I am a worrier. I make no apologies about that. Tomorrow my daughter will be going on a school outing to an amusement park. My daughter has OCD and AD/HD and PPD. If that weren’t enough to worry about, she will be at a place on her own with her friends and several thousand people. She will be carrying money, and for the first time a cell phone. My daughter is fourteen and has the maturity level of almost a twelve-year-old. Now that you’re shaking your head and wondering why I even considered letting her go, let me tell you all the things that went through my head while trying to make this decision.
She has issues. Can she handle herself all day? Will she waste all her money on the arcade games and not have any left for food? Will she get lost? Will her friends “ditch” her? Will she make it back to the bus on time? What about predators at the park? Will she be an easy target? Will she lose her cell phone? Her glasses?
This is the child who, five years ago, went to Disneyland and late in the day while riding the train around the park announced, “ This has been the worst day of my life!” and yet she is determined to go and be with her friends. This is the child who, on her first trip to Disneyland when she was four, said the best ride was the tram in the parking lot. (That should have been our first clue that we had a unique kid on our hands.) She probably won’t go on many of the rides. She will probably be on a bench waiting for her friends to get off the rides most of the day and yet she is okay with that. I on the other hand am not. I will not sleep much tonight. She will sleep like a baby …
Today is the day. I have tried everything to give her an out so she doesn’t have to go. She keeps telling me that she’s fine and that everything will be fine. I still have these worry thoughts in my head. I wouldn’t feel like a Mom if I didn’t. I check her fanny pack one more time and give her all the instructions I can think of. She gives me a hug and disappears out the door to catch the school bus. I begin pacing the floor and say the first of many prayers for the day. My husband appears already showered and dressed for the day and says he’s heading to the office. He knows that nothing good will come from watching me fret all day. I’m on edge and he’s saving himself. Smart man.
It is almost 1:30 p.m. and I have heard from my daughter three times. She checked in the first time to tell me that her friends were waiting in an hour long line for one of the rides. There is no way my kiddo is going to consider joining them. She tells me she is on her own for the hour and is heading back to the entrance to get a map of the park. I had printed one last night so I talk her to the right area. She gets her map and tells me she’s heading back to meet her friends. My hands are sweating from the fact that she is by herself to find her way back. I call her back immediately. I forgot to ask if her friends have their cell phones so she can find them. She assures me they do. I heard from her again while I was getting groceries. They were getting lunch. My daughter’s lunch consisted of ice cream and a soda. I remind her to drink water whenever she sees a drinking fountain. She insisted on wearing jeans and is complaining of being hot. So now the new worry is dehydration and overheating. Great, another one to add to my already long list. Time to say another prayer ... maybe two.
3:00 p.m. and I just checked in with her. She and one of her friends are browsing in one of the gift shops. She tells me that she still hasn’t gone on any of the rides but might check out the carousel later. I think she is just having fun just hanging out with her friends. She still hasn’t eaten anything substantial but is trying to trick me into thinking she has. I can hear it in her voice and she finally comes clean. I encourage her to eat something. It’s been a long day already. I tell her that I won’t bother her anymore and ask her to please call me when they are on the bus heading back to school. She can’t get me off the phone fast enough. I pace for ten minutes worrying that she hasn’t eaten. One more prayer ... three hours to go.
So why did I let her go? I finally decided that I would have to let her do things eventually. I can’t keep her a little girl forever. Still in the back of my mind I wasn’t so sure that this was the outing to let her loose on. Believe me, I argued with myself, my husband, and her therapist for a long time. I was the only one with the anxiety about this adventure. And I say my daughter has issues … hmmm. The mere fact that she really wanted to go was a huge step in itself (flashback to Disneyland). Even though it was time to let her fly I still wanted to clip her wings. But, when the time came I watched her walk out the door and I wished I could fast-forward the day to see her walking right back in the door. So now I wait. This has got to be the toughest Mom test I’ve faced yet.
My daughter just called. She is on the bus and they are heading back to school. As I suspected, the only ride she went on all day was the lower level of the carousel. She asked if I could bring ice packs for her feet in the car. Apparently she walked her legs off, and “oh by the way, you can massage my feet later.” She totally takes after her Dad. She told me how surprised she was to see how fast her money went and she swore she didn’t remember spending the $20 dollar bill. All in all, though, she had a good time. She got her souvenirs and she is glad to be heading home. And in her typical OCD fashion she asked three times how her brother was. I think her first adventure as a teen was a success.
And I survived too. I worried and fretted and paced and prayed all day long. Now I know my daughter is growing up and can handle herself. Her little hand slipped a little further out of mine today. While I am not totally ready to let go yet, tonight, I’ll sleep a little bit easier.