Fear Not, Mommy!
by Kat Dawson Spitzer
I wondered if my life could get any busier. Between work, household obligations and volunteer efforts, I often passed my husband in the bathroom with a high five, on the way to bed. My 3-year-old daughter pretended to “take an important conference call” on her fake cell phone. My 6-year-old son rolled his eyes when I told him I had to finish just one last email before I could play a game.
It’s too easy to lose track of what’s important. I wanted some quality time with my family, so I booked a vacation where we could enjoy some adventure and fresh air. Once there, I felt the tension of schedules drifting away. And then we went to the water park.
You need to know that I’m a hypochondriac. It’s noted in my doctor’s records. I worry about heart attacks, aneurysms, cancer and germs. When my children cough, I think the worst about their lungs. When I spot a mole on my husband, he sees the dermatologist within days. I lost both of my parents young to heart disease and diabetes, so I don’t mess around with any unknown possibilities. Being away from regular daily stress does wonders for my psyche. But vacations don’t alleviate the problem entirely, which brings me back to the water park.
We entered the warm, humid building into the cornucopia of slides, inner tubes and water-bound bliss. I stared down at my bare feet and contemplated each step onto the alternating ground: wet and “puddly” versus dry and cold, hairy versus stuck with Band-Aids, slimy versus sandy. Where did the slime and sand come from? We were inside! Did that hair come from someone’s head or someone’s back?
When my daughter and I walked into the bathroom barefoot, I almost passed out. My hands inadvertently closing into fists and opening into jazz hands by my sides. I received quite a calf muscle workout that day — I spent most of the time on my tippy toes.
I smiled the whole time for my kids. They loved every minute, while I suffered in silence. I watched the woman with the oozing, bloody leg abrasion board the slide in front of us. When my daughter wanted to explore the kiddie section, I muttered under my breath, “Sure, if you like swimming in urine.” My son must have overheard me because he stepped away and said, “I don’t want to go in there. It’s full of pee. Right?” Later, I took him to see the view from an overlook. He hesitantly ventured to the rail and said, “Is it safe?” Right then I knew I’d blown it. I’d let my own phobias interfere with his fun.
It’s not unusual to worry about ourselves and our kids. But how do we keep it together in the face of all that can go wrong? There are too many wonderful aspects of life to focus on without fretting about small stuff. We should step around the hair balls and enjoy the ride, especially when we get unexpectedly spun around and land backward in the water. I want my children to appreciate my adventurous and fun spirit, not my fearful worrying one. And next time, I’ll wear water shoes. Problem solved.
Kat Spitzer is the author of the daily blog, “The Happy Hypochondriac” (happyhypochondriac.com). A graduate of Vanderbilt University and Vermont Law School, she’s the executive director of a non-profit organization and lives with her husband and two children in Annapolis, Maryland.