"Congratulations," an older acquaintance told me on the birth of the Grape. "Now you can worry until you die."
I smiled and nodded, and silently reassured myself that I wasn't going to turn into one of those hyper-vigilant, exceedingly annoying helicopter types.
After all, R. and I didn't chart feedings and diaper changes in those early days. The Grape slept in a separate room from the get-go. We never even purchased a baby monitor, since we had a smallish apartment, and while the Grape had digestive issues requiring surgery as an infant, his lungs were in top form from day one.
We're still pretty permissive parents. The Grape skis, and he skis fast. He rides his bike and scooter all over Boston, as do most of his little friends. We never call our babysitters "just to check on things."
So I was completely caught off guard when R. and his dad took the Grape camping in western Massachusetts this weekend, and instead of reveling in the silence and solitude, I spent most of Saturday fretting.
This makes no sense.
R. is an extremely capable dad. I've traveled solo on a few occasions, and I've never worried about how the boys were faring without me back in Boston.
But Saturday, while I took Lila the Dog for an extra long walk, worked half a day, watched a little World Cup, and had a lovely dinner with a girlfriend, I worried about silly things. Really silly things.
Were they checking for ticks? Would the Grape wake up at two in the morning in a panic? Were there poisonous snakes in the woods of New England? And if so, were was the nearest anti-venom? Why on earth did they need to choose a campsite with zero cell service? Did R. know the location of the nearest ER?
And while I squandered my precious alone time on idiotic concerns, I fully understood I was being ridiculous. R. didn't lose sleep when I took the Grape to Finland for two weeks without him. Even though Finland definitely has plenty of poisonous snakes, and we spend days on end in the woods while there. On the plus side, you'd be hard pressed to find a spot with less than five bars of cell service.
As I lay awake Saturday night, I decided that my worries about the first ever Dad and Lad to the Second Power Outing were about a false, completely imagined sense of loss of control.
I was being as silly as those people who fear flying, because they don't like the idea of someone else piloting the aircraft, even though they understand that they're much likelier to die in their own cars.
Bad things happen everywhere. Like all major metropolitan areas, Boston has its share of horrible vehicle versus pedestrian crashes. So I watch my kid on his bike or scooter like a hawk, and I teach him to look both ways, even on one-way streets, and never, ever to play chicken with speeding cabs. I teach him to watch out for broken glass, to give unknown dogs space, and never to touch junk he finds in parks, because you never know when the trash in question could be a used needle. (I've found two in the park across the street during our almost four-year tenure in this apartment.)
It doesn't take a genius to grasp that his little life is more imperiled while commuting to school than while roasting weenies with his father and grandfather in attendance. And yet, I didn't sleep well Saturday night.
While I catch myself holding my breath every time we negotiate a busy intersection, I don't fret about the school schlep when it's not happening, because it's such a familiar part of our routine. And because my physical presence gives me that entirely false sense of control.
The Grape had a great time on his camping adventure. He slept all night in the tent and roasted marshmallows and explored the woods. He's already asking when they can go again.
Maybe I won't fret as much next time. Maybe.