Life with a three year old is always an adventure. Life with a three year old that also has some anxiety issues is a HUGE adventure. Just when you believe you’ve gotten into nice nice smooth open water a big wave comes and threatens to knock you over. First we had the lip gloss phase – she would put on lip gloss and obsess about it staying on . Which meant having continuous access to a mirror and reapplying every 30 second or so. We eventually got through that one. She is actually doing remarkably well with that. These days she rarely puts anything on her lips (unless they are truly dry) and when she now knows enough to simply wipe it off and not put anymore on if she starts to get anxious about it.
Next came the shoe phase. For months there was only one pair of shoes that she would wear. Now throw in the fact that these were summer months, which meant not socks, sweaty feet, sand boxes, etc. etc. You can imagine how that went. We have made pretty significant progress with the shoe phase too. First I stocked up on her favorite shoes. It wasn’t easy as I could no longer buy them at the store we first purchased them but, luckily, I was able to find some online. So, well stocked with her favorite shoes I also went out and purchased a few pair of other shoes that were similar in design but not exactly the same in an effort to ween her off the stinky favorites and gently encourage her to try something just a little different. It tooks some time and a lot of patience, but we’ve made some big strides there as well.
Now we have entered which may be the most difficult phase yet – the string phase. Now, string itself doesn’t pose a problem. It’s those loose threads she finds on a sweater or a pair of socks. Those strings are the end of the world. She can be having a great day, playing, singing – and all of a sudden she catches sight of a loose thread on her sleeve and the world just stops. She panics. That thread must be removed. Right this second. Nothing else exists in that moment. Just a menacing thread that has reduced my three year old to near hysterics. So one of us calmly grabs a pair of scissors and snips of the thread. This has to be done with precision. That thread, every millimeter of it, must be gone. And once that rogue thread has been removed there is a thorough and intense inspection of the garment in question to ensure there are no more threads. Of course there almost always are. At least in her mind. Every tiny little pill or not quite perfect seam on her clothing becomes a menacing thread. It is a never ending battle. And right now I’m at a loss as to how to fight it.
The lip gloss one was tough but actually making lip gloss inaccessible to her for a period of time helped ease that anxiety and get us over the hump. The shoe phase was a challenge but we had some options there as well and have managed to make that one a lot less intense. But loose and stray threads on clothing? It’s tougher than you may think. Because who thinks about that? You or I see a loose thread on our sleeve and either ignore it or simply cut it off. We don’t have an overwhelming need to inspect the rest of our clothing for more. We don’t go into panic mode. We don’t need to go and change our clothes just in case that shirt has a stray string hidden away somewhere. And, because we don’t think about it, we don’t really realize how common it is. Take a look at what you are wearing right now. I bet if you look hard enough (and probably not that hard at all) you can find a little thread or pill. It doesn’t have to be very noticeable. In fact it’s the nearly invisible ones that are the most problematic. The large threads that can easily be cut off cause far less worry. They aren’t hiding away making you hunt for them. They don’t involve actually cutting a hole in your clothing just to be absolutely certain you got every single part of it.
I have asked Molly why loose strings bother her so much. Of course she doesn’t really know the answer to that. She simply says “They give me stress”. She has asked me a couple of times if she was afraid of string when she was a baby. I tell her no. That this is new. And the string issue is not just reserved for clothing (although that is the toughest one) but also to things like stuffed animals. The other day she was playing with a stuffed Hello Kitty and noticed a stray thread. “Mommy can you give this Hello Kitty to another kid? Actually, mommy, can you just throw it out? No kid wants a toy with a string on it!” She’s very thoughtful even in her little neurosis.
So, here we are with our latest anxiety phase. We will, like the others, get through this one. It is looking like it’s going to be a challenge but we are getting good with challenges. Or, at least, we are getting use to the fact that they will always exist. Hopefully she can get to the point where string is no longer such a worrisome thing.