A Letter to My Brave Boys


Dear Boys,

I am in awe of you two.

A few weeks ago, you started summer camp for the first time. I was nervous about putting you in camp because I remember being terrified of it when I was little. My separation anxiety was pretty intense when I was your age. Thankfully, neither of you inherited it. You got Daddy’s self-assuredness gene instead.

You seem to have the opposite of separation anxiety. Is separation confidence a thing? When I dropped you off at camp on the first day, I was expecting extra hugs and goodbye waves and maybe a timid glance from you as I walked out the door. Nope. I don’t think you even noticed me leaving. I watched as you ran off to introduce yourself to kids you didn’t even know and I was so proud. Baffled, but proud.

I guess it’s silly for me to expect any kind of nervousness on your part since I haven’t seen it yet in your six and nine years. You two have always been gutsy. I was fearful of your fearlessness when you were babies. You were so unlike me.

C, I remember you climbing out of your crib at 12 months old. You would try to scale anything and everything like a mountain goat. It surprised people to see you up on top of things that babies double your age wouldn’t attempt.

W, I remember you getting up on the diving board at a family pool party when you were 15 months old. You looked around to make sure everyone was watching you, then launched your tiny Puddle Jumper-clad body off the board into the water. Splash! No fear. You rose up to the surface of the water with the biggest smile on your baby face.

I find myself projecting my childhood anxieties onto you at times. Luckily you won’t accept them and have no problem setting me straight: “We’re not like that, Mama. We’re brave”.

C, last week you had a sleepover at your friend’s house and didn’t even say goodbye to me before you left for the night. I kept my phone ringer turned up loud in case you called in the middle of the night, needing to be picked up. I should’ve just put the ringer on silent. I know you. You don’t need my rescuing.

When I was your age I couldn’t do sleepovers because I was scared to death of being away from my parents. I would try to stay over at a friend’s house but would inevitably wake up crying, sometimes throw up, and would need your Grammy or Papa to come to get me around 1 – 2:00 a.m. This was a pattern that persisted until junior high.

Anxiety runs long and deep on your maternal side of the family. We think your great-great-grandfather probably had panic disorder before it was even recognized as a psychiatric disorder. Our family has battled anxiety attacks, agoraphobia, social phobia, and postpartum anxiety. There’s absolutely no shame in this. It’s just who we are. I’m so relieved you are who you are without these issues, though. They make life more difficult and I want smooth sailing for you two.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing you guys beaming with confidence and living out loud as extroverts. It took me years, and years, and years, and Zoloft to learn how to do this.

W, I love it when you get up in front of a crowd of people, whether it’s at a house party, Awendaw Green, or on Main Street at Disney World, and perform an impromptu hip hop routine. You dance like no one is watching, but love it when they do! You’ve been doing this since you were two and a half years old. You are the coolest kid I know.

C, I love how you handled our big move from New England to Charleston when you were six. We plucked you up out of your home, school, and community and moved you a thousand miles away. You rolled with it, saw it as an adventure, and excitedly joined a new first-grade class halfway through the year. This would’ve been my absolute worst nightmare at that age. You amaze me.

Thank you, boys, for being what I wish I had been when I was little.

Chances are you’ll have periods of self-doubt, apprehension, and uncertainty as you grow up. I expect that to happen. You’ll discover what makes you anxious and restless in this world. Please know that I’m here to help you through it . . . just as you’ve helped me through the anxieties of mothering you, by being the strong, independent, confident boys that you are.

Love, Mama XOXO