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.
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
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.