Word Therapy

This is What Anxiety Looks Like

I pull into the parking lot of the beach. I try not to stare out at the waves crashing to the shore with speed. After I turn off the car I turn around to look at my girl in her car seat. Her dark blonde hair is just now starting to grow into wispy curls around her ears. She is asleep but stirs when she feels my gaze upon her. She takes her fingers out of her mouth and says, “Hi Mama.”

Hi Baby Girl. Ready to go to the beach?”

“Yes!,” she replies.

I keep the radio on while I get out and hurry to her side. I open her door and tell her that I am going to get out our stuff and then I will get her out of the car seat. I open the back of my SUV and drag the beach bag down to the asphalt. I check off the list in my head as I go through the bag: Extra clothes for my daughter, diapers, wipes, snacks, sippy cups, hats, diaper cream, sunscreen, tissues, baby powder, and water. I heave it over my shoulder after I take my daughter out of her seat and lock the car.

We walk through the sand at a snail’s pace until I make the decision to heave my girl on my right hip with the bag on the opposite shoulder and the sun chair strapped to my back. My heart races as we get closer to the water. I can feel my hair getting bigger and uglier as the salt water makes contact.

We finally make it somewhat close to the shore without me enabling the ocean’s ability to get it’s claws into my world and take her away from me in a heartbeat. I lay down the towels after three attempts with minimum sand on them. I keep everything else in the bag until needed. I don’t take my eyes off my little girl. I don’t want her putting her hands in the sand and getting that virus where if you make contact with poop that has been buried by a previous beach goer.  She would touch it and then automatically put her hand in her mouth.

I put her life jacket on along with sunscreen and a hat. I breathe a little easier after hearing the clip of the water preserver and allow her to go a maximum of three feet from me at a time. If she goes beyond that the tourists around us can hear my voice carrying up and down the coast.

When my sister arrives she takes the two of us over to the campground where her friends are staying. The smell of barbecued meat is inviting. Everyone is nice but I can’t sit still. I try to talk myself into relaxing so I don’t come across as insane but I am so afraid my daughter is going to rush right into the ocean’s open arms and not return. After some snacks and a drink, I give her one of the three showers she will receive before the day is up. After the second one a little later I snap at my sister for telling me to calm down. I either imagine or actually see her friends give each other glances, silently judging the “crazy mom.”

After sticking it out until late afternoon, I pack up and the two of us leave. Little one is asleep by the time we get to the car, fresh from her last shower. I do the two finger check under the seat belt strap to make sure she is secure, put her stuffed animal in her lap, and don’t worry when she puts her middle and ring finger in her mouth.

Once we are home and inside, I breathe a sigh of relief.

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