My daughter wants to go away this weekend with her friend. They are going to the same place that I usually take the kids when we go away. She loves it there. It’s familiar. She’ll be staying with a large family, and she will have a ball.
And I’m terrified. Every time I think about it I feel the most intense anxiety. Even when I’m not thinking about it, I have this low grade feeling of impending doom. I know its lurking in the back of my mind, ready to pounce the second I give it any attention.
I need a hug.
I know she’s going to be fine. And she’s going to have a fantastic time. Nothing bad is going to happen.
But I keep envisioning car wrecks. Or drownings. Or…anything. Something terrible. Something terrible is going to happen to my beautiful daughter. I know it. I feel it. I am that sure. I am panicking as I am writing this. There are tears streaming down my face and my chest is crushing me and I can’t breathe and I want to just say ‘No, you can’t go!’
But it’s anxiety.
Why I am having anxiety attacks, I do not know. But I don’t want to let either of my kids out of my sight. I want to be sure that they are safe at all times. Every moment. As if I could guarantee that, just by their proximity.
Of course both of them are going to be elsewhere this weekend. My son to his father’s house. And my daughter to a holiday house three hours away with people I barely know.
It’s not a psychic premonition. Thought it feels like it. It’s just anxiety.
And I’m not going to stop my daughter from having three fantastic days at the beach, because I am having panic attacks. That’s not fair on her. She’s a sensible, smart girl and she’s old enough to handle herself. And she has to have the opportunity to handle herself. How else will she learn?
And she deserves the fun. She’s done all the chores that I set for her, and she’s held up her end of the bargain. She’s been talking about it for weeks. It’s all she cares about this holidays. More important than her birthday. She just wants to go to the beach, with her friend. They have lots of plans. They are going to walk on the beach, and explore the rocks. They are going to walk around the town and go to the shops for hot chips and ice cream.
And that’s exactly what I used to do when I was her age. Funnily enough I used to go to the exact same place when I was a kid. My parents had a holiday house down there. And at 14 I was most certainly well capable of walking around town, and exploring the rocks. I was safe. Nothing happened. I was fine.
And she will be too.
I can’t punish her because I have anxiety. I won’t stop her from going, because that would be giving in to anxiety. The second you do that, it starts to rule your life. And before you know it, you’re afraid of everything, and you’re housebound and terrified of the world.
And it’s a very hard road back from there. So I’m not going down that road. I know where it leads.
I’m not going to start saying ‘no’ because I am afraid. I will let her go. I will trust the world. It’s a much safer world than we all think. Than we are led to believe by the sensationalist media. She will be fine, and have probably the best holiday she’s ever had. Because it’s her first on her own. Standing on her own two feet. Without any of her family. It’s an excellent milestone on the road to independence, and she will remember it for a long time.
And the truth? IF something bad is going to happen, there’s nothing I can do about it. If there is a horror smash on the windy, mountain road, I can’t prevent it. I can’t keep my kids locked up forever.
Or I could try, and they’d be ‘safe’, but they’d be miserable. I’d be doing far more harm than good, on so many levels.
I’d be teaching my daughter to be afraid. Afraid of everything and anything. What a terrible thing to do to your child.
She is sensible. She is capable. I just love she and her brother so much it’s palpable. And sometimes the depth of that love becomes terror.
What if? What if? What IF?
No one knows I feel this way. It’s hidden, as I wish it to be. We’ve been talking excitedly about her trip and what she’ll do and how much fun it’s going to be for the last hour. And now she’s packing her bag, and I’m resisting the urge to check it. She is old enough. If she runs out of undies, then she’ll discover you can wash them out in the sink!
And nothing bad is going to happen.
She is going to have a ball. She will walk on the beach and find cool shells, and maybe even swim. She’ll explore and breathe the ocean air and tell secrets and share moments with her bestie. She’ll develop a little more independence, and a little more confidence and hopefully she’ll do me proud with her good manners and willingness to help out. The mother she’s going with tells me she’s like that at her place. (She’s not like that at home!) But she makes me proud.
What will be will be. My emotions keep imagining a horror wreck. But logic has to be in control. The hardest part of parenting is the part where you let go. From them taking their very first steps, to going away for a weekend with friends, to moving into their first place of their own, it’s an incremental process, and it is the job. Preparing them to stand on their own two feet. Become fully functioning adults, hopefully kind and compassionate but also confident and capable.
And if you’ve done the job right, they’ll come home to visit in the future.
There are million things that might happen. But I’m not worrying about those. Because logic says that they are really, REALLY unlikely. My girl is going to go and have the time of her life. And when she comes home in three days she will tell me all about it.
It’s just anxiety. And it won’t win.