You’re anxious. You’re stressed. You want them to be safe. You worry about what they’re doing when you’re not there. You worry about their future. You worry they might not get into the school you have your heart set on. You stress over their friend who might be a bad influence. You stress about the cars zooming by your house. You’re nervous about COVID-19 and climate change and global unrest and everything else on the news. You don’t want anything bad to happen—to them, to you, to anyone. In the tunnel vision of your anxiety, these things are all you can think about.
They consume you. They change you. They cripple you.
But can you, right now, in the calm of morning, when you are not anxious, take a minute to step back? Think about what your anxiety costs you, think about it honestly and painfully. Think of the arguments it’s created. Think of the things it made you say no to, the things that might have been so much fun—for you and your kids. Think of the damage it has done to relationships, to your self-confidence, to your ability to enjoy life, to be a good father. Think about if it’s actually making your kids safer—or if it’s actually taking you away from them, removing you from being present while you’re driving, while you’re watching them in the bath, while you’re living your life.
Is that what you want to be teaching your kids? What is your anxiety doing to them? Because it’s definitely not helping.
The truth, as Seneca said, is that “there are more things likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” One of the most wonderful passages in Meditations is where Marcus Aurelius looks at his own tunnel of worry and fear. “Today, I escaped my anxiety,” he writes, “or rather, I discarded it, for it is within me.”
Your anxiety is a story you’re creating. It’s within you. Worse, it is eating at and harming not just you, but your kids. Which is why we must, as best we can, discard it. Delete the story. Let it go. Don’t let it control you. Don’t let it take from you the things you can never get back.