I live in constant fear. Walking on eggshells, whispering my first words in a conversation and bracing myself when I hear the door shut from their arrival have become the norm. It started about 2 years ago when my oldest turned 13. My household now includes a 15 ½ year old and a 13 year old – thus the reason for my perpetual state of panic.
I worry about them driving. I worry about what is happening on their phones. I worry about why they don’t talk to me. I worry about when they do talk to me. I worry about if what they wear is appropriate. I worry about if they are where they say they are. I worry about them being seen for their authentic selves. I worry about them in the face of a culture of social media, sexual assault, bullying, and school shooters. I worry about drugs and addictive substances that now taste like bubble gum.
There is not a day that passes that I don’t experience distress from these thoughts. The last time I felt this fear my children were 7 and 5 and I was in the midst of divorce. I was a newly minted single parent with the weight of seven worlds on my shoulders.
My worries were many. Was the divorce ruining them? Would I have enough monthly income to support my household? How would I pay down the debt? How was I going to survive a Christmas Eve without them? Where were we going to live? The constant stream of scary thoughts overwhelmed me daily.
I learned how to cope with my many fears in that season. I set up a budget. I made magic happen during the holidays for my children – even if it wasn’t on the exact day. I was present for all of our feelings around our changing family structure.
In hindsight, I see that I learned to shift my focus to those things that I could control. I no longer fell captive to my spinning thoughts but instead moved into action to prepare for and prevent the worries. To-do’s provided a balm to my rattled state of being.
During this season of scary, I see that now I can schedule a driver’s ed class. I can set limits for phone use. I can insist on meeting their friends and getting those parents’ phone numbers. I can choose to be present and listen when they talk. I, once again, can shift my focus to that which is in my control and set my fears aside.