I gave my 10 year-old-daughter permission to ride her bike to the library.  Alone.

She’s old enough and it’s only a quarter of a mile away.  Right?

She’s been gone eight minutes.  I’m sure she’s fine, but what if the tote bag I gave her is too long?  What if it gets caught in the bike spokes?  It won’t.  But it could.  And she could go right over the handlebars.  Oh my. What if right this moment she’s sprawled on the sidewalk bleeding and terrified, hoping someone will come along to help her?

She’s not.  But she could be.

14 minutes!

Actually… I just remembered I need a book from the library.  Should I?

Or do I just sit and wait and trust and know that she’s protected?

Do I recognize that this is just a little step in all the big steps she’ll eventually take toward independence?

I know this swirling, flip-floppy feeling in my gut.  It’s the same feeling I get every year when Andie goes back to school.  All those post-NICU fears come flooding back, reminding me that I can’t always be there to protect her.  (I’ve never experienced quite the same level of anxiety over Tucker who was born on his due date at a hearty 8 pounds.  Yet sometimes my mind decides my vigilance is misplaced and begins fretting over him as well.) Usually the first day is the worst.  I imagine her falling from the slide or a sick kid sneezing on her. I want to send her to school wrapped in bubble wrap with a dust mask covering her mouth and nose.

But I don’t.

Instead I breathe.

And I trust.

And I try to focus on something to keep my busy, worrying mind, calm and at ease.  Writing often works.  So does a walk in the woods, or stretching, or a good book, or classical music or a new recipe.  Sometimes just saying I’m scared out loud helps, or repeating a prayer or mantra…Please bless and keep my children safe and protected…

And sometimes nothing works at all.  She’s been gone twenty-two minutes and you’re sitting here writing!  My edgy mind just screamed at me.

I’m going to the library.

But, wait.  Who is this rounding the corner?  It’s my little bird returning to the nest!  Look at her pedaling along with a sack full of books and that proud smile!

I knew she was fine.

She always is.

I, on the other hand, have some work to do!

What about you?  How do you manage your child’s return to school?