I had to fill out one of those doctor’s questionnaires this week where they ask you all those ridiculous questions, like “how often are you stressed.” My answer: always. I’m a working mom, I wake up stressed, I eat stress for breakfast, lunch and dinner then I drive it to football practice, feed it, check its homework and tuck it into bed. The doctor was clearly alarmed with my answer, but I explained since I’m always stressed I’m technically never stressed. Stress is my normal. Every day I have to fit one million three hundred and sixty four things into a twenty four hour day. But oddly enough I feel like I can handle all the regular crazy. I suggested the doctor change her questionnaire if her practice includes parents who work. A better question would be: how often are you anxious. Anxiety is something I very rarely feel. Anxiety to me is feeling like there is something that I can’t fix or handle. It wouldn’t matter if I had one hundred hours in the day I couldn’t fix the problem even if I tried my hardest.
Lately my only real source of anxiety is this awful sense of panic that sets in when I look at my oldest son and think: I’m going to lose him. Okay to be fair there are times I wish I could lose him. But as my eleven-year-old evil genius races towards his teen years I panic. Like heart racing, stomach clenching, throat tightening panic. I see the signs of what is to come. Currently I’d assess that 65% of the time I’m a mild annoyance, 20% of the time he wants nothing to do with me, and 15% of the time he is my sweet baby boy who can’t get enough hugs and kisses from me. These numbers were completely different two years ago. Then he had much more tolerance for hanging out and talking with me. Each year we continue to head in the wrong direction. Hence, my anxiety. When will this slide towards total teenage angst stop? How small can that percentage of snuggle bunny sweet baby boy shrink? Zero? Is zero an option? Cue total panic.
Then I had a God-wink moment. I was at a professional women’s luncheon last week when I got the wink. I make time for those events because I swear I walk away with some stroke of brilliance shared by a woman I just met, who walks in my same shoes, every time I go. But I digress. I sat next to a woman who had a—wait for it—teenage son! She shared with me that he had just started driving which at first elicited a pang of jealousy after she mentioned she got back about 15 hour of her life every week. Then she followed it up by saying that while she is enjoying the extra free time she is missing the built in time to talk to her son. Sheer and total panic. O.M.G. I never even though about how captive my son is when he’s in the car with me. That is when he actually speaks to me. This is bad. Real, real bad.
Then just as the panic started to drown me she threw me a life preserver by uttering two words: “movie night.” She went on to explain that once she realized the hole left by not having regular mandatory communication she created her own regular—and “mandatory”—time to communicate. She told her son that he was required to watch a movie with her at least once each week. She told me that hanging out with mom isn’t cool for sixteen-year-old boys but watching a movie makes it tolerable for him. And secretly she knows he likes having this special time for just the two of them. My heart rate returned to normal range. I began to breathe easily again. This woman is in the thick of the teenage angst and she found a way to connect. She looked over the edge of the precipice, made the leap, and found her wings. There is hope.
Now I’m breathing through my moments of panic and compiling a killer list of movies that will appeal to a sixteen-year-old boy. I see lots of car chases and explosions in my future.