Clare has written this fantastic guest post describing her anxiety about her eldest son starting high school. Even though my blog usually discusses parenting of younger children, I think the emotions she is feeling are something that many parents experience, no matter their children’s ages. I hope that her honest sharing will make people feel less alone when dealing with anxiety.
A guest post by Clare from NeonRainbowBlog
My eldest son Oli is 11 this year and joining the world of high schoolers in September. He is nothing but excited about the whole experience. For him this marks his leap into becoming an adult, where he gets more freedom and more responsibility. However, for me, I feel apprehension. My baby is no longer a baby at all, and I have no choice but to let him grow. If I could stop time right now I would, because in all honesty I don’t want him to grow up.
I’ve always been an overprotective parent and I often say the words “It’s better to be overprotective than underprotective”. Throughout Oli’s life he has had to deal with his Mum’s anxiety over letting him grow up, and even though to him it’s normal and doesn’t really phase him, I’ve no doubt when high school and the teenage years really do kick in that it may become somewhat of a problem.
As he’s grown up, my anxiety over parenting him has reared it’s ugly head numerous times. For example:
- I was always reluctant to let other people babysit him. When I did it would cause me nothing but worry, panic and nervousness.
- Trips to the park were coupled with overbearing “be careful, don’t do that, watch you don’t fall, wait your turn, don’t push in” comments. I’d be constantly following him around like he would break or fall at any moment.
- The same could be said for letting him walk places with us. This gave me major anxiety: what if he veered near the road, what if he fell by accident and into the road, what if a car came up onto the path and he was in front, what if, what if, what if.
- Even learning to ride a bike came with unbearable anxiety over him falling off, going out of my sight, hitting something, something hitting him.
- More recently he started playing out in our cul-de-sac and our neighbours houses. This prompted constant worry over where he was; was he being good? Could I trust him to know his boundaries? And lots more “what ifs”. I’d constantly look out the window or just sit there doing stuff while continuously being able to see him. I’d also text the other mums to make sure he was behaving or being good.
I feel like my anxiety does go beyond the realms of usual parental anxieties. I know every parent will feel some sort of panic over their child growing up, making changes and becoming their own person, but when does that panic get too much?
As time has gone on the anxiety I feel when my son plays out has subsided. He can play out in our little street and in the neighbours’ houses and I feel virtually anxiety free. I’ve gotten used to it. He even ventures over to the shop or the Pokestop on our estate (it’s a few mins away) with his friends – he has to have his phone with him, and a time limit to be back for before I go looking, but 9/10 I feel okay with him going – not 100%, but manageable.
However the thought of him going to high school is terrifying me.
High school for me was a terrible experience. Most of the anxiety I harbour today was born in that playground. I was bullied by my own “friends”, no less (though I didn’t really see this until I was an adult). I felt like I had nobody I could fully trust or who wanted to genuinely be my friend. There would be days I had lots of friends to hang out with, but the very next day they could decide they didn’t want to hang out with me at all, so I’d be the loner. There was no stability for me, and that’s why I find it hard to form friendships now I am an adult. I struggle to trust anyone, and those feelings of sadness, hurt and anxiety I felt are always at the forefront of my mind when I think back to my experience of high school.
I feel all those old feelings of anxiety are flooding back to me every time I think about him going. What if he gets bullied? What if nobody likes him? Will he be okay walking to and from school (even though it’s at the bottom of our estate)?
But furthermore, what about when he wants to go out with his friends alone and go to parties? I don’t know how I am going to cope with giving him that kind of freedom, but I know it’s an essential part of growing up.
Is it just my anxiety from childhood that makes me so nervous for my own child? Will the anxiety fade like when I started giving him the freedom to play out in our street?
I honestly don’t know and I wish I had the answers. All I can hope is that it isn’t too much of a rough ride and that I’ve taught my boy enough about the world to make the right choices.
Any advice for this overprotective, anxiety ridden mother?