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Fear: The Weed That Chokes Out the Flowers

“I’m sorry, kids.”

That’s what I want to say to my children. Actually, I want to yell it hysterically over and over again, until my lungs collapse and the anxiety dissipates. If I thought that yelling was a way to get over the guilt I feel about marring my children’s experiences with my fear and anxiety, I would do it.

But that won’t work. And I’m not sure what will.

RELATED: A Parent's Worst Fear

This morning my daughter’s camp class was scheduled to take a bus tour of the city — the information sent to parents promised sightseeing, cool breezes and a memory of a lifetime. When I saw the bus, a massive, three-tiered craft that normally ferries tourists around Chicago, my stomach lurched. Wait, I’m sending my baby girl on a giant, open-air bus?

Panic rising, I researched the company and polled parents whose children had done the bus trip in previous years. Unanimously, my sources promised me that it was “perfectly safe” and that my daughter would have a great time.

I couldn’t shake my fear. I thought I was doing a good job hiding my hysteria from my daughter, but before the trip, she asked, “Mommy, are you scared about me going on the bus trip?”

Gulp. “Well … um … maybe just a little.” I didn’t want to lie or pretend she’d read me wrong. Because she was right. Mommy was freaking out. Apparently, it wasn’t subtle.

Great, now my kid knows I am afraid, which will just ruin her experience. I suck at mothering.

I cried as I pulled out of the parking lot. I cried for my shortcomings that, like dye, bleed all over my children.

When I dropped her off, I learned that 11 adults would be accompanying the 7 children on the trip. It was a comforting ratio. I gave my daughter a huge hug and mustered up a falsely cheerful, “Have a blast, Sweetie.” Instead of running toward her friends like she had every other morning, she hung back. Hair hiding her face, she mumbled something about being afraid.

Like a dagger crashing through my sternum, I watched my daughter shrink from an experience because she’d “caught” my fear. Had I kept it in check, she would have run to meet her friends, giving me nothing more than a dismissive wave. I ruined that for her.

After all, if Mom is petrified, how is a 4-year-old child supposed to embrace new experiences with open arms?

I cried as I pulled out of the parking lot. I cried for my shortcomings that, like dye, bleed all over my children. I keep thinking that I’ll get a handle on my fears and that the “hard part” is over. I mean, I never worry about SIDS anymore. But there are new hard parts. And once this bus trip is over, there will be more ... like drop-off playdates. Then there will be sleepovers in houses that could be rife with danger — swimming pools, guns, creepy uncles, rabid pets. Then one day she’ll have actual dates with boys I don’t know well. All the while she’ll be reading me — searching for my enthusiasm, fear, support, joy, pride. And all that is in there, but the fear is a weed choking out all the pretty flowers.

RELATED: Tears, Fears and Sleepaway Camp

My daughter deserves more than weeds, and I want to give her that. But some mornings, all I have is a hand full of fear. And for that, I am sorry. So very sorry.

Image via Getty Images

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