Confessions of an anxious parent

I remember when my oldest son fell for the first time, bruising his head. I remember it well because it was my first gut-wrenching, hyperventilation-inducing moment of realization that I couldn’t always protect him from harm. My crazy obsessive love for this little boy was not enough to do this. I have spent a huge chunk of my parenting journey feeling anxious, either about something that has happened or about something that might. Some moments were worse than others and born from these times the word “frappachino” was created, to describe the mixture between fright and c**p! In a family like ours, where anxiety is higher than average, it is a word we use frequently. Less “frappachino” but more guilt inducing was when my second son, seven at the time, fell on the soccer field. He wasn’t crazy about the game so when he came crying that his arm hurt and he didn’t want to play, I told him that he would be fine and he had to finish the game. I felt like a good mother actually because I was teaching him perseverance. An x-ray and broken arm later, I felt the opposite.

Three of my four children are grown up now, two with babies of their own. You’d think it would make a difference but it doesn’t. I now fully get my mother’s words “you never stop worrying.”  Both older “boys” bought scooters a couple of years back, raising my “what if” anxiety to new levels. I tried everything – even pulled out the guilt card. Ilan, my oldest, who had gone through hell a few years ago, having two back surgeries, said this to me: “Mom, I hear your concerns but this is my decision. After what I’ve been through, I want to live and this makes me happy. Whatever happens, remember that I have chosen to do this, being fully aware of the risks.”

So here’s what I have learned because that’s what parenting does – it teaches you; it changes you. I have learned the obvious; that I have no control over many aspects of my children’s lives no matter how closely I stand behind them. I have learned that I shouldn’t stand too close because it will make them feel smothered and unable to trust in themselves. I have also learned the hardest lesson of all – that my anxiety belongs to me alone and I have no right to give it to my kids or expect that they will feel the same as I do. Deep in my heart, I want my children to feel free and feel able to take risks so that they can reach their full potential in all areas of their lives. I know that my anxiety can be the shackles to this freedom so I consciously choose every day to give my children the gift of my trust, in the hope that they will trust those around them and believe that the universe will always conspire in their favour and not against them, because really what is the point of believing anything else.

Will I continue to worry about my children? Yes, but if I had my time again, would I immediately rush my son off the field to hospital and check for a broken arm? My answer would have to be no because that would mean that I was standing too close. Yes, I have and will continue to miss some things that I would definitely rather not (like broken arms) but the alternative is to create lives for my children that are restrictive and not fully joyful. Knowing this, I will continue to fight my own demons and try my best to keep them off my children’s heads and on my own.