Parents understand worry very well. Not only is the world a scary place, but babies and young children are just so fragile.
I remember worrying about my kids when they were both newborns. SIDS terrified me and, since both were born early, both were slightly more likely to succumb to it. When my oldest learned to roll over just before he turned 6 months, he loved sleeping on his face. I spent a very sleepless week worrying about him. I slept with the monitor glued to my ear. I got up every 10 minutes to check on him. All night. Every night.
Then the kids started to crawl and walk and started running into everything and falling. Then they started to play with their peers, peers who might push or take their toys because they didn’t know any better than my own children. Then my oldest started preschool and the worry about what he was doing and learning set in, even if he was away from me for only a few hours.
My mom likes to remind me that the worry never goes away; it just changes. She’s told me she spent many nights lying awake, worrying about my siblings and me, even when were became grown adults. All a parent ever really wants is to ensure their baby is safe and happy.
The earlier worries, as worrisome as they were, were easy to handle. I had full control. I was there, right there with them. Well, except when my oldest went to preschool. I’m a little bit of a control freak about how far I let my kids wander. I check on them throughout the night even though my youngest is now 2.5 and has outgrown the risk for SIDS. She still bangs her head on everything and I experience panic every time a goose egg pops up. My husband and I both have a background in neuroscience, so we regularly have conversations about concussions. There just isn’t a single cautious bone in her body.
But now I’ve entered a new phase of worry. My oldest is in Kindergarten and, while I’m glad he’s doing well and loves school, he’s away from me longer and I have to put some trust into the school. I have to hope they will keep him safe. My heart rate spikes whenever I hear about another school shooting. I freaked out a few weeks ago when the Saugus High School shooting occurred, especially since the school is just north of where we live.
Already my son’s school has been on lock down twice since he started in late August. The first was when someone hopped the fence and just wandered onto campus. The second was for police activity literally on the street right by the Kindergarten yard. We later found out they were searching for a stolen car suspect. And that the stolen car had a number of weapons inside.
I’m sure there are many parents out there who never had to do a lock down drill at any point during their academic career. I certainly didn’t. I remember fire and earthquake drills. After 9/11, my high school did a single disaster drill, where the entire school gathered on the field. Talk about one big target.
It makes my stomach turn when I think about my 5 year old doing lock down drills, about his school actually going on lock down. He’s a young child who still looks at the world with wonder. I hate that he’s also learning the world is a scary place. Though I am glad the school does take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of students and staff.
Sometimes I’m ready to pull him out of school. Kindergarten isn’t compulsory in California. I could easily home school him. But being in a classroom with a teacher and peers has been a priceless experience for him. He’s grown so much as a student and person just since late August. Things I never though he would willingly do, he now does with a smile and excitement. I wouldn’t feel right about pulling him away from everything the classroom has to offer him.
Right now, being in school is the best option for my son. I can’t protect him forever, and will eventually have to entrust his safety to others, like a future partner or roommate. The worry blossoms in my head every time I drop him off. I linger at the gate just so I can watch him play for a few minutes. He hates it. He hates that I hover. But I worry. I’ll always worry. Calls from the school outside of the weekly announcements call make my heart rate spike, but they’re not even every week and, most of the time, they’re just reminders.
Still, the worry never goes away. I have my fingers crossed that the next three weeks don’t bring any surprises. The winter break can’t come soon enough for me.