“Mommy! Look! Look what Ellie gave me!”
My daughter practically knocked me down with excitement, her new friend giggling behind her.
“Show me!” I laughed, not really able to focus on what was on her arm because she was waving it back and forth, jumping up and down and talking faster than I could keep up with.
Finally, I caught her wrist in my hands so I could see the object of her great affection. It was a brightly colored bracelet with a heart-shaped medallion. Emma quickly explained it was a mood bracelet, capable of telling us exactly how she felt at any given moment (I correctly guessed that the current reading meant she was very! excited!). I oohed and ahhed, admiring her new jewelry, but Emma still hadn’t pointed out the bracelet’s very best feature.
“Look! It says ‘My BFF’! And Ellie has one too!”
Both girls showed me their matching wrists, and then, dissolving in giggles, they hugged each other and started doing a little dance that only second grade girls can pull off with such unabashed affection.
Watching them made me grin wider than I can remember in a really long time, and before I knew it, my throat caught and I teared up a little. If there is anything better than seeing your child experience pure joy, I have yet to find it.
As a mom, I am a worrier, and in Emma’s short life, I have found an endless supply of material. In the early days it was is she eating enough? Is this a safe position for sleep? How high is too high when it comes to babies and fevers? As a new mother, I was overwhelmed and intimidated, but at least there were written guidelines to consult, advice from experts I could seek. It didn’t stop me from worrying, but it did make me feel better to have somewhat of a plan.
But as our children get older, the concerns become more complex: Is this normal behavior for kids her age? How do I help protect my sensitive daughter’s self-esteem? Concrete guidelines become varied opinions, and suddenly the experts all say different things. How do I know what the right thing is for my child? Unfortunately, there is no set plan for these challenges, and that realization has sent my mommy worry into overdrive.
As second grade approached, I lost many a night’s sleep. Emma would be in a new school, in a classroom with none of her close friends and only a few kids she knew at all. One of the things I love about my daughter is her huge heart — she loves so fiercely. But huge hearts in kids can sometimes become easy targets, and I knew all too well how Emma’s feelings could be crushed. What if she couldn’t find her way in this new territory? Would I know how to help her?
Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Not only has Emma adapted to her new environment, she is thriving in ways I’ve never seen. She jumps out of bed every morning, eager to get to school as soon as possible. She adores her teacher. Her love for learning is immeasurable. She loves reading her AR books! Look at what she learned in math today! Let’s do a science fair project, just for fun! And as for friends, well, I guess the BFF mood bracelet says it all.
After several months (or years) of worrying, I am managing to exhale, if just a little. I’m relieved she is having a good year, and I have learned that Emma is a lot stronger than I have given her credit for. I just keep reminding myself that my child’s happiness is not determined by how much time I spend obsessing. She is going to experience hurt and disappointment. And even as her mom, I am not going to have a sure fire plan to fix everything. But no matter what happens, I will always be here with her with more love than she could ever need.
And in that absolute certainty, I find peace.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.