Back to School and the Anxious Parent

Kids test our patience, don’t they? By the time my son was 3 years old, there was talk of school starting soon and although part of me was sad about it, the other part rejoiced. I’d only have one kid at home for a little while EVERY DAY! It felt like I had an upcoming vacation. (To be clear, my son started early preschool because of learning delays.)

When the time came though, it was nothing I expected. The teachers were great, school staff was great, everyone was great. But that little part of my brain that likes to remind me of all the what-if’s and worst case scenarios was suddenly loud and full of ammo to drive me crazy.

 

  •  I was anxious about being outside on time for the bus.
  •  Then on my son traveling in a strange vehicle without me.
  •  Him being away for HOURS without me.
  •  Packing a lunch that wouldn’t make the teachers think I was a bad mom.
  •  His behavior at school.
  •  How people would treat him and his differences.
  •  How he would treat others.
  •  Being home on time for drop off.
  •  Not looking completely disheveled so no one would judge me.
  •  Being judged for being a young mom.
  •  Going on errands and seeing school buses driving around! Is it a half day and I didn’t know!?
  •  This list could go onnnnnnnnnnn

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Now, I’m a bit older and a bit more chill. I’ve got two in school now and a baby at home and I no longer worry about some of those things. Like how I look when the bus comes to pick the kids up, or whether people judge me for being a young mom. Besides, children have aged me, I don’t look like a teenager anymore!

But… The rest is still hard. I constantly worry about every single detail about my babies being in school. That’s totally normal to think like that, and I know most parents do. But most parents don’t have nightmares of the school bus driving off a cliff. Or have frequent intrusive thoughts about their babies somehow getting badly injured or even killed while they are away from them. And these things stay with us, taking hold in our brains and staying there, refusing to leave. We can’t shake this stuff away and it can often lead to anxiety attacks, panic attacks, even anger, directed at the very loved ones we worry about. I’m not just worried. I get sick. Like there’s a rock sitting in my stomach that doesn’t go away until my children are home and in my arms again. (And for those who are itching to suggest homeschooling, that’s not a possibility for everyone. Although I would love to, I am not cut out for it and I applaud those who are.)

These days, in the United States, I think its becoming common that parents are struggling with anxiety. How could you not? I’m not going to get political here, but I’ve never met a parent who wasn’t terrified of the possibility of a school shooting.

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Having children is terrifying.

Sending your children away from you is terrifying.

Having anxiety is terrifying.

So, parents who deal with it all every day, I see you. I know your struggle and your pain and I see how strong you are to keep your fear from your kids. You are amazing and I am so sorry you deal with this level of anxiety with me. But we will keep doing what’s best for our kids, even if it’s hell on us. Because we are parents… That’s what we do.

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