Parental Anxiety Overload

I had a little programming note that I meant to put at the end of this post. But then when I started writing it, it got so long that I fear you won’t have the patience to see it through to the end. So, if anyone’s interested, Josh Wagner at the Schenectady JCC told me that they now have 7-day passes available if you want to try out the fitness center and classes there. You can call him to ask for one and tell him that I sent you (and that what you’d really love to read about is how a local blogger’s body and life is transformed by free daily intensive personal training and nutritional counseling–wait, okay, is that too much? Probably. Scratch that).

Anyway, I mentioned that yesterday was a high-anxiety parenting day, and basically we’re all fine. Everybody’s great. But I pretty much exhausted myself fretting about one thing or another, some more reasonable than others, and so I thought I’d share my various freakouts with you. Because it can’t all be fun in the Capital District.

Around 4 am, J came into my room upset. It took a while for both of us to become coherent enough to communicate, but eventually I figured out that she was physically uncomfortable. Snuggled together in J’s bed, I asked enough questions to yield a tentative maternal diagnosis of  a urinary tract infection. But that surprised me. If my sleep-deprived non-medical opinion was correct, this would be the first case for my daughters. In fact, I pretty much associate UTIs with more. . . mature activity. I remember when I called to report my first UTI to my parents after visiting the college health center. “A lot of young, recently married women get that,” my father told me pointedly. This was news to me, and I didn’t have time to think of anything better before I offered up the truth, “Well, it sure is going around here at school!”

Anyway, anything involving the. . . nether regions. . . sets off parenting alarm bells, yes? Or is that just me? Well, it is difficult enough quelling your panic and asking casually if anyone’s been touching your daughter’s vulva in broad daylight, and at this point it was about 4:45 am. But one of the (questionable) joys of parenting is that anything can happen, any time.

J (sleepily surprised): But nobody’s supposed to do that.

K: [What the hell kind of answer is that? Is that a hedge?!? Why would she be hedging?!?] Oh, yes, I know. Nobody is supposed to do that. You’re right. But it’s possible that someone could try, and if they did, I’d want you to tell me. Because that could cause your body to not feel so good.

J: No, nobody’s touched there.

K: Oh, good. That’s good then. [But by this time it’s already come up and a surge of paranoid adrenaline pushes me into more follow-up.] Because if someone ever did touch you there or any other place that’s usually private, they’d probably know that they weren’t supposed to do it. And they might say things to make you feel bad or confused. But no matter what anybody does or says, and no matter what you do, I always, always love you. No matter what. And I always, always want to know if anything makes you feel bad or sad or uncomfortable, even if you think I don’t. I do. Or if something weird is going like it hurts to go to the bathroom, even if you think I can’t help, sometimes I can.

J: Okay.

Phew. And it is not even light out, but J is wriggling, too uncomfortable in her body to sleep, and I am channeling my evolutionary desire to punch something into a restrained little back rub for her, and there is no sleep coming soon, so I snap on the light to read to her until she falls asleep much later.

When I collapse back into my own bed at 6 am, I plunge into a Parenting Anxiety Dream. We’re at Disney World with the in-laws, and then the wait staff at a restaurant start bullying another member of the staff, and I’m just slowly realizing that these staff are poor role models and we need to leave when I notice that someone’s given J a cigarette. And when I look over at M and Cute W, they have wandered away (that, actually, does happen at Disney World), and then my neck snaps back to J and she’s gone.  So then I’m running around looking for my missing family, and I see an unattended boy sobbing and alone and I completely ignore him because I have my own family to find, and even in the dream I feel like this is the worst part, that I’m so overcome by panic that I’m showing depraved indifference to other people’s children. And then I wake up.

So. . . that was restful.

I’d left a note for Cute W saying that J and I would be sleeping in if possible, and when I finally awoke, M had left for school an hour before.

And that’s when I noticed that M had left behind her snow pants for recess and a script for the morning announcements.  One of the most exciting aspects of 5th grade at her school is that they have a variety of jobs to serve as leaders for the younger kids. During each morning announcement, a 5th grader will read a little 1- or 2-minute speech that always ends, “With something to think about, this is [so-and-so]. Make it a great day. . . or not. The choice is yours.” Oh, actually, I just went and found the sheet, and it’s from Project Wisdom. Anyway, she’d been practicing for more than a week. It had been such a topic of conversation that last week, when I was lecturing M about some bad behavior, I jokingly recalled  the rule of living from Confucius: “Ask yourself constantly, ‘What is the right thing to do?'” that her upcoming announcement discusses. “Really, M,” I said, “Do you think that was the right thing to do?” M had also had a running joke where she’d practice the schpiel without fixing the blanks. “Good morning, name-of-school,” she’d begin. “This is name-of-narrator with a few words of wisdom.” Each time she did  it, Cute W and I would say, “Stop! You’re kidding around, but if you keep reciting it wrong, you might say it wrong automatically by mistake!”

The point is, it was a big deal. And when I saw the forgotten script, it was about half an hour after she was supposed to have read it to the entire school over the PA system. I really shouldn’t have slept in. I’d spent so much time taking care of the younger one that the older one was neglected. That’s what I thought, even though it was ridiculous, because M is always responsible for bringing her school stuff on her own. She’s usually good at it. But I like being her back-up. So it was another one of those awesome parenting timing things that I wasn’t there for one of the few times that she actually needed back up.

Meanwhile J was on the couch, uncomfortable and now featuring a fresh crop of hives. If you’ve read for a while, you’ve no doubt heard about J’s skin sensitivity and rashes, but after numerous tests, the allergist couldn’t locate a trigger and suggested that the hives were basically harmless and could be triggered by temperature. My working hypothesis these days is that there’s something about the upper 30s, lower 40s degree weather that disagrees with her. March and November are the worst. I know this sounds crazy, but that’s how we roll.

So the prompt doctor’s appointment (UTI confirmed, antibiotic prescribed, thank you very much!) leads to more anxiety, because even though we’ve tested for everything before, when the pediatrician sees J’s mottled flesh again, she leafs through the history of tests and tentative diagnoses and decides that we should try another blood test just to be safe. Then she writes about a million different items on the pad to test: allergies, vitamin deficiencies, Lyme, etc. And even though I think it will be fruitless again, I agree that we should try to get to the bottom of whatever it is.  Poor J. She does not enjoy a blood test. Riding to the lab to get her blood taken, J is sad and scared and she still, incidentally, needs to pee. My focus shifts from fretting over J in the backseat to unbidden imaginings of the scene at school when M remembers that she’s supposed to announce and doesn’t have her script.

In the waiting room, we read an article from Web MD in which Taylor Swift reminds us not to worry about stuff we can’t control. I’m trying, sister, I think. J is as brave as she knows how to be, but she’s still sitting in my lap and I have to clench her hard to keep her still when it’s time to draw blood. The technician is trying to encourage her by describing the new, tiny needle that she’ll barely feel and offering to let J hold the specimen herself, and these techniques are miles away from the right approach for this particular child, but she can’t know that, and I’m behind J, so we can’t even roll our eyes conspiratorially.  Without facing her, sight feels useless, and I close my eyes and hear her muted squeak, feel the tension in her body and two hot tears that drop onto my forearm. No, thank you. She doesn’t want any stickers.

While I’m paying for the prescription, J picks out Valentine’s Day items and asks if she can please buy something for M and Cute W? I hesitate and J backpedals: she knows I’m not an impulse-shopper. But today I am, and I suggest, instead, that the heart-shaped tin of chocolates she’s chosen for M is lovely, and we can get a second one for her, but they are my treat. And they are for today.

As soon as J chokes down her first dose of antibiotics I run to the elementary school with the snow pants and the chocolates. M’s announcement may be ruined, but I can still fix recess.

As I sign in at the office I learn that there was a spare copy of the announcement (my brain guessed this all along, but my gut required confirmation), and then in the library, someone compliments me on  M’s lovely speaking voice.  By the time the snow pants and I have caught up with M, she’s walking from music to her classroom.

M (looking half-curious, half-hunted): What are you doing here?

K: I’m stalking you. I didn’t see you this morning and I was worried when you left the announcement paper behind, and I wanted you to have your snow pants.

M: It was okay. I left the snow pants because I just didn’t want to bother carrying them. The black top is fine.

K: Are you sure? Because it’s a beautiful day. They’re right here.

M: Really, Mom. It’s fine. But thank you.

K: Oh, okay. That’s good. But wait– [I rummage for the tin of chocolates and present it to her.]

M: What’s that for?

K: Just because I’ve been fretting about you ever since I saw the announcement and the snow pants this morning.

M: Wow, I should leave stuff behind more often.

K: Please don’t.

M (laughing): Okay, Mom. Thanks. [And here I am glad for the dismissive tone that means everything is normal.]

We had a little time for lunch before setting out for J’s orthodontia appointment.

Before, we headed out, I got a call from J’s gymnastics coach at Cartwheels.  J’s on the brand-new team there and she loves gymnastics, but she’s also hard on herself. Her coach was concerned that she gets so easily stressed and discouraged, and she wanted to talk about ways to ensure that J’s having fun. So first I had to tell her that J’s like that about everything, like crying when she messes up a song on the piano the first time she plays it or convincing M that her report card was horrible by crying and refusing to show it, when in fact she’s done better than her sister. In any case, it was lovely for me to have someone else fretting about my child instead of me, and sound like I’m the one who’s sure that everything is fine. I probably would have launched into over-sharing, but luckily I was saved by the bell–literally the timer I set that reminds me it’s time to get out the door for an appointment.

At the orthodontist’s, we discovered that while J’s palate is, indeed, expanding, I still need to review my technique. I was also reassured that I probably wouldn’t break her entire mouth no matter how inept I am at turning that little key. They didn’t put it quite like that, but sort of. We arrived home and J collapsed on the sofa for a long nap.

Luckily, the  evening was lovely. Cute W was gone for the night, so it was Chinese food delivered for dinner. As I unwrapped egg rolls, J told M about her long, hard day. “But it’s looking up, right?” I said. “Chinese for dinner and gymnastics? Your day can still turn around, right here.” As it turns out, I was right. Whatever happened at gymnastics, J arrived home that evening reporting that class was GREAT!! and she looked down-to-her-soul full of joy that a mother who was exhausted might have teared up a little bit.

Meanwhile, M went to soccer, and since both girls got rides from friends, I was left with a little free time. Yes, there was another school budget meeting, but I only popped in long enough to check the table for handouts and show my face.  As I said to someone at the budget meeting before I fled, I needed Serenity Time and there’s no Serenity at a budget meeting. Instead, I headed to my much-beloved JCC  yoga class. Then I came home and drank wine while reading bedtime stories.




  1. Aliza

    Good God, Katie! I feel exhausted for you.
    Rosa got a UTI before, and I think it’s because the girls hold it all day. They hate the bathrooms at school, especially in the classrooms where boys are DISGUSTING and can’t aim. My girls always run through the door to use the bathroom as soon as they get home. Hope J is feeling better, and thank M for giving me the skinny on my wayward son.

  2. @Aliza, hah! M told me that she had a chat with you about that. She said, “It was hard, because I was trying to seem kind of neutral. . .” –So whatever she said, assume it’s a little bit worse than that. Poor girls. I could not possibly hold it all day. Especially since I drink so much water. I’d guzzled about a quart before I heard we were on boil-only orders today!

  3. Mary Ellen Whiteley

    You know my T. has had UTIs since she was 2 months old. It always, always feels bad on many levels to call the docter for an appt about it. I think this day is a novel yet to be written. I love the photo of the wine glass on the yoga mat. We have a winery nearby my house that has Saturday morning yoga with wine tasting after . Cheers and Namaste!

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