“You always think the worst; it’s so annoying,” my oldest said to me a few weeks ago, as he was getting out of the car. I was dropping him off at his friend’s house to spend the night and just gave him a slew of reminders that he’s heard many times over.
The thing is, I was trying to be super casual while we were driving there. I asked him a few questions about what they were going to do. I told myself I wasn’t going to do it, that I wasn’t going to run through all the things he shouldn’t do. I wasn’t going to remind him to contact me in case of an emergency or if he wanted to come home because, let’s face it, he’d never wanted to return home from a sleepover before, and he’d heard it all before about a thousand times.
In fact, he’d just heard it the weekend before as I was dropping him off somewhere and he came home in fine shape — as he always does.
Even I know I do this too much and surely I could work on not being so extra every once in a while since my kids call me overprotective on a regular basis as they roll their eyes and storm off.
I was doing a good job until we were about five minutes away from his friend’s house when I suddenly felt naked. My anxiety grabbed a hold of me and reminded me if I didn’t spew out my usual reminders, this would probably be the one time he’d need me and be afraid to call because I didn’t remind him.
Or perhaps his friends would want to drink or smoke and if the last thing he heard his mother saying was “Don’t be an ass, make good choices,” maybe it would stop the reckless behavior.
And so before I knew it, I was sputtering out all the reminders and warnings about worst case scenarios just like I told myself not to do.
Do I really believe my constant reminding will keep them from getting in bad situations? Has this become just some superstitious behavior to me? Did I give in to the lectures because I felt it would protect everyone? Could this be anxiety?
I mean, I was a teenager once and most of my mother’s advice was white noise to me.
I quickly rattled out my speech about behaving, and not doing anything dangerous or illegal, and listening to his friend’s mom, being polite and answering my texts because when he doesn’t I worry. “I know you guys are on your phones a lot when you are together so don’t ignore me.”
That’s when he said it, when he told me I always think the worst in every situation.
I told him I simply like to cover all possibilities, but I knew he was right. And I’m sorry about that because it obviously is working against me.
I want my kids to know I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want my mind to go to a bad place every time they are out of my sight. But they also need to know it’s not because I don’t trust them even though I know that’s what it sounds like more often than not.
I wish I didn’t hold my breath in those few seconds I watch them walking into the school saying a silent prayer asking that I get to see them again. But I do.
I wish I didn’t feel the need to text them when they are at a friend’s house before I go to bed to make sure they are okay and sleep with the phone by my bed just in case something happens, which makes me wake up ten times a night to check if I have messages. But I do.
I wish I wasn’t afraid to go away for the weekend for fear I might get into an accident and never come home to them again. But I do.
I wish I didn’t cringe when my son rides bikes with his friends because I’m afraid he might break a bone, or his neck. But I do.
I wish I didn’t feel the need to check on them a few times when I leave them home alone. But I do.
In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I message them asking if they are okay and they respond sarcastically to get me to see how I fear something bad is going to happen a little too much.
I let them live their lives. I still go away for the weekend. I don’t keep them in a bubble. But I struggle with relaxing when they are away from me. A lot.
Despite their beliefs, I do not do this is irritate them. And I am aware I am a bit over the top and they have had it with me always thinking the worst — especially as they are turning into young adults who need more space from me.
It’s something that happened to me when I became their mother. My anxiety flares up and I start thinking the worst case scenario each and every time they are away from me.
I always thought I was a positive person until I had children who got older and pointed out to me that I’ve spent their whole life worrying something bad was going to happen to them, or me, and they’d be lost without me.
They haven’t said they wish something would come along and put me out of my misery so they can go about their life in peace but I’m sure they’ve thought it many times over.
I don’t want to be remembered for always thinking the worst, I really don’t. But there is a huge part of me that feels like if I’m not attentive enough, something that I could have avoided by checking in, or shouting out one last time, “Make sure your helmet is on right” when they go skiing with their dad, will happen.
I need to redouble my efforts, right now. I’m sick of my kids getting flustered and leaving my sight telling me how I’m always so afraid of the worst happening.
I want to find a middle ground. I want to drop my kids off at a friend’s place, or a dance and get a smile and a hug and an “I’ll see you later, Mom” instead of them letting me know I’m going to worry myself into the ground one of these days.
And I’m thinking it needs to start with me getting the anxiety help I need and toning it down a bit.