Keep calm and carry on

So the first text message I got from Jennifer after she arrived in Shanghai on Thursday for her year-long study abroad program was “I finally have Internet” and “I’m not dead” – always reassuring information for a parent. The second text message was “Do you have a copy of my Fudan University application? Why didn’t I bring it! Aaargh! Please get back to me as soon as possible.”

Yes, I did have a copy of her application for the Chinese university where she will be studying while she’s in China so I immediately scanned and emailed it. If that wasn’t sufficient documentation, I texted her than we could FedEx to her (for a surprisingly low cost of about $50) and she would have it in two days.

So the mechanics of not having packed the application weren’t the issue because we quickly figured out a solution. The real problem is that I’ve never learned how to not have my children’s anxiety become my anxiety. All it took was receiving a text message with a few exclamation points conveying my daughter’s panicked state and my stomach started to knot up.

Because Jennifer knows that it doesn’t take much for me to go into a Code Blue – hair on fire – sound the air raid siren – kind of overreaction, she oftentimes takes care to soften a situation that she knows is likely to stress me out. For instance, a day later, when I got a text message from her at 11pm saying that her Wells Fargo ATM card wasn’t working at the Shanghai bank and she couldn’t withdraw money, she started the text message with, “When you have a chance, please call Wells Fargo….”

My chance to do that was RIGHT AWAY. Jennifer is in on the other side of the world and she can’t get to her money…this calls for immediate action! Wells Fargo says their customer service is open 24/7 and I’m not going to be able to sleep until it’s solved so I’m out of bed and changing into SuperMom mode.

BTW, you really can speak to a Wells Fargo customer service representative at midnight if you’re willing to hold for a half hour. I got the information I needed from the bank and passed it onto Jennifer.

So why did I rush to instantly solve the problem? It wasn’t an emergency; I could have waited to call the bank until Sunday or even Monday. I knew Jennifer had plenty of cash with her; the reason she wanted to withdraw more is because she is still figuring out the exchange rate and wanted to be sure she had enough for the coming week. We exchanged some more texts and it turned out that everything was fine with her ATM card. She was just trying to withdraw more than her $300 limit.

And that’s really the point – even when things – both big and little – haven’t gone exactly as planned, everything turned has still turned out fine.  It has for Steve and me and for our other two children every step of the way.

This is a lesson I best remember particularly as I celebrate another birthday today. Getting older can’t be changed but the furrowed brow that comes from stressing? That I can do without.

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