Early yesterday morning I waved goodbye to teenager for the week as she is on a school trip to France - staying is a chateau, doing various activities such as abseiling and also visiting war graves in Northern France. She seems to have squeezed most of the contents of her wardrobe into her very heavy suitcase for the four nights she is there, but appears to have forgotten a rather vital accessory - her hairbrush.
Inevitably, I spent the day waiting to hear that they had got there safely. Texted her on the coach around midday to see how the journey was progressing. No reply. Tried again in the afternoon. Still nothing. I knew all must be well as I'd have heard from school if there was a problem. But kept inventing things that might have happened. Coach crash; abducted at service station; fire in Channel tunnel...Was 7.30 before she eventually got in touch with a brief dismissive text saying her phone had run out of charge on the journey. Mobiles actually makes things worse for the overanxious mother like me. They give an illusion of security, that you can make contact quickly but then it's frustrating if you can't.
She's 14 now and so I have to let her go off and be independent without pestering her all the time. But it's tough and not just on occasions like this trip. A couple of weeks ago on a sunny Sunday afternoon she set out for a ride on her bike around the village with the girls who live next door. Great, I thought, a bit of fresh air and exercise for a change. So mowed the lawn and half an hour passed. Still not back though the circular route takes no more than 30 minutes. Went to the supermarket to stop myself stressing, certain they'd be back when I returned. No. Took dog for walk across fields and listened out for the usual squealing which indicates their presence. Nothing.
It was a beautiful afternoon - sun shining, daffodils and blossom. Attempted to banish negative thoughts and be mindful. Listened to birdsong, but imagining ambulance sirens instead. Future nightmare scenarios spooled through my mind and I was choosing funeral songs. Visualisation comes easily to me, but only the bad stuff. Tried instead to visualise her wedding, but failed.
Nearly back home with heavy heart when I heard the telltale squealing behind me. Three girls with hair streaming behind them and four boys all on bikes. Nice boys, old friends from primary school whose mums I know. They'd met two of them and then called for the others. Relief swept over me, but hid it well.
The problem is, of course, bad things do happen all the time. Phoned NZ sister at the weekend and she told me of horrible drowning accident which had occurred on the beach near them. Was off again, visualising the horror of this poor woman watching her husband rescue her young daughter only to drown himself. And who could not be moved by the raw grief of the relatives of the passengers on the missing Malaysian aircraft? I was a bit uncomfortable with the cameras intruding on this.
I'd welcome any advice on how I can stop myself worrying about things that might happen. Or is this just how it's going to be?