When I brought my first child home from the hospital, I either held him all day or he slept right next to me. Those first nine months, his crib touched my side of the bed. When he was four days old, a friend of mine wanted to hold him. I was sitting about a yard away from him, but it was too much for me to bear.
I had to reach over and get him back.
He napped on my lap, or in his baby carrier which I had on me at all times.
He wasn’t left with a sitter until he was almost one, and that day I had to cut my date with my husband short because I couldn’t enjoy myself.
I was so overcome with fear something would happen to him, it was all I could think about.
I realized my anxiety wasn’t healthy for either of us but tried to keep my mouth shut about it.
Every time I discussed it with another mom, they didn’t do the things I did or worry the way I’d worry.
It made me feel ashamed and dumb, and it reinforced what I already knew: I needed to try and break away just a little bit and stop thinking the worst.
The thing was, I was so afraid if I relaxed a bit about it, something horrible would happen to him.
He was one when I moved him into his own room.
That first day, when he fell asleep, I went in about ten times to make sure the window was closed and locked. I kept having visions of someone sneaking in his room and doing horrible things to him — things I don’t even want to say because I don’t know how those thoughts crept into my mind.
That was over 17 years ago. I now have three teenagers and I’ve worked through some of this, but man, that fear has never gone away.
My oldest drives now and I can’t relax until he’s texted me telling me he’s gotten to his destination safely.
If they wake up at night to go to the bathroom or get a drink, I still shoot up in my bed and get up to ask them if they are all right.
There have been days when dropping them off for school has been overwhelming and I wait outside the school, or will do a drive by if I’m out running errands to make sure everything looks normal.
When they were in elementary school, there were days I’d call the main office, claiming I had the wrong number, just to make sure the secretary sounded happy like she always did when I picked the kiddos up. That meant there wasn’t anything bad happening like my mind was telling me there was.
I’ve been called irrational. I’ve been told to “cut the cord.” I lost sleep and was asked why I always think of the worst possible scenario.
Because of this, I usually keep my fears about something happening to my kids to myself.
Before giving birth, I never worried about bad things happening. In fact, I was always pretty calm, happy and never thought about any of the things that creep into my head now.
This behavior drives my kids bonkers. They say I’m too overprotective and I’ve kept them in a bubble. They didn’t go to preschool, take the bus to school, or ever go to a friend’s house without me until they were teenagers. Even then, I needed to speak with a parent and would count down the minutes until I could come get them.
What if the parents are mean to them?
What if they fall and get hurt because no one is paying attention?
What if they feel uncomfortable and miss me?
What if they are in a horrible situation and no one is there to help them?
None of these things have ever happened in the past seventeen years and yet…
Yet I still go to the bad place so easily and make sure my phone is two inches in front of my face when they are with their dad at night or sleeping at a friend’s house.
I try every single day to try and strike a balance so they aren’t too sheltered and I’m not getting splinters in my feet from pacing the floor because I’m physically sick with worry.
And every day it’s hard.
I don’t do well with the unknown, and I can’t imagine life without my children in it. They are my world and I feel connected to them in ways I’ve never been connected to anyone.
I know there is an element of selfishness in this. I say really mean things to myself about it and don’t love this part of me.
I want my kids to have a great life. But my desire to keep them safe can make me feel out of control and can rule my days and my mind.
I have to constantly remind myself (in between deep breaths) that I only have control over so much, I can not keep them in my four walls for their entire life, and my parents weren’t like this and I turned out just fine.