I dropped my teens off at their dad’s house the other day a few minutes before he got home. I watched them go inside as I fished around my wallet to see how much cash I had. My ex-husband had told me before leaving the house there was something wrong with the front door knob and they were having trouble with the lock. “It’s been harder to unlock it so just make sure they get in OK before you leave, but I’ll be home soon,” he said.
As I was driving down the road, I went back in time to a few moments earlier. I replayed their brunette heads walking in the door. I kept telling myself I watched them go inside.
They are inside. They aren’t out there in the freezing cold. They are fine. Just stop. But I wasn’t really paying attention. I was distracted digging in my purse. Did I really see them go in?
A wash of fear came over me and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to double check.
Then, I pulled over to check my phone. The volume was on, there were no messages. I knew it wasn’t rational but I needed peace of mind so I called my daughter. “Did you get in?” I asked her.
“Yes, Mom, didn’t you see us?” She wasn’t shocked. She knew I did see her and reminded me she hadn’t called to tell me they couldn’t get in. “We are fine.”
The thing is, my kids know I need to do this sometimes. They know I need to double check with them because my anxiety can strip away my self-confidence and make me second guess everything. But just because they are used to it doesn’t make it any easier to cope with the thoughts that dance in my head. And it certainly doesn’t make it any easier to admit to myself that this is a problem.
Even if I’ve seen something happen with my own eyes, even if I’ve reminded my kids to take extra precautions, even if I know they are safe, I have to double check sometimes just to be sure. This isn’t an everyday occurrence. But it happens more than I care to admit.
It’s hard for me to talk about it. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. When they were younger I would constantly check on their breathing if they napped too long; I thought that kind of need would go away when they got older.
When I did leave them with a sitter in their younger years (which was only about twice a year, if that), I’d go over things with whoever was taking care of them and worry the whole time I was gone. It didn’t seem like there was anything I could do to prepare myself for the anxiety. So it felt easier just to never leave them.
When they were all in school, I’ve been overridden with worry, wondering if they were okay. I’d call the school and act like I had the wrong number just so I could hear the secretary’s voice and the normalcy buzzing in the background. It was a way of getting some relief because I felt if things sounded normal, all was well and I could relax a little.
I have days when my worry flares and I wake up in the middle of the night to double check or triple check that my son’s car is in the garage. I do this even though I stay awake until he gets home.
There are times I have him text me when he gets to the gym even though I know he hates it. I often check in on my children one too many times when they are spending the night at a friend’s house. They are teenagers now and I still message them a few times if they are home alone and I have to run errands.
It’s become second nature to them and they know this is how their mom operates. Anxiety wants an answer. Anxiety isn’t patient. Anxiety isn’t able to wait around and just hope all is well.
Anxiety grabs hold of you and makes you try to get what you need in order to gain some control and peace.
I don’t double, or triple, check on my kids on the regular because I’m forgetful. I do it to calm the doubt in my head. I do it just to be sure. I do it because if I don’t, the place my mind can take me to is too much for me for me to handle.
I do it because I don’t know how to function otherwise.
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