

I didn’t even NEED alcohol to cope!!

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Eat. Pray. Love…. And tell fear to F-off while you’re at it.

I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak on the weekend while the hubby minded the kids. This was my first solo outing in seven months. A whole afternoon away from the kids at the Opera House with Elizabeth FREAKING Gilbert. You can imagine how excited I was. It was like winning the lottery, the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and finding a parking space at Coogee beach on a sunny Saturday all in one go.

Liz was talking about fear and creativity.  I found this topic interesting (and quite honestly, would have gone to hear her talking about the mating habits of amazonian tree slugs if those things happen to exist) but I wasn’t 100% sold it was relevant to me.

You see, I have a lot of fears but I can’t say that I’ve ever felt particularly scared of writing. I mean, pens, notebooks, words, typing…. none of that sends warning signals to my amygdala that WW3 is about to break out.

Making telephone calls freaks me the hell out.

Having to return anything that I’ve purchased if it is faulty sends my sweat glands into overdrive.

Speaking in meetings makes me want to vomit, and driving….well, that’s the only thing thus far to send me into a full-blown panic attack.

But writing? Being creative? No – that doesn’t make me fearful. It’s the next step that causes me extreme angst.

The let-it-go step. That moment when you are clutching your figurative balloon – the one you breathed life into – and you have to let it out of your hands so it can float into the sky.  So others can witness it and marvel in it’s magic. Or (and here comes the fear bit), so others can remark upon its unremarkableness. It’s ordinariness. Or heaven forbid, they might make no comment at all.

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I guess there are a billion other people out there like me who are struggling with this concept of release. And there are a billion others who are struggling with the concept of getting started. These fears are paralysing us and if you looked around the room during Gilbert’s speech you would see a sea of nodding heads in harmonious agreement that fear isn’t just a figurative enemy. It is real. It is here. And it is crippling creative spirits.

I wrote a book five years ago. I had it illustrated and printed, and it looks and sounds like the real deal. But it isn’t the real deal. Not actually. Why? Because it isn’t published. I have ten copies  quite literally gathering dust on top of my daughter’s bookshelf right now.

And why oh why isn’t this masterpiece published? Because I’ve been too scared to send it anywhere. And so, it gathers dust. And more dust. And because I’m too lazy to actually get it off the shelf and give it a clean, it gathers yet more dust. You get the picture.

Louise Hay is another author I dig, who has sold more than 50million copies of her “You can Heal Your Life” book which I’m currently re-reading and she attributes all fear (whether it’s about creativity or not) to one single self-limiting belief:

I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. 

I am not perfect, I am not worthy, I am not as good as them, no one will love me, I will only fail.

I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH. 

Liz and Louise are on the exact same page with this message. And one that I realise is not only applies to my writing, but to my entire life. Why do I reject promotions? Why do I hate going anywhere that requires me to dress up and look beautiful? Why do I spend my baby swim classes worried that all mothers are judging me poorly because my son is screaming in the water?

Because, quite simply, at a soul level I do not believe I am good enough. I do not feel I have a worthy contribution to make to this universe and I hide behind this fear. And without a sense of entitlement, I do not feel like I can live a creative life.

The most important message of hope and inspiration that I walked away with from Liz’s talk was this.

“Defend your weakness and you get to keep it.” 

If I keep blaming my anxiety or my perfectionism and using it as my excuse to NEVER TAKE PART, then I will always be giving it power. I will be defending my weakness from the creative spirit that is trying to break it down. I will be giving my weakness a strength it does not deserve and quite frankly, what good is that doing anybody?

I will allow fear to be present in my life, but I will not give it permission to rule my life. I will give myself permission to have a vote in this world – to contribute, to let my light shine. To risk ‘release’, and to let my beautiful balloons go. 

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Introducing affirmations for my anxious preschooler

It’s probably no surprise that I’m anxious about my daughter being anxious.

From the varied media that I’ve consumed on the subject matter, the common consensus seems to be that my children are more likely to suffer anxiety compared to the norm. If it  doesn’t slip through via genetics, then they will probably pick it up through learned behaviour anyway. Great. 

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I’ll admit, I’ve been watching her like a hawk over the years, keen to pick up on any telltale anxious-child signs. I have heard all my life that the sooner you pick up on it, the easier the management, so I’m watching vigilantly (ok, so maybe somewhat neurotically. Go figure).

I’ve noticed my daughter is quick to say “I can’t” and give up when she can’t do something perfectly. (These two words are probably the most common words that go around inside my anxious brain alongside “not possible”, and “never”). Uh oh – is this a warning of things to come with my daughter?

She also tells me she feels shy. While I’m super impressed by her emotional intelligence, I do worry about her shyness at times because I fear she experiences anxiety alongside this shyness. In new situations involving other children she will often tell me “no one likes me, mummy”. Maybe I’m being paranoid but these words seem more significant than “typical three year old stuff”.  Uh oh. I think she is already worried about what other people think of her.

Noticing these things about her, I’ve decided to add two anxiety-busting tools into our bedtime routine. Tools she has started to absolutely love, without knowing my hidden agenda. Sure, they might be a bit new-age, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to fighting anxious thoughts and building firm foundations in terms of self-esteem.

(1) I’m happy for…

This “game” is basically a gratitude list. I demonstrated how to do it for a few nights, but after that she took to it with gusto! It’s not so much about what she is saying, but THAT she is saying it. It’s a subtle reminder before she goes to bed of the many positive things in her day. It puts her into a calm and happy frame of mind before sleep. And hey, if she is happy for “our big garage” and that “she touched a lizard!” then that’s just grand! (I love having a window into the inner workings of her mind when we do this game!)

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(2) The repeat game

I start with some basics, as she repeats her name, her age, where she lives. I then launch into some positive self-worth stuff – easy affirmations for preschoolers. It sounds like this:

You’re great at somersaults.

You are an excellent soup maker.  

You love cuddling your baby brother.

It’s funny, but she always calls me to task on any affirmations that are inauthentic. Her corrections are beautiful and evidence of self-awareness. “No mummy, I don’t love cuddling my brother. I love kissing him. On his tummy. Not on his eyes though”. (Ok, good to know then!)

I always include the famous lines from The Help somewhere within our ritual:

These are some of the most powerful words I’ve ever heard, and I think they’re so important for our daughters.

I must admit that I also tell her she is beautiful as part of these affirmations, but I stress that being a beautiful isn’t as important as being nice. I incorporated this lesson after feeling irrationally upset when my daughter casually mentioned she wanted to be Elsa because she was the prettiest one (of all the princesses). I wanted to get into that brain of hers nice’n’early and tell her about what really matters!

These affirmations and gratitude lists are now every bit as important in our bedtime routine as the book reading and song-singing, and I hope they are doing some good in terms of creating a calm, happy, and healthy three year old mind.

I might not be able to prevent anxiety in her life, but I will do my absolute darnedest to help her manage it!

Do you do any affirmations or meditation with your kids? Tell me about it!