A few nights ago, my son was working late. I always wait for him on the sofa to come home but on this night, I drifted off to sleep. He woke me up as soon as he got home and then I went to bed.
Then, I was jarred awake around 1a.m. and I couldn’t remember if he was home. I mean, my rational brain knew he was and I was pretty sure it was that night he had checked in with me when he came home. He was in front of me, I saw him with my own eyes and asked how work was. But, I had to be sure. Because this is what parenting teens is like for me.
I crept to his room and opened the door just to double check. I ended up waking him up and he stared at me with half open eyes as the hallway light fled his room. He wasn’t happy with me to say the least.
The thing is though, he knows what I was doing; he knows I had to double check to make sure he was home because I’ve done it so many times before.
He also knows when he drives anywhere, if I don’t get a text that he is there safely, I will call him to make sure.
I’ve tried to work through my anxiety. When my kids were younger I used to tell myself that it would go away when they got old enough. But here I am, sitting at the window every time my seventeen-year-old pulls out of the driveway with his brother and sister to take them to his dad’s house where they spend a few nights a week and with a clenched jaw say, Just make it there safely.
When they leave for school, I say another prayer willing them to make it home. If they are with friends, I play all the things that could go wrong in my head over and over. It only takes one screw up: Getting behind the wheel with someone who has been drinking, someone slipping a pill in their drink, a freak accident, a dare that could go horribly wrong, meeting up with someone they’ve been talking to on line.
I knew parenting teens would have its difficult moments, but I didn’t know it would be this consuming. I had no idea the thoughts in my head would be all-encompassing. I feel like I had postnatal anxiety that just hasn’t gone away.
When my kids were younger, I used to worry someone would take them while they were napping in the room, or they’d choke on a piece of food if I left them with a sitter, so I wouldn’t leave them with a sitter.
My teens have a pretty normal life. They work, go to school, see their friends, and they all have played sports at one time or another. What I’m trying to say is that I know my anxiety and the fact my head goes to a bad place every time they leave me is my deal, not theirs.
I know I have to cope with it and I never want it to come in between us. This is their life and I can’t keep them in a bubble so I don’t worry something will happen to them.
I am working on it– I’ve been working on it since I had my first baby over seventeen years ago. There are times when I am able to talk myself off the ledge, and others when I’m pacing the floor. It’s my normal and no, it doesn’t make me a bad mum. I am an anxious mum and I’m showing my kids what it’s like to struggle with something and try and work on it.
But as their mother, I will always have them call or text when they get to their destination no matter where it is. A simple ‘here’ isn’t too much to ask for. I did give birth to them and keep them clothed and fed after all.
And sometimes I might have to creep in their room for a second (or third) time just to make sure they are home safe. If you ask me, there are a lot worse things I could do to screw up their life and if this is what it takes to calm my mind, so be it.