I’m a paranoid mom. I know we are all a little paranoid, but sometimes I worry that I worry too much. In fact, I’m quite sure I worry too much. Yet, I can’t stop worrying. I worry about my kids’ safety, about their health, about their happiness. I’ve always worried, but the degree to which I did seemed to reach a summit after my father passed away. I think it’s because it was the first time I actually saw, right in front of me, that the life of someone you love dearly really can be snatched away from you suddenly. And I simply can’t bear the thought of life without my kids.
Each day, as my son walks out the door and heads to the bus stop, I say a little prayer that he’ll not only have a great day, but a safe day. As I drop off my toddler at preschool, I’m not sure who is in more pain mentally. He cries for me as I leave, and all I want to do is wrap my arms around him and never let go, yet I know he must learn to be without me. That he must learn to socialize with other kids. That he too must grow up. I also know that once I leave, within five minutes he won’t be crying anymore. Yet it’s still so hard that I often find tears creeping into my eyes as I drive away. And again, I pray that he has a great day, has fun, and is safe.
At night, after I put my kids to bed, I can’t help but watch them sleep for a moment. They are so tranquil, so peaceful, so sweet. And then for some reason my thoughts turn to what if something happened to them and my stomach turns to knots. Again, I say a prayer – please keep them safe, health, and happy.
My father’s death happened fast and by surprise. He was sick only for a few months, but he was very sick during that time. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. They ran test after test on him, and he sat in the hospital bed shivering uncontrollably, yet always in good spirits. When visiting him one evening, he even asked if he could get me anything. That’s just the type of person he was – always taking care of others. It frustrated me beyond words that the doctors were having such a hard time figuring out what was wrong, because that was precious time that they could have been treating him.
When the test results we needed to hear finally arrived, they were not good. He had a rare form of bone marrow cancer, Myelodysplastic Syndrome. But he was strong. They believed that with chemo and a bone marrow transplant he would make it. We were worried, but also relieved. Yet, in the back of my mind the fear and worry began growing stronger. I couldn’t speak of it though, because that would make it all real.
He underwent his first round of chemo – it was successful. More sessions were planned. He was getting stronger and was to go home after three months in the hospital. And the day he was to come home his gall bladder began to fail. Emergency surgery was required.
And he never made it home.
His body was too frail to handle the surgery and it lost out. We stayed with him that night in the hospital, and I held his hand as life left him. I’d never felt such pain as I did that night.
Afterwards, is when the severe case of worrisome and panic about my kids began to overcome me. I saw how quickly life could be taken away, and how it didn’t even have to make sense. My dad has always been so healthy, and this had come out of nowhere. What if something like that happened to my kids? How could I go on?
After my father passed I found I was telling my older son to be careful more often. Don’t jump on that bed. Don’t hop around from rock to rock. Be careful! But my husband calmly reminded me that being overprotective could stunt him. He needed to be able to grow, to make mistakes, to not be held back by fears. I had to stop putting my fears on him.
I often panic internally. I hate that these thoughts enter my mind and refuse to leave. I want to wrap my children in bubble wrap so they never scrape a knee; I want to keep them at home instead of letting them play outside. I worry someone will take them. But I can’t let them see that worry, because they need to grow up confident. Sure, I give them boundaries and rules and tell them to be safe. I follow precautions. But if I did what I really wanted – keep them beside me always – then they’d never grow and mature and become confident and strong men. But it’s so hard.
Each day, even though the panic and worry are still at large within me, I find that I’m able to let some of it go, sort of. At least on the outside. No one sees the fear festering inside of me. I must be brave. At least for my sons. Worry within, but show bravery. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
Image via Flickr by Tom Woodward