My mom is a worrier, has been for as long as I can remember. It's kind of a joke within our family because, in fact, we're all worriers: my mom's siblings, their children and me. But the worry never held me back in life--I guess my passions were too strong to succumb to the "what if?" so I was always able to ignore that niggling fear and plow ahead on new ventures.
Until I became a mother. Since then, life has been a series of small victories. For the first years of my kids' lives, I was their world--one full of love, laughter and exploration. It was very hard to release them into "the system" when they headed off to kindergarten, but I didn't let them see my tears.
As they moved from primary school to the dreaded middle school years, I fought back my horrible childhood memories of feeling like a misfit, smoking, and hanging with a bad crowd as I sought acceptance. I put my faith in my kids and our school system and stood by to help with any issues that arose before they got out of control.
This year, my oldest is a high school junior and, as such, has been presented with some fabulous opportunities. Last week, he took advantage of one and headed off with eighteen other students to spend winter break touring Italy and Spain. It's a trip of a lifetime, and he lost sleep in the days leading up to it because he was so excited.
I lost sleep too, but not for the same reason. My worrier gene was highly inflamed.
The overnight flight landed safely in Rome on Friday, and I relaxed a little. The short flight to Barcelona landed safely on Monday and I relaxed a little more. The high-speed train to Madrid arrived safely this morning and I'm almost back to normal. They've only two flights to go until they're home again on Friday night.
We used to tease my mom about her superhuman ability to leap, in a single bound, to the worst possible scenario, conclusion or outcome. Do we live in a different world than she did as a young mom? Sure. But does that make my worry any less ridiculous or any more justified? I don't think so.
Why? Because the worry doesn't stem from overactive anxiety or terrible news headlines or even our kids' innocence and immaturity. It's born out of love--a mother's love--which is perhaps the most powerful, empowering and debilitating force in the universe. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility.
This is why I didn't let my kids see me cry when they left me to go out into the great big world for the first time. Or the second time, or every time after. I smile and hug them, wish them luck and tell them they'll do great. I wave and cheer and tell them I love them as they're pulling away. I wait until I'm alone to cry out my fears. Because they will do great, and I do love them and I'm happy to watch them go and grow, even as I fear that very act so much that it makes me weep.
But I'll continue to keep that part hidden from them, because it wouldn't serve them at all. I'll let them go find adventure and themselves, and say nothing about the worry gene. If they've inherited it, they'll learn about it soon enough when they become parents.