I Am My Daughter’s Anxiety

My teenager’s life

I’m sitting across from my daughter who is not so cheerily working on hour number one of about five hours of homework. She is texting her classmates back and forth because she needs a little help and solace and they’re mostly done. They’re done because they’re not the only freshman on the Junior Varsity Volleyball Team. They’re not the ONLY kid in the freshman IB honors program to also be an athlete. She is.

I am working on hour one of about five of my budget. I’m doing a horrible job because I have had a really bad day and my brain is racing and in 15 different places and I can’t sit still and all I really want to do is write.

We’re drinking tea and listening to the Beatles.

“Alex said the reading assignments ALONE take four hours! I’m screwed.”

She’s beautiful. She doesn’t know it and it will be a long while before she does. Tall and willowy and strong. I can’t stop staring at her. I made this. I sang her to sleep with Johnny Cash as she laid on my chest as a baby 14 years ago.

Her dyed red hair is pulled back in two French braids with ribbons on the ends in her school colors, purple and silver. It’s the first time I have seen her with ribbons in her hair in so long I can’t remember the last time. She was little. A girl on the Varsity Team did her hair for her for tonight’s game.

“Mom! Look how nice my handwriting looks on this! I mean, for real, Mom.”

She’s me. The second you see her you know she belongs to me. The way the talks, the words she uses, her facial expressions, her gestures. Inside she’s me too. We had a long talk last night. A talk that probably put us where we are now because we didn’t do our work, we sat around the dinner table for much longer than was reasonable.

We talked about how we think the same way most times, too. We’re fun. We do stupid things to make people laugh. We hate tension and it makes us more than a little jumpy. We don’t understand the status quo. We’re smart and so most boys totally annoy us. We need alone time and can spend six hours in the house together without talking to each other and still feel so loved.

“I’m so glad I know Roman numerals. Is that weird? I feel like that’s weird.”

It’s not that good, slightly geeky but fun stuff I worry about. It’s the other stuff. It’s the stuff that drove me crazy as a teenager, a young adult and still. She’s got my fixation on perfectionism. Her assignments are late because she’s never quite happy with them. She takes on too much and is a pleaser.

Fate worse than death for her is letting someone down. I can crumble her to the ground simply by telling her I’m disappointed in her, a phrase used sparingly because I don’t like to see her crumbled. She overthinks things and then she overthinks her overthinking. She’s easily hurt because she has a sensitive heart.

“I hate school. I hate school! I’m dropping out when I turn 16. Can you sign the papers? Thanks.”

I’m scared for the day she just runs out of steam. Last year, everything got to be a bit much and she had a meltdown. Crying on the kitchen floor, can’t breathe melt down. I did the only thing I could think to do at the time. I got down on the floor with her. I tried to calm her mind but you just can’t talk sense into this one. I’m scared she’s going to be hurt by people she cares too much about that don’t deserve to get her joy. She gives it so freely. Being with her when she’s 14 isn’t unlike being with her when she was learning to walk. I feel like I just chase her around steering her away from sharp, hard corners.

“I need a new bed because I feel like after this I should get to sleep in a big marshmallow like your bed. Can I just sleep in your bed?”

I want her to relax a little. Not give so much. Ease up on the expectations she has of herself because she thinks everyone else has them, too. Then I realize I had my own little meltdown today because I couldn’t get out of the office today and was going to be late for her game. It was the only place I wanted to be and I cried out of frustration the whole way to the game. Then I was aggravated because I had to stay with her through the Varsity game and, damn it, I have work to do. I’m trying to balance everything in my life right now and I’m doing a shitty job. Have I mentioned that I’m just tired?

I’m not proud of the fact that I share my bed with my laptop. I hate the example I am setting for my daughter that working yourself into the ground is just how life goes. I see her doing it too. There’s more to life and I want both of us to see it. I don’t want my daughter to grow up to be a 44 year woman who sleeps every night with her work in her bed but to stop that from happening, I have to stop doing it. And that’s hard because I’m terrified of what happens if I don’t.

So I take a breath and I write this. I ignore the work a little so I can stare at my kid. And now I’m behind because I have spent time on this instead of my budget. I’m okay with that. The work eventually gets done somehow. Life isn’t something you want to rush to complete.