This past trip to Hawaii was the first time my husband and I have taken a vacation without the kids. I felt guilty about leaving them behind and worried what was going to happen while we were gone from home for two weeks. But my husband kept reminding me that they are good kids, they didn’t want to go with us (because we had gone to Hawaii two years previously), and at 15 and 19, they were old enough to look after themselves. Our youngest was still in a college summer school program out of town for the first week of our vacation.
Still, as a typical mom, I agonized about the “what ifs.” I won’t bore you with a list of my imagined perils, but suffice it to say, I had some pretty far-fetched ones, since I have a pretty vivid imagination when it comes to worrying. On the second day of our trip we got a text from our oldest daughter about some bad news. We of course immediately imagined the worst before we could talk to her about the specifics. It turns out that she had scraped loose her car’s front bumper while backing out of the garage. Of course, this was our fault because if we hadn’t gone to Hawaii, she wouldn’t have been parking in the garage. She joked about this, but I’m sure to her teenaged mind, this blame on us was the first thing that came to mind.
But you know what? This mistake was a good thing for everyone. Since we weren’t there, she had to deal with it, and quickly, so her car would be drivable and she’d be able to pick up her little sister from summer school a few days later. She ended up taking it to our regular mechanic, who suggested a body shop. She took it there and then took it to the dealer to compare prices. After talking to us, we all agreed on the best course of action, and the next day she took the car in and had it repaired. She juggled all this while working at her summer job.
This was a good experience for me because I realized that my imagined worst case scenarios just were not going to happen, and if something bad did happen, I couldn’t foresee it so why worry? Finally, I started to relax, especially after my oldest daughter successfully picked up my youngest and they were home safe and sound. That was when I really started to relax and release myself from the stranglehold of parental paranoia.
And you know what happened? We had a blast being free from immediate parental concerns and responsibilities. We were thousands of miles away; there was nothing we could do immediately if something happened, so I just stopped worrying about the “what ifs.” Freedom—even just for a week or so—from they daily grind of worrying about the kids was incredibly uplifting and freeing. The knots in my shoulders eased and I really appreciated the time my husband and I had together.
So that is my tip to you: free yourself from the constant worrying of being a parent. You don’t have to go to Hawaii to do this. Just tell yourself that you aren’t going to dwell on the “what ifs” that could happen to your children on a daily basis. Deal with the things that do happen, and don’t worry about what could happen. When the daily grind of being a parent is wearing you down, pretend you are thousands of miles away and the kids have to figure out what to do without you. Encourage them to handle the situation themselves. This step back from responsibility works well with teenagers; though I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger kids.
Part of dealing with what does happen is tuning an unfortunate event into a learning experience. We had a great discussion with our daughter and reminded her that she is legally an adult, and financially responsible for her actions. She didn’t argue the point and was wondering if she could pay it off in payments since she just couldn’t afford the whole amount at once. She realized that this might cost more in interest, but she really didn’t have a choice. Eureka! She actually did learn the lessons of my book. I couldn’t be prouder. She’s one kid who understands that in the real world, paying over time costs money. And hopefully, she’s also learned to be a tad bit more cautious when driving.
By the way, since she was so gracious about taking full responsibility for her actions, my husband and I decided to split the repair costs with her. Definitely a hit to her savings, but half as bad as it could have been.