2010.01.20 Cornering the market on parental worry

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

David has previously mentioned that, in the division of labor regarding worrying about Maddie’s impending trip to study Coastal and Marine Ecology of the Indo-Pacific in Thailand, I had the first half covered and he would take over when she’s traveling around Southeast Asia and Europe, mostly alone.

Well, I think I’ve just hijacked the whole shebang in the worrying department. I’m just flat out panic-attack level worried about it all. I have decided, though, after nearly hyper-ventilating, deep in worry-thought, while brushing my teeth late one night last week, to model my worrying on the Alcoholics Anonymous slogan: one day at a time. OK, maybe two or three.

First, I’ll worry about her getting safely to Los Angeles and spending the night with an unknown-to-us male friend who just moved out there. Next, I’ll worry about her getting to the LA airport on time the next day and meeting up with other participants in the program. I won’t envision death by drowning, shark bite or exotic disease yet—or consider what happens in six weeks when the program ends.

I’m going to concentrate on all the guardians she has in LA (my high-school friend Sondra provided four numbers where Maddie can reach her; Rosie gave the phone number of the best man at her wedding). I’m envisioning smooth sailing in Bangkok when she meets her program leaders.

Still, in an e-mail Monday night, I lamented to Sondra about it all.

“I keep saying "Oy!" in my head about the last-minuteness of her preparations, but I know I would be no better. Still, she is only just taking care of money matters tomorrow morning before she leaves for the airport at 1 p.m....she forgot Martin closed the banks today....and she is also not a morning person.”

I told Sondra what brought on the anxiety last week was the thought of her traveling alone from Jakarta to Bali and spending a week alone in Bali surfing in a bikini with drunken Australians. 

“She wouldn't even try on the one-piece bathing suit I tried to interest her in,” I said.

“My bigger worry,” I wrote Sondra, “is the king of Thailand dying and the country going to pieces and all the creepy crawlies she will encounter...not to mention the great and grand variety of diseases.”

“At least she was convinced that she should buy the 6-pack of Hanes hipsters instead of the bikinis...I didn’t tell her I thought they’d hold more of the contents of potentially erupting bowels...I was just pleased that she put them in the cart.”

Maddie’s friends are taking her to the airport...it kills me that she isn't packing and leaving from home...I would feel better if I could hover over her while she packed and offer last minute unwanted advice and orders. 

She pooh-poohs me when I tell her she should make herself as unattractive as possible. When we shopped for light-weight pants last night (why she didn't do this sooner?...) I suggested she buy the ugliest ones. 

Amazingly, of a style that ran very small, she bought the ones that were more loose than tight because she’s planning for them to last forever. I didn't tell her she’s likely to have a Leddy butt after the second kid, definitely the third, and a size 6 would be a distant memory before she’s 30.

When Ben left for a three-month tour of Europe, all my hovering had no impact. He was packing shoddy ripped jeans and couldn’t be convinced that he should pack something nicer. His plan was to wear the heck out of them and leave them behind whenever he was done with them. 

I remember getting pretty disgusted with Ben that he wasn’t even planning to take shampoo: “I’ll just borrow somebody else’s.” If I were the “somebody else,” I'd have been pretty unhappy with him.

As I write this, Maddie is headed for the airport, so there’s not much else left for me to do. My last-minute phone calls urging her to take a hat, not check her big backpack (she only has a 40-minute layover in Boulder), and write her name and info with a Sharpie inside her backpack are falling on deaf ears.

There’s a part of me that wants to make her the offer her grandma jokingly said to her brother, “I’d pay her if she didn’t go.”

But as my daughter Rosie’s mother-in-law posted on Facebook the other day, “Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake...” – Sir Francis Bacon.

I know you’re right, Sir Francis, but I’m guessing you were never a parent—worrying that your sparkling star would melt like a snowflake.

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