Confessions of a Worry Wart

Thursday, July 25, 2013

School’s out, the kids are at a sleep-away camp,* and I should be celebrating. Parents I know use the freedom to revel in tidier homes. They travel, they watch adult movies, maybe even finish their sentences. What do I do? I worry.

Maybe there are legions of closet worriers out there. Maybe we all are, to some degree, just pretending to be carefree, easygoing, and happy to be rid of our kids for a while. Maybe my preoccupations aren’t all that original at all. Or are they?

When a friend proposed a Girl Scout nature camp near Tahoe to me, I considered for a bit, assuming that this too shall pass. What was she talking about? We don’t pack our kids off to the woods on their own for a week! I know, I know, “a week is nothing,” you are thinking. You know people whose kids go off for the entire summer!  Well, I know people whose kids go to boarding school for years. But we haven’t really had a primer for this.

Neither Srini nor I went to camp. The only “camping” we know is what I did with my parents – and my chachas and mamas and cousins.  It was like an Indian wedding, only in the woods. While the neighboring campers roasted hot dogs on sticks, we feasted on chole, naan, and yogurt. We sang Hindi songs around the campfire and and told jokes in our broken Punjabi. Mummy packed our white linens to sleep on, and meticulously scrubbed everything when we got home.

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Surely, this is not what the Girl Scout camp was going to be like. This would be one of those American camps you see in the movies, the “Hello mother, hello father” type. I had images of kids getting bug-bitten and homesick, or worse, having a raucous time, jumping in murky green lakes, scheming pranks with their new friends.  The “adults” in charge would be new graduates to adulthood themselves, teetering between being responsible and being popular.

But say I let them go – would that only be the beginning of their departure from our perfect blend of Americanness/Indianness? As it is, they like listening to people like Macklemore and One Direction. Would this point them further in that strange direction? Would this turn me even more into my mother, who complains daily that she can’t relate to her kids, in fact can’t even understand what we’re saying (It’s her hearing that’s bad, I insist, not her English or my Hindi.).

And say still I let them go. Here you might say I’m crazy. What will the kids do in the woods that will stay in the woods? I wonder if they will commiserate about their unfair parents. I guess that’s not so bad. We would have, too. There will be slightly older girls there. Will they exchange information and misinformation about s-e-x? Someone I know knows someone whose kids didn’t just talk about it at camp. But this is an all girls’ camp, and our kids are practically babies. But still. Demons begone.

As I decide to tread into uncharted waters, new worries beset me. Will they be extroverted enough to break through the cliques they are sure to encounter? I pray the bus drives safely on curvy, hilly roads. I try to force out of my mind images of “The Sweet Hereafter.”

A friend – a co-worrier – once described parenthood to me as an emotional handcuff. You are shackled to your kids’ well being, and worse, ill being, whether real or imagined. Handcuffed you may be, but surely you are not in solitary.

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* This was written last week, when the kids were at camp. Aanika came home with strep. Who was it that said “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

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