I couldn't sleep last Saturday night. I kept waking up worried about our 15-year-old son, who was camping with friends on Walden's Ridge.
He's a sweet kid, so I wasn't worried that he would get into trouble. I was worried that he would get cold. Like, dangerously cold ... like, fetal position, call-Daddy-at-1 a.m. cold.
"I'll be fine, Dad," he'd told me earlier in the day as he dashed out our back door. "I've got a sleeping bag, and there's a fire down there at the campsite."
Not being a woodsman, I wasn't so sure he would be "fine." The weather app on my phone said it was supposed to dip into the upper 30s that night, and I had no idea if his sleeping bag was even outdoor rated.
This felt like an extension of a conversation about the cold we have almost every morning in the winter when he wants to wear short pants to school in sub-freezing weather and I try to convince him to put on jeans or khakis.
But those morning disagreements are about small discomforts, and this camping thing was about safety, which made it an order of magnitude more important in my mind.
So, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I was awake in bed checking the outdoor temperature on my Apple watch every hour. I watched it dip to 39 by 1 a.m., then 38 at 3 a.m., then level off at 36 at 4 a.m. Meanwhile, my son's phone battery was dead so a checkup call would even be out of the question.
I realize that this degree of worry is not entirely mentally healthy on my part, but I'm just reporting the facts here.
I'm not sure how I became a worrywart, but I'm pretty confident I inherited the impulse from my mother. When you worry that you worry too much, you might have a problem.
The Bible tells us to "pray without ceasing," and I'm confident my late mother, Wilma, prayed for me continuously from the time I was 13 until I was knocking on the door of middle age.
Now, with both a teenage son and a young-adult son, I know how she felt. I was praying for the boys one night recently when the thought came to me: "Hey, you're treating God like a State Farm agent. You're always looking for security. Chill out."
The insight gave me pause. I read a piece of advice last week that hit home: When it comes to children "strengthen them, don't strangle them." I'm sure from my kids' point of view my constant worries seem excessive.
So, I've started trying to pray that God give my sons strength to endure life's hardships, not that he surround them with an angel army and an energy field. (Although, both would be good, too)
Meanwhile, my anxiety peaked at dawn last Sunday morning. As the sun started to show through the trees in our front yard, I started to feel a little better. The temperature had risen above 40 degrees by the time our son called about 9 a.m. and asked for an 11 a.m. pickup.
Later, after Sunday School, I swung by to pick him up at a friend's house near the camping spot.
"So did you have fun camping?" I asked.
"Yep," he said. "But I didn't sleep good. Did you see the full moon last night? It kept waking me up every time it appeared from behind a tree."
"Were you cold?" I asked.
"I only got cold once," he said, "but I woke up and put my pants and socks on, and after that I was fine."
I felt my eyes widen.
"Hmm. You went to sleep without pants or socks on?" I asked.
"Without long pants," he clarified. "And I was too tired to put my socks on."
I said a silent prayer thanking God that I didn't know this fact the night before.
"I have a confession," I said. "I was really worried about you last night. Do you ever have worries that keep you awake?"
"Yes," he said, almost in a whisper, and then he patted me on the shoulder.
As I've mentioned in this space before, he was born almost exactly nine months after my mother died.
Maybe it's just me, but I've always felt that the three of us — my mother, son and me — are connected spiritually. The word that comes to mind to describe all three of us is "tender hearts."
Maybe, in the end, our shared worry gene isn't a character flaw but something of a gift. I know one thing: It's definitely about deep, honest love.
Thank you, God.
Blest be the ties that bind.
Email Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.