"Relax, Mom," Said My Wise Seven-Year-Old

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The other night, my seven-year-old son looked up at me and said, “Mom, you should really relax.”

What? Me -- not relaxed? I mean, how could I not be relaxed? We were sitting on the couch watching a movie, as I aimlessly surfed the Internet, reading status updates and deleting an endless stream of unread emails. I’ll admit, his question caught me off guard. There were so many other things that might have come out of his mouth at that moment:

Mom, you should really pay attention to the movie.

OR

Mom, you should really make me some dinner.

OR

Mom, you should really stop staring blankly at the computer.

But telling me “to relax” was not at all what I had expected. As I thought about it, however, I realized that he was right­ -- I wasn’t relaxed. I was tense. In fact, I’ve been tense for months. Even when I think that I am relaxed, I can’t seem to lose the knot that is perpetually gnawing at my insides. When I try to identify the cause in an attempt to make it go away, I am flooded with images of my job, my husband, my kids, even my blog -- all of which in some way contributes to this feeling of unrest.

A side-effect of this ever-present anxiety is that I sometimes forget to smile. It’s not that I’m frowning, or even unhappy. I’m not even thinking about one thing in particular. Instead, I find myself lost in my own head, thinking of nothing and everything all at the same time. When this happens, I don’t know which thought to grab hold of, which thought to analyze in order to finally put it to rest. So, instead, I am left unable to focus on a movie, to write in this blog, or to be as connected to the world around me as I need to be.

With my son’s simple statement, I realized that it was time to confront the one thought that pains me the most, the one that runs through my head over and over again like a negative mantra -- my daughter is growing up. I know, not a surprise as I have said this too many times to count -- so what the hell is my problem? The answer is, I honestly don’t know.

Looking back, I think it all started when she graduated from elementary school a month ago. Watching her standing on the stage, I had the terrible realization that she is closer to the end of her childhood than she is to the beginning of it. She is physically changing before my eyes, and I am in awe each time I see this tall, beautiful creature walk into the room. At the same time, I am overcome by emotion when she shows me the little girl that she still has inside of her.

Even as I write this, I now see that it is this in-between stage that is causing me so much pain and anxiety. If she were already a teenager, I believe I could deal with -- or at least try to deal with -- all of the things that come with it. And if she were still a child, I would find comfort in knowing that I am the one person in her life that has all the answers. Instead, I am somewhere in the middle, just waiting for it all to change. And although the waiting is unbearable, I still dread the day when the only time I see the little girl that she once was is in photos from her childhood.

So, I guess that’s the answer -- I’ve never been good with waiting, and I am especially bad at waiting for the “unknown.” However, now that I know that this is the crux of my problem, I am beginning to feel the knot lessening, and I may even feel a small smile playing at the corners of my mouth.

I wish I could adequately express how thankful I am to my son for giving me his simple words of advice -- you should relax­. Starting today, I will do just that. I will stop living in my own head, and I will begin to look forward to getting to know the young woman my daughter will soon become.

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