Our mantra, as we age, seems to have become we will not live our lives in fear!, but it will not surprise some of you for me to also declare that I am a fearful ninny when it comes to other things.
Things like the three human beings I created.
This week, I’ve been thinking of a time, years ago, when I was unable to sleep at night. I would lay down and close my eyes, but scenes of every single imaginable way for my children to die would play in my head, and I could neither stop the visions, nor the situations that played out in them. In fact; often, in the scenarios, I was the cause of their death, though always accidental. I began to fear losing them with such angst and terror, that I found myself paralyzed, unable to enjoy them as I should have in those tender years.
Somehow, time passed. I fed them vegetables and snuggled them often, and made them wear warm boots in winter and helmets when they biked or skied. I held their hands tightly when we walked to the library. I made sure to look behind me when backing out of the driveway and was most vigilant near pools and lakes. My two main goals as their mother were to 1.) keep them alive and 2.) not let them die. So, even while doing all the right things, my mind was constantly, and I mean constantly, buzzing with the what-ifs. What if he chokes on this carefully cut carrot? What if she rips her hand from mine and bolts into the road? What if their school is attacked and rampaged? And on. And on.
The fact that this has gone on now for over 5,000 days is mind boggling. What a terrible waste of good energy. When my attention was on god please don’t let such and such happen, it should have been on, wow, look what’s happening! After all, that is definitely my focus and attitude in other areas of my life. Just not with my children. I sincerely hope I haven’t missed as much as I’m afraid I might have.
Last Sunday, as I was watching Garrett do his thing on the baseball diamond, I thought — he’s not only still alive, he’s thriving! Luke is not only breathing, he’s singing his way through life! And Natalie is not only living, she is living out loud. They are getting on out there in the world whether I’m ready or whether I’m not. And I am missing it. I’m right here. But I’ve been missing lots of it.
I wondered: when and how did this happen? This living? As if I had no anxiety at all every time they left the house to play in the neighborhood, to walk to the store, to sleep over at a friend’s house. And then it occurred to me. No matter how fearful I am, no matter how much anxiety I have, no matter how many warnings I summon about strangers or saturated fats or sunscreen, nor how much I worry – I’m not controlling anything. Anything. At. All.
Why on earth this revelation took this long is far, far beyond me.
Garrett’s going to be driving soon. And dating. (Arguably, he is already dating – if by
obsession texting with a girl, dating can be defined.) And facing choices I would never want to have to make again. How do I, his mother, keep my heart and mind in a state of non-worry? I feel I’ve spent 13 years considering worst-case scenarios. Clearly, that’s gone on long enough. But…how?
That vulnerable state is just about the most uncomfortable place I can imagine. I suppose I’ve convinced myself it is just a mother’s job to worry. But the thing is, I do not want to be remembered for being the worrier, the put on a sweater, don’t go too fast, for god’s sake be careful, people are NOT to be trusted! mother. I want to be the one that pushes them to do the things they hadn’t dared dreamed of doing themselves. I want to dare to let them go.
Because this: if I don’t give them wings, who will?