I don’t normally suffer from anxiety, but my youngest has some trouble with it. It’s attached to her ADHD. I have just enough of a susceptibility to it that when she’s anxious, I’m anxious. It’s as though I can feel it coming off of her and into me. It permeates my very core so that I share her emotional state.
It doesn’t bode well for our tempers when we have a disagreement.
With my oldest, the emotional trade thing was in reverse. If I was calm, she was calm. I’ve seen her be the calming influence for her own two daughters in the very same way I could always be for her.
Not so for Youngest. And tonight is the culmination of weeks of frustration and anxiety where her senior prom is concerned.
It started with the dress shopping, of course. And then we had to make an appointment at the hair salon two months in advance – and then call them once a week to confirm the appointment lest something go wrong, somebody spill soda on the appointment book making her name illegible, or the place catch fire and burn down. Then it was a personal visit with the stylist three weeks out to discuss what she wanted.
Then it was shoe shopping, costume jewelry, nails….
Throughout the whole process, the only thing that remained certain was that a group of four would be going to the prom together. Nobody was dating anybody among them, but they all wanted to go together. Everything was planned out. Youngest didn’t care what the plan would be, she just needed to know that a plan would be in place. Who was picking up whom, who would be driving what, parking, restaurant, the time to meet at the capitol building for pictures, etc.
At the last minute one of the guys in the quartet decided that a different restaurant was in order. Youngest is so averse to change that I could feel her frustration levels rising, and the anxiety was about to take over. It hit her hard while she was in the stylist’s chair and the text messages were flying. Nobody was going to be where they were supposed to be according to the pre-determined arrangements. Her hair was looking more and more beautiful by the minute, but her makeup was threatened by tears.
Her sister calmed her when I was unable. I wanted to strangle a boy who didn’t understand what his plan-changes were doing to my little girl. Oldest handled it well, though. I was too busy feeling Youngest’s anxiety.
After her hair was made glamorous, and her make-up restored to perfection, we came back home so she could change into her dress. She was running late for the meet-up at the capitol, and she wanted to hurry. I wanted pictures, so we took both cars. She followed me.
At a stop sign, she rear-ended me.
I put mine in park and got out to check on her. She was fine physically but she was an emotional wreck. “It’s okay; stay calm. Everything’s fine and nobody’s hurt.” But we were in the middle of the street and needed to move. “Just be more careful and try to stay calm. Take deep breaths.” Back in my own vehicle, I wondered how I was going to tell her about the hole in her front bumper and my cracked tail light. Learning it at the moment would have just thrown her over the edge.
We got to the capitol in one piece with no more accidents, we took lots of pictures, and Oldest was there with her two kids as well. It was a wonderful experience and Youngest started showing signs of calming down and actually finding some enjoyment.
Then the guys told her they had gotten a limo. That threw another kink in the arrangements. If they had told her about the limo earlier, she could have arranged to park her car at the auditorium in order to ride with them to the restaurant. The plan was that they would all ride in her car. They wanted to surprise her. She doesn’t do surprises. She told them to go ahead and she’d catch up with them at the restaurant.
Then the restaurant changed.
By the time we started to leave the capitol complex she was a wreck again. We spent a few minutes talking on the way to the parking lot, and just as soon as I thought she was starting to feel better again, we approached our vehicles and she saw the hole in her front bumper. My pick-up truck’s rear tow-bar really did a number on it. I tried to soothe her again, and when I was satisfied that she was in good enough shape to drive, we left the capitol complex. She headed to the restaurant to meet up with her crew while I headed home.
I had intended to start working on her graduation announcements when I got home. I figured if I was going to be up half the night worrying about her, I might as well be simultaneously productive. But just as I had gotten all the announcements out of the box, the phone rang.
A phone ringing while a child is out is never a good sound. That awful shiver just goes up your spine like a serrated blade. It’s a moment of dread like no other.
“Mommy where are you?” The sound of her voice was just pitiful.
“I’m home, Honey, whatsamatter?”
“I locked my keys in the car and we’re here at this restaurant and I don’t know what to do!” I could hear that she was fighting back the tears.
“Stay calm, go inside where it’s warm, and order your meal like nothing’s wrong. I’ll take care of it.”
“Mommy, I’m sorry.” She was about to cry again. It broke my heart into a million little pieces that this one day that is supposed to be the most special for her in her entire life thus far has absolutely fallen apart for her.
“It’s okay. I’ll call the road-side people and somebody will come get your keys. I’ll be there to meet them and then I’ll bring your keys inside. It’s all good, Baby. Just try to stay calm.”
I made the call while I was putting my shoes back on, left home for the third time, and beat the mechanic there by about ten minutes. I had a little trouble finding the car in all the prom-night pre-prom madness.
Youngest came outside when I texted that I almost had her keys. I got a free hug out of it, a hug that I usually have to fight for.
We spent a few more minutes talking. Well, I was talking. I was stressing the need for her to not stress so much.
“Why do you keep telling me that?”
“’Cause bad things happen when you’re upset.”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess. Okay, I’ll try.”
I’m home again, and have been for a couple of hours. Prom won’t be over for another half an hour. There’s an after-prom plan at the home of one of her friends, unless the plan changes.
I may not see her until the wee hours of tomorrow morning. I’ll be pacing until then, driving the dog nuts in the process.
And I’m afraid to take off my shoes.