Summertime, and the living’s not so easy…

You’ve known me long enough to know that a number of things make me even more anxious than your average overly-anxious bird.

My relationship with food is totally cracked. I weigh myself at least four times Every Single Day. If my number goes beyond what is most likely a perfectly acceptable number for me, I flip out. (I don’t really Flip Out, but I get bummed. Not noticeably bummed, but still. If my pants aren’t fitting, I tend to do the sad face. Inwardly.) I’m currently a vegetarian with vegan tendencies who is counting Weight Watcher points and attempting a daily raw meal. Healthy on the outside, nice and unstable on the inside, right?

I get all weirded out in social situations. I’ve always had a terrible time with eye contact, which often makes me look like I’m either lying and being all shifty, or that I’m suspicious and unsocial—or an unfortunate combination of the two. I’m always afraid I’ll say something ridiculous, so more often than not, I either avoid saying anything at all, or I get overly jokey and then I spend the drive home regretting 73% of everything I’ve said. (I once had a friend who paused at least ten seconds before saying ANYTHING. He told me that he took that time to choose his words in the most economical way. He always struck me as the most eloquent of our group.)

When I was in junior high and high school, I rarely left the house to hang out with friends. I can name the parties I went to, and they all fit on one hand! (Jeff’s hand with the amputated thumb!) I went to a dance, I went to a Halloween party, I went to a Christmas party, and I went to our class graduation party. Really. That’s it. Instead, I practiced the piano. I wrote in my notebooks. I sat on the floor in front of my radio and listened to Kurtis Blow and Phil Collins and Screaming Blue Messiahs (and The Communards and Falco and INXS).

Now that my kids are reaching an age where they’re making friends on their own, I’m finding that I’m actually feeling stressed out about THAT as well. I’ve never been good about putting play dates together (In fact, I sort of hate the term Play Date.), but I’m starting to realize that if I make my kids spend their childhood the way I spent mine, they’re never really going to be social creatures! (Evidence: Socially Awkward Me.)

A few weeks back, Harper’s friend’s mom called to say that they were getting a small group together to go to the pool and were wondering if Harp could join them. I 100% trust both of the adults who would be there, yet I still was a complete Dorito-binging mess when I dropped Harper off. (Harper had the greatest time at the pool, there were a TON of lifeguards there, I have no idea why I flip out about this… Wait. No. I do know. I’ll get to that in a second.)

Meredith recently took a call from her best friend. She’s back in town after a two week vacation, and is wondering if Meredith can come over, go to Dave and Busters, and then hang out at the grandmother’s pool. I immediately began puking out questions to Meredith.

Me: Dave and Busters? Are the parents going to be hanging out with you the entire time? Because I’ve SEEN some of the adults who hang out there during kid-friendly hours. And, the pool. Will there be a lifeguard on duty? Because I’m not sure where the grandma lives, but I DO know that not all subdivision and apartment pools have lifeguards, and you are NOT allowed to go to a pool without an adult there, and ultimately, I want a LIFEGUARD there because sometimes adults get caught up in conversations and they lose track of kids and WAIT. DID YOU JUST HIT YOUR SISTER?! OKAY THEN. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO GO TO THE POOL OR TO DAVE AND BUSTERS! EVER!

When I was in elementary school, a little boy from our church drowned at church camp. It affected me more than I like to admit. Because of that, I don’t swim. (I know it’s twisted. I know!) My kids have taken swim lessons and Jeff takes them to the pool every week or so, but I never join them because along with not digging the heat, I physically cannot handle the stress. Jeff’s parents have a boat and would probably love to take the girls out, but I can’t deal with it. If someone is drinking beer and driving a boat, I don’t want my kids to be involved. I WON’T let my kids be involved.

Perhaps this is why I love winter. (With that said, I once knew a woman whose only child was killed in a freak skiing accident.)

Please don’t tell me that I’m a disaster. I know I am. Please don’t tell me to take swimming lessons. The thought of it terrifies me, and I know that’s ridiculous. You can sing songs to me about never breaking cycles if you’re unwilling to make changes, and I’ll sing right along—as long as you’re singing in the key of D. (I love F# and C#.)

If you’re as unstable as me, feel free to sing it out. Afterward, we’ll high five one another while staring at the floor with our shifty overly-protective eyes. ‘ ‘ ‘text/javascript’>

47 thoughts on “Summertime, and the living’s not so easy…”

  1. At least you’ve given your girls swimming lessons. I’ve not even done that. I’m “okay” in the shallow end of the pool, if they’re in their swimmies, but I have no interest in me (or them) being in open water OR in the deep end of the pool. SO…we spend all summer playing at our fountains downtown. Where there is no standing water.

    I’ll join your club.

  2. I am an anti-social mess, and my kids are social butterflies. They enjoy running about, talking to everyone they see. I enjoy being at home.

  3. When I first had the twins, I was terrified to take them in public alone. I was convinced someone would try to snatch one of them, and then what would I do? Chase after one and leave the other? Stay with the other and scream for someone else to go get the one? I worried ALL THE TIME. (In retrospect it is possible I had a tad of postpartum depression.)

    They start kindergarten in the fall, and I don’t know how I will deal with them being invited to the homes of people I do not know well. Do they own guns? Do they smoke around kids? Do they wear seat belts?

    I guess I’m just asking you to please save a seat at this party for me.

    (P.S. Me too on the high school thing. My 20 year reunion is in July and I am not going, because I didn’t really know those people then, so wouldn’t it be weird to try to know them now?)

  4. I’m really glad your girls are in lessons. I think of those as a life skill, not one more extracurricular.

    And I struggle with socializing with the other moms. Maybe it would be easier if they blogged too.

  5. Did you see the thing I posted on Facebook about being an introvert? It might not account for the anxiety around pools and stuff like that (you FREAK you… ha, just kidding. I’m SO FUNNY) – but I think it does account for some of the friend making going out weirdness, which I TOTALLY have a relate to. I hate small talk, I hate meeting new people in social situations – WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! Oh, maybe I am just extremely introverted? I will send it to you. It didn’t solve anything, but I found it eye opening.

    Now, let’s get together and have coffee but DON’T LOOK AT ME, Angie!

  6. I am right there with you when it comes to the kids going to other peoples houses. It doesn’t happen unless I go the first time to check out the place and the parents. Guess that will get harder soon, but I have a lot of concerns too in this day and age. I have raised them well, but there are too many other factors. I am cautious with the water as well, but I don’t have a fear of it, just know how quickly something can happen. Boy, what we learn about others years later that we had no idea in high school. I felt like the outsider too. Those weren’t my best days, but at least I had band.

  7. I’m not good at making friends, acquaintances yes, friends not so much. I used to worry about the crazies things. Like really worry. Worry myself right into a good sinus infection. I don’t know what happened, but one day I stopped. Not cold turkey. I have the occasional panic “oh my gosh, what-if something eats our squash” moment. But for the most part, I’ve chilled. Some day you’ll get to that point. Probably, you’ll chill out by the time you have grandkids.

  8. So my mom grew up terrified of water, she doesn’t know why. She decided – as an adult – that she would take swimming lessons. They apparently offer them for adults and they’re only in the shallow end of the pool. She learned to swim…apparently. I’ve never seen her in water deeper than about six or eight inches. She’s still terrified of water. Everyone has something, for me it’s spiders and for my niece it’s apparently disorder. Some people have more than one….

  9. A 3-year-old on our block drowned when I was a kid – his sisters had all run into the house because one of them got a call from a cute boy. Everyone in the neighborhood was traumatized. Also, I myself almost drowned once when I forgot how to swim (don’t ask, this is the kind of thing that happens to me).

    I thought I’d gotten off light, scarwise, because I really love being in the water and am fine with my kid being in it too. Then I tried to have one of those body-fat measuring tests where you blow out all the air in your lungs and lie back into the water? Flipped. The. Hell. Out. Totally petrified.

    So if there are people you think are super-well-adjusted, I think you can assume they just haven’t had to confront their damage yet.

  10. I am right there with you! My sister-in-law told my husband I was not for him the first time she met me because I could NOT look anyone in the eye. We’ve been together almost 14 years now, and she loves me now that she KNOWS me. I have only a handful of people who REALLY know me because I just don’t open up to new people. I’m not sure it’s ever anything we get past, but I find the more my children are involved in group things, the more open I’ve become.
    All this to say, can I have a seat at the party, too?

  11. OK, so this is *totally* not going to help with your anxiety issues, but I am 100% certain you are not being an over-protective disaster, by ANY means!

    IMO, every child in or near the water should have a dedicated and focused adult (who is swim safe themselves) with only that individual child’s safety in mind!You are really wise to understand how fast and how silently a drowning can occur, even for the most competent of swimmer. This link about signs of drowning in process has been circulating on the BBd of the wonderful school my kids used to attend, and many people have chimed in with comments along the lines of “Yes! That’s just how it happened when I pulled my kid out of the water three feet away from a lifeguard.” Vigilance at this water-focused time of year is essential!

    I’m sorry if that makes you wiggle, or worry more, but since many of your beloved readers will be facing the same decisions this summer. I think that video deserves *wide* distribution!

    You’re not pathetic, Angie — You’re a conscientious mom!

    One thought…if you want them to be able to enjoy these social situations/outings, etc., you have already taken a great first step to get them water-comfy. Is there perhaps a water-savvy neighborhood teen you could hire to go with them to the event? Like their own personal nanny/lifeguard? I’m positive the other parents would not only understand (“I don’t swim myself, am terrified of water because I had this really bad childhood experience and I know this sounds paranoid, but have you seen that video, and yes my kids would love to come but if it’s OK with you I’d like to send a qualified lifeguard along with them”) but *should* greatly appreciate the extra set of eyes and the potential education that would go along with that conversation.

    We have a pool. I shudder to recall how casual I was when my kids and their friends were out there playing.

    Trust your instincts!!

  12. Hey Angela,
    The 17 year old Harper’s Mom here…When I was growing up my Mom was terrified of water. She never let us learn to swim. When I was in the second grade my Dad took me to the community pool, where there was a lifeguard on duty. The pool was packed to the rim and generally chaotic. I was on one side of the pool & I wanted to get to the other, so I started walking across through the water. What I didn’t realize was that I was also drifting further and further to the deep end as I walked. Suddenly, there was no way to keep my head above water. I had no idea how to even doggy paddle…so I just kept walking. When I finally got to the other side, I had swallowed a lot of water and was feeling close to fainting. I dragged myself up out of the pool and screamed for my Dad. It was one of the most terrifying things that ever happened to me. I never did learn to swim, but I can doggy paddle and surface swim a bit. When Harper was born, I knew I’d put her in swim lessons as soon as I could. She and her sister are both great swimmers who have never been afraid of water. My husband had a brother who drowned at ten years old (absolutely tragic) and he too wanted to be sure the girls could swim. You don’t have to know how…but I think it’s great that your girls do and that you let them do it despite your anxiety.

  13. Dude, you’re me. Except on the way home from places I replay the conversations in my head. When I replay them, though, I am making weird faces and the tone is all off and I sound utterly weird. (I will spend the rest of today wondering how you judged me for calling you dude. I shouldn’t have called you dude. I should have just started typing. Dammit!)

    To further prove our twinness, NO ONE has ever driven my children anywhere but my husband and myself. My oldest is 9. For that matter, my 8 year old is going on the first ever play date without me of any of my kids and I am freaking out as we speak. What if there is a weird grandfather I don’t know about. What if the dad seems normal all of those times I have seen and talked with him but if I was able to check his computer history, I would see him for the dangerous predator he probably is (he probably isn’t. But what if.). My kids haven’t so much as slept over at a grandparents house. You are starting to feel less wreck-like I hope. I win at neurosis (my kids lose).

  14. We must ALL be related in some strange, alternate-reality way. I almost drowned when I was a kid by going under a (very) large raft and then not being able to get out from underneath it. Somehow that never affected me with my son, we taught him how to swim and he’s 16 and still hanging in there.

    What gets to me are all the really improbable things that MIGHT happen when he’s not at home, like what if he spends the night at his friends house and there’s a fire? or a car drives into the house? or the dog bites him? I mean, I can come up with some really really way-out-there possibilities. My husband just shakes his head and wonders how I come up with these things. Trust me, it’s easy. Now that he’s older I’ve started to relax on the imaginings, but then again he’s just started driving, so maybe not!

    I don’t even know where to start on the social awkwardness part. I just try not to go there.

  15. I think you and I were separated at birth – only I went to exactly 3 less parties than you in school. For serious. I have tried to be a much more social adult, and if I ever have children they are going to get out of the darn house if I have anything to say about it and have more than just memories of writing in notebooks and taping Kid and Play songs off the radio during their summers.

  16. Okay – so I had a really long post – but then it just kept getting longer – about my mom, and her fear of water, and what I’m afraid of, and how I hope to overcome it, and studies being done at Queen Maude of Norway University – love that name- about children and risk and the psychological benefits of learning to balance risk and fear as an element of fun – too long.
    SO – I worry a lot – about some things (grills, fire pits). I never worry about other things (supposed carcinogens in food). I feel that I am generally a worrier – and have even considered whether my “worries” rise to the level of anxiety requiring medication – but then I think I’m just a worrier. (I take xanax when flying – because that one was getting out of hand, and there is no way to explain to your child that Mommy is afraid the plane will crash, but it’s OKAY- mommy’s just crazy…no worries for you little one.) SO – drugs for that, but not other stuff.
    Anyway (still long, sorry) – I think where I land is that it is my job as the mom to find the right way to manage my worry so that my kids can grow up to be independent and confident – and I don’t know where that spot will be on any given issue – but don’t we all just do our best, and hope for the best – what more could one do? (true fact: I might worry about whether I’ve found that sweet spot!)
    And – you are delightful in writing – I bet you’re delightful in person too – maybe you’re too hard on yourself with the socially awkward thing? Just sayin’…….

  17. You have valid points for pool safety and are being a good parent. I am the same way with eye contact. We all have our “issues”.

  18. I consider myself the Mayor of Worry Town and now have to worry about YOU beating me in the next election. I have worries that have you beat however. I once freted that I would be famous and would have a guest appearance on The Johnny Carson Show. What would I wear?!!! See how crazy a worry can be? Remember the word “ant” – a negative thought! Shoo the “ants” away. This little exercise may help. I have freted about every conversation I ever had so you are not alone. I lost a friend one summer as she drown in the river. This was back in the 50’s so not to talk about it. In the fall where was my friend?. I remember her to this day, Pera Setlich. Life goes on and the problem is we do have to live in the world. You have to let the girls live. By the way, just when you have THEM raised, you get grandkids and it starts all over.. All will be fine.. I promise

  19. Ok, as the token burly biker dude of this knitting circle (yes, it’s required by law somewhere). I just want to give all you girls a big ole’ (non-threatening, not creepy) sympathy hug.

    It kills me to hear you guys struggle with the self doubt and fear…and then feel guilty about it.

    If I could convince you all of one thing, it’s that you are wonderful. I read the posts from MrsPudding and the comments week after week and I am continually impressed with the honesty, love, compassion, humor, skill and intelligence I
    see in all of you.

    My thoughts probably don’t mean alot to you but, if you ask me, you ‘guys’ never need to be shy about looking someone else in the eye or second guess your nervous comments. BE You! I like you and this “grimy Biker Guy” thinks you’re all beautiful just the way you are.

    PS. It’s okay to fret over your kids. That’s what good moms do. (again, just my opinion)

  20. I probably could have written this post myself. Solitary childhood because I’m the only girl in a family of boys and there were not really any neighborhood girls my age. I’m STILL very solitary and bookish and now I have my own daughter … she is desperate for other little kids but I generally do not like arranging playdates – especially if it means I have to essentially babysit someone else’s kid (as I am doing RIGHT NOW very unhappily because he was dumped on me). I so fear turning my kid into me. Strangely she thinks I’m the cats pajamas. likely because she is only 3 and will soon hate me. With you on the food too!! I don’t want me or anyone in my family eating most of the stuff the neighbors seem to be stuffing in their gobs all the time. I know they think I’m uptight. And I think they are completely undisciplined and raising fat little maniacs.

  21. My son, Joshua, just has his first birthday party. He turned 10. TEN! I grew up in Florida surrounded by water and I hate the water, the ocean, even the pool in our own back yard. My daughter who is 18 and just graduated teases me relentlessly that she still is only allowed to make right hand turns. We all have things and I think most people have more in common than we think. I try TRY not to project my own things on my kids, but sometimes they want to cross the street and that is a major decision for me.

  22. Hubby is always on my case for being overly paranoid. Even the shrink we took the Kid to (for ADHD) gave me the freak eye after I told him we don’t let our kids play in other people’s houses. I know I’m paranoid. But then something horrible happens (like when the neighbor kids taught the Kid how to kill a frog. A living breathing creature. Killed. With a stick.) and I know I’m completely justified in not trusting anybody else to watch my kids.

  23. I’m okay in a swimming pool, preferably the shallow end, but I really dislike water where I can’t see the bottom. But for me, diving is the thing I hate the most. I can’t do it and I hate watching others do it. The reason for my phobia is because of an uncle who was a quadrapalegic as a result of a diving accident. I was FORCED to learn to dive as a child. I did it to pass the swimming test and haven’t done it since.

  24. My mom doesn’t swim and made sure we took swimming lessons. She finally found a great teacher when I was about 10 and took some swimming lessons herself, but she’s still doesn’t really enjoy swimming and is often nervous when there’s kids in the water. It got better as we got older, but I thought she was going to Jesus the day my brother was in a diving competition and did a reverse dive (you spring off facing the board) and hit the board on the way down. Nice thing about a diving competition–lots of really excellent swimmers there and some of them were there to catch him as he hit the water. He was fine, a little embarrassed, but it was a little touch-and-go for mom!

  25. My son is autistic; he has no interest in playing with other kids, he hates loud noises and he has motor planning problems, meaning he is physically awkward and excessively cautious – he slowly lowers himself into the ball pit, no running and jumping for him.

    Anyway, he is a dear child that inherited every single trait from his parents – so we’re supposed to help him be social? To take risks? Hahahaha.

    You are not alone.

  26. I am just like you about social situations — why is it that we can’t find others like ourselves to hang out with? (probably because we just DON’T GO THERE with people?!) I get an immediate feeling of dread when my husband suggests having people over or even trying to set up a play date for my kids, age 8 and 6.

    I am also the over-protective parent. I may have offended my sister-in-law when I refused to let my kids could play Chubby Bunny, they could choke to death! No pop for my kids, they will get cavities! Booster seats in the car until 4’9″, my 4th grader will be using one and be the dorkiest kid in school! I worked in a children’s hospital so I am overly paranoid about freak accidents.

    I am glad to know that there are others like me out there. :)

  27. Not all fear is reasonable fear, me, I am terrified of clowns. I have been known to hide behind my husband, or put them in front of me… I don’t know why, what it is there no matter what.

  28. You should probably thank your lucky stars you didn’t go to more parties…they would probably only serve as fuel for your paranoia. Also, I spent a couple of years working in the discipline office at a university. Believe me, after hearing about some of the stuff that goes on, I wanted to lock my daughter up until she’s 30 or so. I was no angel in college, but there seem to be so many more ways to screw up these days.

    I think you sound like a good mom…we share a lot of the same worries.

  29. Brinsky, you are collecting a good few big hugs right back atcha here tonight, my man!

    Angie, again it must be said…you have a really wonderful group of readers. Mayyyyybe just a bit on the maladjusted/paranoid side, but each and every one wonderful all the same :-)

  30. I went to a very small series of schools and my graduating class was THIRTY WHOLE PEOPLE so I went to a lot of parties. But when every party is fifteen people that you have gone to school with since you were four or five, it’s not hard to feel like you really have your crap together socially.

    I took some classes at our local, regular, hundreds-of-kids high school in sophomore and junior years and it was the worst experience of all time. I made NO friends. Wait, I am wrong. Not only did I NOT make friends, but I am pretty sure more people HATE me than ever did before. So it’s safe to say I handled that with the least amount of social aplomb a person can possibly muster.

    Now that I am all engaged or whatever, I worry about having kids because that might mean that I would have to talk! To other parents! About things! So weird. Actually it isn’t the parents that weird me out as much as the moms. Women are weirder to me than men.

  31. There is no such thing about being overprotective when it comes to children and water! The rest is just who you are – don’t fret too much, you managed to marry a great guy and have terrific children! You’re doing alright!

  32. It’s sleepover central here. There are currently 11 pre-teen and teen boys shooting airsoft guns in my front yard. The adults are hiding inside and hoping that the $2 Big Lots sunglasses will protect everyone’s eyes. I’m thinking that Dan and I might be the parents that you guys worry about.

  33. I’m hopeless with the social stuff too. NEVER went to parties. Still don’t really. Go red, say stupid things, can’t look at people and have no idea how to make small talk. Phone calls petrify me.

    I find it absolutely terrifying having [older] children who want to go out with their friends, swim at the local river, ride skateboards, catch the bus to school. You know, all that totally normal stuff. I set myself off hyperventilating in the middle of the night if I think too hard about it.

    The weighing thing though? I think you should give yourself a break there and maybe cut back to once a week. Give yourself permission, love.

  34. As I was reading this I had to wonder to myself if I had actually written most of the words. It’s like looking in a mirror, only not because it would be too damn nerve busting. I find peace while swimming in shallow pool water because it’s silent under there, but other than that…Social Anxiety Sufferers Unite! Well, and Daily Living, Existing, Breathing Suffersers as well….

  35. Woah, I hear ya on the worrying thing. My oldest son is 3 and is allergic to nuts, soy, and we found out last weekend in the grossest way possible, eggs. (Also, I think he needs to work on chewing his food a little better.)

    I’m already worried about what happens when he goes to school. Will he carry his own epi-pen? Who will watch him on the school bus? What happens at recess? Are schools nut-free? Will he have to sit by himself at snacktime? Will that scar him for life?

    This is TWO YEARS AWAY, mind you. And I’ve been losing sleep over it for more than a year so far.

  36. Seriously, you should start an online Worriers Anonymous support club :) Thanks so much for posting this. It’s honest and *definitely* hits home for me.

  37. If you came over here to live, you would never have to worry about the pool again because it is too damn cold to just HANG OUT near POOLS, so they are all inside surrounded by lifeguards.

    You’d find other things to panic about, though. We walk a lot, so we cross a lot more roads.

    I cannot personally handle the friendships/ fallings out/ personal politics of pre-teen girls. I do think that being miserably unpopular and never speaking to anyone till I was 16 was actually a Good Thing. Because I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now.

  38. I love to swim and I firmly believe all children should learn to swim. But yet, it is very trying to take my children to the pool, and I very, very rarely do. And somehow I have failed to organise swimming lessons. In consequence my 8 year old daughter cannot swim (not to mention her 5 year old brothers). The shame. The shame. Your children go to the pool and they can swim, you have NOTHING to reproach yourself with. Really.

  39. I swear that if we lived near each other we would be best friends – you are SO like me it is crazy weird! I too am a multiple time a day weighing weight obsessed woman, I freak out now that my daughter has just finished kindergarten thinking that she is starting the playdate/ bday party thing – do you drop off or stay at these – especially the pool party ones! I am a presugarian, migraine sufferer and LOVE cake balls! You should check out the new Peter Gabriel music if you haven’t already (being a music teacher – I SO had to get his new CD – he is traveling with a full orchestra you know). I play piano and bassoon (should have played horn because I love that sound more)

    So – yeah, we would be founding member of the worried moms club if we lived near each other!

    Actually many of the women who post comments we would all probably be friends – there is probably a Facebook page for that or an app for that – HA!

    Hope your migraine are doing better!

  40. Late to the part y as usual, but had to comment.

    You’re lovely. and delightful and fabulous company. Relax.

    The swimming thing? I get it. My own went under far too long at a pool party once – and, although he’s had many a lesson since – I still want/need to know who’s watching if it’s not me.

    I’m trying to get over the scale thing too.
    Probably more are than will admit to it.

    We are who we are, and we do what we do. Until we don’t.

    Ultimately, it’s a beautiful world.

  41. I do a lot with our local chapter of Autism Speaks, as my nephew on the west coast has Autism. It sounds like a few of the wonderful people here might be on the spectrum: lack of eye contact, social awkwardness, repetitive behavior, dislike of new

  42. As someone in recovery from an eating disorder, I just have to beg you not to let your girls see you weigh yourself so often, or hear any “fat talk”, etc.

    Also, ohhh, let them go on the boat! I have so many good memories of boating as a kid, and I’m sure your in-laws would love it, and you for it.

    Look at me- de-lurking like crazy and bossing you around!! :)

    Also, don’t tell your girls- but we got a 2nd bunny! For companionship for our first, not breeding. Lord no. ;)

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