Do you ever stop worrying about your children? I don’t mean the everyday worry. The ‘will they grow up to be kind individuals’, or ‘will they live on chocolate and fizzy drinks for the rest of their life’ kind of worry.
I mean that deep, bone-fizzing worry that painfully grips at your very soul and makes you feel like you cannot function.
The worry that I suppose you can call irrational, but as a parent it feels like the most rational thing in the world.
It’s definitely there when they are babies. So small, so reliant, so vulnerable.
But what about when they’re more independent? At school? At uni?
Even now I still check on both of my kids every night before I go to bed; creep into their rooms one by one and say my silent goodnights.
They’re buried right under the covers so I rearrange the duvet to make sure they’re comfortable. But I’m not really concerned about their comfort, I’m waiting for them to shift in their sleep; give a little murmur and reassure me that, yes, all is well.
And it’s not even as if they are babies any more. My oldest is 12, yet still I feel the cold grip of worry every now and again.
And when I’m away? If I can’t do that nightly check? Husband will think I’m mad if I ask him.
Trust me, I’m not a worrier. And I’m not a ‘wrap my kids in cotton wool’ mum either. Far from it. I want them to fly, to find their independence, strike out, discover the world become their own person. I make sure they are confident enough to approach adults at school instead of asking me to do everything for them. I’m teaching them to be self sufficient and not dependent on someone to help with the smallest thing.
So why do I worry? Why do I still want reassurances? I still have to leave a crack in the door when I go to bed so there isn’t a physical barrier between me and them while they sleep. As I write it, it sounds ridiculous, but I really don’t care. It keeps me happy.
When they were little I convinced myself that if I could just get them to school the worry would abate. If I could get them through the pre-teens all would be well.
I can honestly, hand on heart say, having little ones was a walk in the park. Any problem could easily be fixed with a biscuit and a cuddle. Home was a haven; I could fix everything.
Now there is school and difficult friendships and feelings and heartache and exams and disappointments – real things that matter.
You watch them go through difficult times knowing that you’re not supposed to be there to fix them, but to give them the tools to deal with these things themselves. And it’s bloody hard and you ask yourself is it enough; should I be doing something else, something more?
Does that kind of worry ever stop?
I know the answer is no. My mother in law once said to me “my boy is 40 and married with two kids of his own and I still worry about him. It’s what parents do. It’s what we sign up for.”