No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy

Last week when I picked up my 3.5 year old son Julian from preschool, his teacher Miss G mentioned that she’d like to take the four children in the program on a field trip to the zoo or children’s museum the following week to celebrate the last day of school. I was immediately taken aback. My baby riding in a car on the expressway to a destination nearly an hour away with someone other than my husband or me? My heart skipped a beat.

I tried to play it cool because logically I knew that Julian would probably be just fine. Also it’s not like I don’t trust this teacher. She was Ava’s preschool teacher since Ava was three and became Julian’s teacher this year as well. She’s an amazing person and I have no doubt that she would take great care to protect my child on the field trip. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this just didn’t feel right. (It didn’t help that I’d recently watched a 7 minute video of horrific car wrecks that someone posted on Facebook. Why do I do this to myself?)

I emailed a friend who also has children at the preschool to see how she felt about it (and confirm whether or not I was an overreacting freak). She said she’d let the teacher take her kids on other outings before and she was OK with it. But she said she understood how I felt and encouraged me to tell Miss G if I was uncomfortable with it.

I thought about it some more and figured I’d just muscle through it. “Julian would be fine,” I kept telling myself. “I completely trust Miss G with him.”

I saw Miss G at the May Pole Celebration this Sunday and we were talking more about the impending field trip. I must have seemed a bit reluctant because she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, I should have asked you if you were OK with this. Are you?” I confessed. I told her I wanted to be OK with it, but the truth was that I wasn’t completely OK. She offered to let me go along with them, but due to prior commitments that day, I just couldn’t do it. I told her I would be OK and that the field trip was fine. Apparently I lied.

The next day my anxiety disorder – that has been for the most part under control for almost a year – kicked into high gear. My throat felt tight, like it was closing up. It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with, as it was one of my many anxiety systems when I was in the thick of the illness. I knew better than to get freaked out about it, even though it’s a very unpleasant feeling, and instead tried to figure out what could be causing it. Surprisingly, the field trip was not the first thing that came to mind. As you may know, we are in the process of selling our house and buying a new one – both of which are causing my stress level to be higher than normal. So I figured it was the house stuff getting to me even though nothing in particular had happened in the last few days.

I tried not to dwell on the anxiety, but the field trip must have been in the back of my mind because out of the blue I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it. I got a lot of feedback. Most responded that it was very hard the first time. Others said they hadn’t let their child ride with another person yet. Others said they do it and it’s fine.

It made me realize that even when my 5 year old was scheduled to go on a field trip with her kindergarten class (also to a destination nearly an hour away), my husband and I were OK with her going, but he was going to chaperone, thus ride on the bus with her and the class and be there for the whole trip. She ended up coming down with the flu and didn’t go anyway, but it made me think, “If I’m not OK with my 5-year-old going on a trip an hour away from me without one of her parents, why would I be OK with my 3-year-old doing it?”

I decided to talk it over with Jody Monday evening and we came to the conclusion that it was totally OK for us to NOT be OK with Julian going on a field trip an hour away when he’s 3 years old. If it doesn’t feel right and is giving me severe anxiety, then it’s not worth it, even if it does make me *that* overprotective parent.

I emailed Miss G and explained how I felt and even filled her in a bit on my anxiety disorder. I apologized for ruining the field trip, but said that I hoped they could still go somewhere nearby to celebrate the last day. She graciously responded and said they could walk to the nearby park instead and that she’d do the zoo trip the following day (on a day Julian doesn’t go to school). I was relieved.

I know there will come a day when I have to let my kids go, but for now I’m OK with the fact that this wasn’t the right time. I’m actively working on my issues again (I found a new therapist) and in time I will be able to continue to work through some of my fears. If right now my mental well-being is more important than a field trip to the zoo, so be it. I have to trust myself and do what works for me and my family. I am thankful I’m now at a point in my life where I can recognize where my fears are coming from and address them. I will get there, eventually.

–Progress, not perfection. —

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41 thoughts on “No Zoo For You: Confession of an Anxious Mommy”

  1. I hear ya! I don’t think this has anything to do with above-average anxiety! this is natural. And as Mamas, we need to trust our instincts. Traveling in vehicles is scarry. I actually don’t think my 5yo has been on too many vehicle trips without me/family. Just go with your gutt and you won’t have regrets. It’s all frightening, really πŸ™‚

  2. HA! I can TOTALLY relate. My new found anxiety wisdom is to do what is right for me. I am slowly learning to not care what others think about my decisions and go with my gut. Trust yourself first. I would NEVER have sent my 3 year old on a field trip to the zoo without me there. Heck, I am not sure I would do it for my 10 year old child…we will have to wait and see.

    Trust your Mommy instincts no matter what anyone else says. It is hard enough raising kids without the added anxiety of what ‘other’ parents are OK with!

    One anxious Mama to another!


  3. My mom was *that* overprotective parent. She chaperoned every field trip, and once in 4th grade I didn’t get my permission slip in early enough for her to chaperone, and she didn’t let me go. It was an out-of-state trip (though CT is a pretty small state, haha) and she just wasn’t comfortable. I totally understand it now, and even then I didn’t really want to go so far without my mom. Think of it from Julian’s perspective, he might have been scared to go so far without you, too.

    Must add that I’m a well-adjusted adult, but since having my own baby I’m back to wanting my mom all the time πŸ™‚

  4. I can relate for sure! Sammie was set to go on a zoo trip also back when we were in England. I assumed I would be able to go and when I got word that they did not need me, I freaked! They ended up letting me go. But that morning my babysitter for Alex flaked on me and so I had to either let Sammie go alone or not at all. I ended up letting her go, in a midst of tears (mine!) … I called several times and the school contacted the teachers for me. All was well in the end, but I was a nervous wreck the whole day …

  5. I understand the anxiety, being a mom of a 3 year old myself. However, I don’t think I would have made the same decision. So far all the school trips I have had to drive my son, because he is too young for the school bus in our state. But I can’t wait until next year when I can choose to be a chaperone, instead of feeling it forced upon me. There are only a few parents of 3 year olds in the PreK who can go along on trips, so I ended up driving other people’s kids every time. No incidents or accidents, thankfully. So maybe I feel differently because I have been that other person and have that perspective. Plus, our kids are in danger every time they are in a car, no matter who is driving. Being in the car with Mommy or Daddy does not afford some magical protection from accident or injury. Sure we feel like we can protect them, but we have no control over what the other drivers will do. So in the end, we should listen to our instincts but also listen to fact and reason on the real level of risk to any activity.

  6. I don’t think it’s over anxious at all! I would have had qualms too. That and I don’t think that as mothers we should ever, EVER ignore that “feeling” that something isn’t right. EVER. You’ve got to trust your instincts.

    It’s different than a school thing but once my dad called and said he was coming by to pick the boys up, take them shopping and out to lunch. This gave me great pause as my kids are a total handful for ME and my dad never did any solitary care for us when we were kids! I was like “uhhhh, you can DO that, Dad?” πŸ˜€ But once I thought about it I realized he’d be fine so i sent them all off. And they did fine. :p

    I don’t think for a second that we can protect our kids from everything, but I do worry about something happening and me not being there to help the kid process it. I remember once when I worked in the ER a daycare provider dropped a kid off and left and the nurses were struggling to find Mom. An extreme example for sure, but I feel better sending my kids out into the world once they can remember their phone # and how to get a hold of me. (and I’m still paranoid and leave my name and # in their pocket!)

  7. Ok seriously over protective much? First of all if you went with them it is not like you could protect him if the car/bus crashed. Secondly you just ruined a nice trip for your son because of your own selfish non-rational fear. Also you said “I decided to ask Twitter (my favorite sounding board) at what age they let their child ride with another person (outside of family) for the first time and if they were nervous about it.” What difference does age make! I would be more worried about my teenager going out in a car with other people than my 3 year old on a school trip!

  8. As the seventh person to say the same thing, I hope you’re comforted. It’s mommy instinct anxiety, though I’m not dismissing medical anxiety issues. I just had my second daughter not even two weeks ago. In August my sister in law is coming to visit us in CA. My in-laws suggested that she bring our older daughter back to MD her to stay with them for a couple weeks and then they’d brin her back and come for a visit themselves!!! There are soooo many instinctual red flags. My first thought to my husband, “you’ve got to be kidding!” Send my 4 1/2 yr old cross-country – for two weeks. Yeah right. She has stayed at their home overnight before, but that was when we lived 20 minutes away. I tried considering it but there is just no way. What I am considering, perhaps foolishly, is flying by myself with both girls a year from now for my brothers college graduation. Difficult, but different situation.

  9. Way to go for standing up for yourself. A lot of mommas would have just let it slide despite their huge anxiety, or just not sent their kid to school that day without explanation. By getting in touch with her, you found a solution that still gives your little one a special day trip without sending your momma fears into overdrive.

    I only hope that when my kids get to that age, I’m as good as you at handling things like that – because heaven knows, with my anxiety, it will come up… LOL

    I wanted to let you know that I gave your blog an award! Its called the sunshine award, because I feel like your blog spreads a little bit of sunshine on the world wide web.

    You can check it out, and pass it on to other bloggers here :

  10. I am the nanny/babysitter. I’ve been driving kids around since I got my license at 17. K’s mom was a bit hesitant for more than around town under K was 2.5-3ish. But at 3, I was given permission to pull her out of school for the day and took her to see a play 50 miles away with no hesitation from her mom. This summer? I’ll be driving K (now 7) and her brother, B (he’ll be 11 in July) all around Denver, and probably even to Colorado Springs once.

    I understand your hesitation, but as the sitter? I can see where wanting to go to the zoo with all the kids to celebrate the last day of school would have been a fun idea. As long as she has a safe car, with enough room for all of the children to fit safely, I would have let him go.

  11. Good grief! If you’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable. And that’s OKAY. You’re the mama, mama, and though seriously, I might feel differently if you were uncomfortable with them going to the park down the street. An hour away, I wouldn’t feel comfortable either. I’m always surprised at what “non anxious” parents do- bring their week old baby to Target, let their 3 year old drink Pepsi, or eat whatever they want. Frankly, I think most parents could be a little more anxious. Sorry for running on…DON’T feel bad!!

  12. Wow This Stupid Lamb…are you a bitch much? Your name serves your well. I agree with the blogger…if it doesnt feel right, then its not.

  13. I can completely relate. Last Friday my 5 y/o went on a field trip to the zoo, which is an hour away. I had a lot of anxiety about it, but didn’t express it to anyone. Ideally I would have gone along, but with a 3 week old newborn, it wasn’t really an option. It had crossed my mind to keep her home, but in the end, there had been so much build up over it with the kids, I couldn’t do that to her. But she was 5, not 3. Her teacher who drove is also the mother of my 8 y/o’s best friend, and someone who has driven both my older girls on numerous occasions. My anxiety was more with the actual zoo than the ride to get there. I don’t think I would be comfortable with my 3 y/o going on the same trip…3 is pretty young to be going on a field trip like that-distance and activity-without a parent present.

    Now that the class is going to the zoo on a different day, even though it’s a day he doesn’t normally attend, would you be free to accompany him so he wouldn’t miss out? (And would the school allow you to go?) That’s not to say that I think he’s being slighted in not going, just that if he could, with you, that would be a nice way of things working out.

  14. Each child is different, each mom is different. It’s perfectly fine for yo to be not OK with somethign another mom wold be OK with. I’m sure there are things you’re fine letting your kids do that other moms would not allow. That’s just how it goes.

  15. It’s not irrational to trust your instincts, and it’s not selfish to choose not to make yourself crazy. He’s THREE– will he even remember or care about this?

    I had a parent who was *truly* overprotective– both my junior and senior years in high school, my cohort in the Gifted & Talented program got to go on awesome (teacher and parent chaperoned) spring break trips to NYC and Washington DC. Guess who didn’t get to go either time because my dad was scared of what might happen to me in the Big Bad City?

    I was SO MAD at my dad at the time. But it wasn’t the end of the world and I got over it. And even though I’d like to think I’d make a different choice in the situation when my kids are high school age, now that I do have children of my own I’m a lot more sympathetic to my dad.

  16. I’m another vote for: hey you do what makes you feel comfortable.

    I think the most important thing is that you stay aware and conscious of your emotions and how they play into your decision making process.

    I was just whining about how difficult it was to take both my kids (5 &2) grocery shopping by myself 37 weeks pregnant and they couldn’t understand why I didn’t drop them off at the supermarket daycare.

    Hey, I think it’s great. Personally, I’m not into dropping my kids off with adults I have no clue who or how they got hired. I’ve questioned whether I’m being overprotective, but in the end I’m not comfortable so I keep them with me.

  17. As a teacher and a mom, I totally get this! I teach 1st grade and have parents who won’t let their kids ride the bus. You do what feels right for you.

    Incidentally, what feels right for me at the moment is my “What’s your superpower?” long-sleeve raglan in powder blue.

    Course, it has a summer squash stain from Baby’s dinner, but it feels so soft!

  18. I understand the anxiety and nervousness. on the other hand, being too protective can result in a kid who’s scared of everything. you don’t want that either. it delays development. trust me.

  19. At somepoint we have to let go, but I myself would vote against a trip down I-25. Sure you yourself can have an accident with your kids in the car, but at least you’d be together. At three you still have license to be so called “over protective.”

  20. I completely agree with you.

    I think even the idea of a field trip this far away at that age is ridiculous. I think it’s just one more sign that detachment parenting is becoming the norm.

    He’s three. That’s very little. No way.

    (Now, my kiddo is 12 and he’s starting to break out, as in riding his bike to friend’s houses, etc. Talk about having anxiety!)

    Work on responsibility and separation in little steps. This was way too soon. And it wouldn’t have been a positive experience for either of you if your mom warning bells were clanging away.

  21. First off, for The Dumb Lamb to insinuate that you go against your parental instincts, anxiety disorder or not, is just plain irresponsible. I have been trying to figure out when the first time my kids have ridden with a non family member when I’m not with them and I just don’t know. I know that with Noah it has been never. Sorry, he is just too little at 14 months. It isn’t going to happen. For Trinity, I know she has been with my sister, my sister-in-law, her Godmother, and my nephew (who is 32). I guess she has been in my best friends’ car when my husband had to take me to the emergency room when I was pregnant with Noah. That would have put her at 5. She is being allowed to attend her school zoo trip tomorrow on the bus, but she is 6 1/2 and I am comfortable with the chaperones that are going and I’ve known her teacher for many years, so I feel she is safe.

    Coming from someone who once ignored her intuition and “irrational” fears, you NEED to follow them. Trinity was invited to a birthday party at the local pool. She was thrilled to attend, she was almost 5, and I said she could. When I dropped her off at the pool everything in me screamed DON’T LEAVE HER HERE, but I thought I was being irrational and went home. Later, after the party when I picked her up & we were driving home, I learned she had to be pulled from the pool by a lifeguard. The mother who was supposed to be supervising the party apparently wasn’t paying attention at all, I received no phone call, the mother didn’t say anything when I picked my daughter up – NO communication at all. I could have lost my daughter that day because I didn’t follow my gut, so take it from me – NEVER go against your instincts, they are there for a reason.

  22. Keeping track of a group of three-year-olds is like herding cats. I wouldn’t let my son go somewhere with a 1:4, adult:tot ratio, either. Besides the threat of pervs, it’s too easy for small children to just get plain lost without several pairs of eyes to watch them. Way to go for going with your gut and speaking up for what you think is best for your family. Sounds as though the teacher had a great response, too.

  23. At first, I felt a kind of judgmental reaction to this (“I’d have let him go!”) until I realized, “My little boy’s never been in the car with anyone non-family.” As I pondered it more and more, I realized I totally would feel the same way you did.

    Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing your inner psyche with us! πŸ™‚

  24. Don’t let ANYONE make you feel bad for your decision. You did what you felt was right for you and your family. No shame in that!

    As I told you on Twitter (well, as best I could in 140 characters lol), my youngest is 19 months old and she’s NEVER been driven anywhere by anyone other than my husband or I.

    My 6yr old went a few short trips (to the grocery store or chiropractor to play w/toys while grandparents got adjusted) with my in-laws. I was VERY nervous the first couple of times, but they’re good drivers so I was ok with it. THEN they wanted to take her to Maine for the day (we were in Vermont). I TRIED to act ok with it … mostly because they were soooo disappointed that their daughter *wouldn’t* let them take her child with them. But honestly, I was FLIPPING out the WHOLE day. I cried several times … was shaking … called them 3 times.

    And they were just like 5hrs away.

    … but I know how my father-in-law can be on the interstates. And I really did regret letting her go. Even though she had a lot of fun and didn’t really miss me much (though she was very glad to get home) lol

    She’s never gotten in a car with anyone who wasn’t family, though. And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.

    I’d have done the same thing you did. If I were totally comfortable, I’d have no problems with it. If I had problems and could go along to the zoo, I would have. If I had problems and couldn’t go to the zoo with them, my kiddos wouldn’t go. That simple.

  25. I think you should do what you feel comfortable with – when it comes to my kids I do what I think is the right thing regardless of what anyone else says. I do think that i’m much more “relaxed” than I was when my kids were much much older – I also think that they are all so different and are able to handle different things at different times… You do what you have to do and anyone else can suck it – its my business to screw up my kids the way I see fit πŸ˜‰

  26. Oh Amy, I wish we could sit in person and chat a LONG while. I am this Mom, too. I almost canceled a day trip to Chicago because my MOM wanted to take Ivy (20 months) & Gray (4) to the park while I was gone. I have this thing about my kids and cars… Just two weeks ago my husband (THE DAD) drove Ivy (again, 20 months) for the FIRST time. He’s her father! But I am a nervous wreck about it. I don’t know why.

    I also do not allow them in other people’s yards, homes, sleepovers, however I am OK with my older two taking the bus to school. (That was hard the first time, but it got better.)

    I have thought seriously about seeking therapy for my feelings about not having my children far from me. I do not like how society makes it seem like I am the one in the wrong for relying on my instinct, not “cutting the apron strings” etc.

    I do not think children NEED to be away from their families… what is wrong with keeping them close? The issue for me, though, is that I feel almost physically paralyzed just at the thought of them going in a car with my own Mom (I had a talk with her and explained that it had nothing to do with her, but it was all me, and she did not take them to the park that day.)

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this here. I feel a lot the same, and I don’t know how right or wrong it is to feel this way. I am interested in how many attachment parents struggle with this very thing.


  27. I’ve long enjoyed reading your blog, and felt motivated to write a comment after reading this post–partly to commend you for writing about these topics and for being so honest about yourself. I also would not have allowed my child to participate in a trip like this at age three; and I still don’t feel comfortable with my child being in other people’s vehicles without me now that she is six. I don’t think it has anything to do with having an anxiety disorder either. I won’t argue that those of us who understand you are not being overprotective, but I will say you’re not alone. And perhaps the parents of the other kids in the class were equally uncomfortable and just didn’t speak up?

  28. I fully believe in mama instinct. Whether that stems from your anxiety or actual instinct, who cares? You are the parent. You are the one that is ultimately responsible for everything about your children when they are young.

    If you are walking them to their college classes in 15 years, then maybe we should sit down and talk about being too overprotective. At age 3? Don’t even worry about it… πŸ˜‰

  29. my daughter has been riding with other people since she was a baby. Now, most of those other people have been family members, but also daycare providers and school bus drivers.

    The only time I put my foot down was when she was in 1st grade. I learned her after school care provider did not have enough seatbelts for all of the children she was picking up (mine, her 4 and one other). So I fired her. Bullshit.

  30. Oh, Amy, I’m sorry your illness flared up, and I bet it’s from a combination of things, not just one or another. You’re doing the right things to take care of your self, and that is absolutely the right thing to do. Zoo trips can always be done another day, but a sane Mama is an irreplaceable thing. Give yourself a big hug for being so thoughtful and thorough in raising those beautiful kiddos of yours πŸ™‚

  31. I don’t blame you at all. 3 is still very young. I would have been just as anxious about it as you. I always ask myself how would I feel if something happened and I wasn’t there? You would always think you could have done something. I’m pretty “over-protective” as well.haha

  32. I think you handled the situation well and went with your gut (mama instincts). I definitely wouldn’t have allowed T to leave an hour away without my presence. That would feel strange and uncomfortable for me too. Good for you for sticking up for yourself and being honest. You go girlie!

  33. Oh, this post makes me feel so much better. Do to shedule changes/conflicts, our babysitter will need to drive our 1 yr old to drop of her teenager at school for a few days. When my husband told me my gut reaction was “No way!” Unfortunately, I’ll have to work thru it, but I’m glad I’m not the only mother who worries about their children riding in the car with other people.

  34. I live this each day. Thank you for sharing your story. Anxiety or not, giving control of my girl to another, especially in a vehicle, is scary. I’m proud that you were able to discuss it and find a solution.

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