Tara Nanayakkara

Driven to Worry

One of the hardest aspects of being a parent is not allowing yourself to be lulled into a sense of blissful complacency when all is going along as it should. While it's fine to be thankful that your children are safe, happy and well loved, you are always on the cusp of worry, and most of us will continue to be even when those said children are big adults with mortgages and children of their own. It's almost as if you sign an invisible contract with the universe when your children are born. It reads something like this. "All of you will experience challenges, but some of you will face harsher tests than others."

So you carry on with life's vagaries and unpredictabilities, hoping for the best.

My daughter is 17. She's reached that stage in life where she and some of her friends have traded their Learner's Permits for freshly minted driver's licences.  Alas! The worry begins. Not for your child's driving skills of course but for all the bad drivers on the road that she will encounter and what about if she is the passenger in a car driven by one of those said bad drivers? Then what?  You obsess and she knows that.  As tempting as it is to keep your babies cuddly cozy safe, wrapped in polar fleece in snug strollers, they do grow up and though it's a perfectly normal and expected step in their development, you guessed it; you worry.

Just this morning, my daughter texted me to say that she and a classmate would be taking the school bus and getting off at MacDonald's for a snack and study session.  "No one's driving anywhere" she texted in reference to my concerns about her going in cars of school friends who I haven't yet met.

Just minutes after I received that text, I saw a detailed article in the local paper about the death of a 17 year old. She was a passenger in a friend's car when the fatal accident occurred. A parent's worst nightmare? I think so.

For every accidental fatality, there are hundreds of teenagers who drive safely from point A to B and might go through their entire life without anything more extreme than a minor fender bender. But it's human nature to focus on the "plane that crashed" and not the thousands that fly safely across the world. As mothers and fathers, we might relax our guard for a moment or two but we know that when we signed up to become parents, we would be driven to worry as part of the deal and hey, I'd rather have my child perched in a therapist office whining about how over protective her mother was, and know that she got to adulthood safe and sound.  After all, what is the alternative?