Sunday was a rough day for me. I woke up feeling a low-level hum of anxiety. I’m not sure what set it off, but I ended up worrying all day about things: the news, money, whether my kids had everything they needed for the week, what I’m going to do when they all move out. You know, one of those days when you can’t stop the hamster wheel in your head and everything seems like a huge deal and you feel helpless.
I have days like this a few times a month. Nothing specific is wrong, but it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and I’m extremely critical of myself, which makes it even worse. I stress about things that haven’t even happened and I can’t climb out of the rabbit hole, even though I know it’s not rational.
Since becoming a single mom, I’ve tried to hide this part of myself from my kids. I used to have another adult in the house to talk to and that would absorb a lot of my anxiety. But now that I don’t, I try hard not to let it affect my life. I don’t want my kids to worry about me or feel the weight of my stress. Especially if I’m not sure where it’s coming from.
But I’ve realized over the years they are smart, and they can tell when their mom is struggling.
While I was making dinner on Sunday, my oldest teenage son walked into the house. He had been in and out all day. And even though I didn’t think he noticed anything different about the day, he did. As I stirred the meat for the tacos, he came up behind me and gave me a great big hug. The kind of hug that feels like it’s covering your entire body and makes you feel loved. It wasn’t his usual half-hug. This was my son saying, “Mom I know you seem sad but I really love you.”
At that moment, I took a deep breath. My shoulders relaxed and I could feel my heart slow to a normal pace. He didn’t loosen his grip, not even when I rested my hands on his arms to hold him there a bit longer.
It was the exact thing I needed at the exact moment I needed it. It was the reminder I needed that the most important thing in the world is that my kids were happy and healthy. It made me realize how lucky I am to have them in my life. It made me think of how unimportant all the things I was stressing about really were, and I was wasting precious moments with my kids thinking about things I had no control over.
But I do have control over stopping to realize what is meaningful in my world. And they are it for me.
That hug completely changed my evening. I went to bed that night and was able to let it all go — the stress, the anxiety, the wandering thoughts that always rob me of so much happiness. It was the kind of moment that stays with you and I will remember forever.
Katie Bingham-Smith is a full-time freelance writer living in Maine with her three teens and two ducks. When she’s not writing she’s probably spending too much money online and drinking Coke Zero.