Do we ever stop worrying about our children? Basically, no. We don’t. Extreme love and extreme anxiety occurs the minute you become a parent and then never stops. It means you have to be prepared for that old heart of yours to not just be worn on your sleeve, but to be dangling, mitten like from the sleeve to the floor and being dragged along behind you, bouncing and scraping along the road of life. Picking up a whole load of bruising and scarring and BEING SKINNED ALIVE by your children who have no idea how much you worry and love them to death. Negotiating agonisingly through the real dangers is only marginally worse than worrying your way through every imagined danger. I’ve just got my daughter safely back from university and summer holidays and now she’s off again for SIX WEEKS to work in a psychiatric ward in South East Asia.
Small Children = Small Problems.
Big Children = Big Problems
I’m fretting even more than usual about her welfare and am going to really miss her. Sleeping soundly is already virtually impossible when you’ve got three children roaming around London through the night, let alone when you have to worry about other sorts of dangers like being eaten by a crocodile or bitten by a rabid dog.
I’ve lived abroad before – I should know better than to put the fear of god into my children when they travel, but as a parent, you just can’t help saying “did you hear about XXXX who got trampled by an elephant/eaten by a lion/gored by a rhinoceros/eaten by a shark/bitten by a snake/beaten to death by a drug dealer/bitten by a malarial mosquito/run over by a lorry????” every time they mention some exotic location somewhere in the world. IT’S WHAT WE DO BEST.
There are, to be honest enough horror stories that she is completely aware of to be well aware of most dangers and careful herself, but sometimes you just don’t see things coming. Four of her friends were recently in a terrible car crash in South America and last year another two of her friends were badly injured driving motorbikes in SEA. My son knows (through friends), the poor FT journalist who was killed by a crocodile just a few days ago, which is every parent’s worst nightmare. I am terrified about letting her go out into the big wide world without me, but then again, it would be more terrifying to produce children who are scared of the world in general and don’t want to leave the comfort of their duvets. London is not having an easy time at the moment and so, realistically they are probably in just as much danger living here as in other parts of the world.
My impossible anxiety is mixed with huge excitement for her and her friend going off on a big adventure. As usual, she’s left everything to the last minute and is going to have to go and have her second rabies injection on the morning that she flies. “YOUR VACCINATIONS COST HOW MUCH???” I found myself saying – “ARE YOU SURE JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS AND RABIES ARE NECESSARY??”….£250.00 worth of jabs. But you can’t really refuse to pay for them can you? Imagine if she caught any of those things. It’s so tempting to try and make sure she is covered in cling film and cotton wool at all times, but that’s not going to happen, so I’m just going to have to try not to be too negative and wish her all the love and luck in the world.
Despite being so so worried about her going – what with bites, humans, dogs, snakes, crocodiles and mosquitoes…the truth is that ultimately we want our children to be independent members of the human race and to go forth and experience all that our wonderful planet has to offer. She managed to get concussion and a few bruises simply after kitchen dancing with me the other day (as did I) when we fell over at home, so she’s fully equipped to deal with most household and alcohol induced mishaps along the way. I am happy to report that I have taught her well.
She knows the drill. She doesn’t really need the following list, but I might have to give it to her anyway…plus add to it as I lie awake in my bed at night:-
Don’t talk to strangers
Only drink beer from a bottle and don’t let your drink go
Don’t touch stray dogs or cats
Shake hands properly, whilst looking the person in the eye
Make friends, be open to opportunities BUT DON’T GET IN A CAR WITH SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW or GO ANYWHERE WITH THEM
Wash all fruit
Drink bottled water
Don’t wash your hands in a lagoon
Don’t hire a motorbike
Don’t bungy jump or aeroplane jump
Don’t forget your travel insurance
Hide your valuables (not in the safe)
Don’t lose your passport
…and on I could go ad infinitum until ultimately all I have to say to her is
Have the best time ever
Come back in one piece
Then I’ll be happy and presumably so will she.