I read Rachel’s recent post (see My House is a Deathtrap for Children) and remembered those days of constant worry and questioning. Besides listening to his heartbeat whenever possible with a special stethoscope (kindly provided by my sister) during his days in the womb, I read everything (surprise) I could get my hands on about parenting and subscribed to every parenting magazine out there. I was going to get this right. Vigilant Mama. I think now, thank God, I didn’t have the internet to turn to or I might have been committed.
The worries? When Nick first rolled over, he was in the family room. I wasn’t there. Apparently my golden retriever was watching him (so much for constant vigilance), and he rolled right across the room onto the single layer of red brick that formed the hearth of our fireplace. I found him there with a slight mark on his sweet head and hoped that no one would call DCFS but wondered if I would should turn myself in. I knew I needed to be careful when he was on a bed, but who mentioned they could cover such a large area when rolling over? The guilt I felt as a mom who worked outside the house played into this and I concluded that I was not cut out for this motherhood gig. I vowed to remain ever vigilant so that he would never be injured again.
Those who are reading this, and know my son, are chuckling. Or perhaps laughing out loud. I know we didn’t break every record for trips to the ER but it seemed to me we did. What kid has 2 concussions before starting high school? Or who has to have his face sewn up (I will never get over this one) when he is only 4 years old, and making his stage debut as Joseph (Mary’s guy, earthly father of Jesus) the next evening? Or breaks his arm playing shortstop while all of us are watching him make, what my husband called at the moment, “an all- star play, he could break his arm doing that!” I have only begun to list these moments and I will stop now because I am having heart palpitations. I never did make the world completely safe for him – despite my desire to remove all possible sources of harm.
Thank God he didn’t play football in high school (I won this battle) but he still managed to injure his knee playing basketball, which ended up leading to his vocation but that’s another story. He will be twenty three in a matter of months and I still lay awake at night worrying about everything: is he pushing himself too hard? Not enough? Who is this girl he’s dating? Dear God, please keep him safe on the subway…! You get the idea. It is never a good thing to wake up at 3 a.m. because generally I get through this list and then some before dawn.
The battles? Oh my God. So many. Over so little. Or so much. “You may not stay out that late.” “No you cannot eat that junk, drink that sugar…!” “No video games!” “You said what to the Principal?!?” “You call this a completed project???” And so on. My days as enforcer, “Hurricane Mama,” Big Meanie are over. Now, I answer the phone and try to remain calm, reasonable, helpful, the sage advisor. We won’t discuss the dialogue with my inner self which I have at the same time I am dispensing pearls of wisdom!
And despite the fact that he seems so grounded and solid and is taking on the world 1000 miles from home, I am waiting for some deep-seated neuroses to appear – created at some dark parenting moment in the past, when I really, really screwed up.
No, Rachel. The doctor did not need to tell you to be paranoid. It is hard-wired deep within us.
And although I am no longer vacuuming like a madwoman or scrubbing floors with massive amounts of disinfectant (I know, there are harmful chemicals in these things so I was careful to rinse, but I still worry that these chemicals did some latent harm), I often scour the internet looking for tips on how to be a great long-distance parent to a kid in his twenties.
Maybe I need to run over and help Rachel scrub her floors with vinegar.