Thursday, October 6, 2011
In the earliest days of my career as Mother, I had one objective: survival. His and mine. Nursing him back to sleep late at night, I would feel great relief, thinking, I've gotten him thorough another day. In the seven years I've been at this job, I'm willing to bet I've had fewer than 100 nights of uninterrupted sleep - and yet, oddly, their wakings, much like they were in the the newborn days, are often a source of comfort for me. Soothing a boy back to sleep after a bad dream, tucking a boy back in to bed after potty-ing, and rocking a boy back to sleep, I'm comforted to know that I have helped him and been there for him, that I know, still, in the middle of the night, that he is okay.
Wistfully I remember what it was like to worry about whether time-outs should be one minute or two, or in what order I should introduce solids, or how to handle that mom at playgroup whose kids always seemed to be sick. Of course, I worried about bigger things, too. I worried about SIDS, and always felt relief as each kid outgrew the most "dangerous" SIDS ages. I worried about their growth, their eating. I worried when they were sick. But perhaps because they were in my watchful round-the-clock care, there was a lot I didn't worry about, either because it was not possible at the time, or because it was so far in the future as to be unimaginable - getting hit by a car while riding a bike; getting kidnapped; falling in the lake and drowning; not wearing a seatbelt in a fatal car accident.
Parenting is harder now. Now, I fight not to be consumed by these worries. Now, these fears are warranted, imminent. In the constant push-pull state of parenting, I want to push them out of the nest as I simultaneously want to pull them back under my protective wing. I want them to ride bikes in the street and explore the nearby woods - and yet I fear an accident. I want them to be social and friendly - and yet I fear that they will forget to be wary of strangers. I want them to be responsible and careful - and yet they are children, deserving a carefree life. I want them to be compassionate and empathetic - and yet I do not wish on them the heavy burden of worry and sorrow that are often bedmates of compassion and empathy.
I'm trying to find the balance - guiding them with the right amount of caution, without being frightening. The right amount of repetition of lessons before the words become akin to Charlie Brown's mother's dialogue. (wah wah wah wah wah). The right timing of my teachings, not wanting to deliver them too early to be understood, not wanting to be too late to be able to make any difference.
I've heard that the things that you worry about the most in life rarely, if ever, actually happen. It's why bad dreams, even recurring ones, are so reassuring. They can't really happen in real life. So I've toyed with the idea of systematically worrying about every single thing that could possibly happen to my children, and worry about each one enough that I would effectively negate the possibility of something horrific happening.
Does this make me a control freak? Nah. It's humbling, really, because just when I start to feel like I'm getting the hang of this thing called Parenting - diapering while breastfeeding; breastfeeding while cooking dinner; cooking dinner while supervising homework; supervising homework while separating the squabbling siblings - suddenly these same children are peering out of the nest. They are working to gain their independence, to take responsibility, to see the consequences of their decisions, to deal with bullies, to grapple with dead goldfish, and to continue to develop their own unique selves, very much away from the parents who have quite literally held their hands through their earliest years....
...leaving me to grapple with my own struggles and worries, constantly wondering what kind of harvest the seeds I'm planting now will yield, wondering if I've sown enough of them, sown deep enough. Planted them when the soil is eager to receive, when they will be watered and well-fed, continually nourished. Knowing that the farmer must be ever-attentive, ever-dutiful, ever-dedicated to the harvest. Knowing that the farmer must toil for many years, in gorgeous weather and in harsh storms.
Hoping that each act performed by the farmer, each seed planted will find its roots, will thrive, will be bountiful and plenty. Hoping that it is enough.