As the ride gathered speed, we were thrown against the back of the seat. I was convinced that the girls were about to be ripped from my grasp and flung from the car. I seriously envisioned injury, dismemberment or worse. Holding onto them tightly, I tried desperately to maintain my cool so they wouldn't panic. That ride dragged on forever.
That often baffling and sometimes terrifying job they call parenting
Last night when I went to bed, Michael had not yet returned for the night. This morning, I stopped by his room to make sure that he'd gotten back safely. I had no recollection of his coming upstairs to check in, but that didn't necessarily mean anything. My memory is unreliable if I've been awoken from a deep asleep.
His room was empty. A frisson of fear coursed through my body as I frantically searched the house. Nada. I called Michael's cell phone even though it was quite early. The call immediately flipped over to voice mail. His phone was either turned off or out of juice. Was that bad, or could it possibly be a good sign? The sinking feeling in my gut instantly transported me to that amusement park of long ago.
I challenge any mother alive to put herself in my shoes and not have "those" thoughts running through her head. This weekend was the annual Taste of Chicago, with huge, rowdy crowds, lots of loud music, and acres of booths with enticing food and drink. None of the many scenarios conjured up by my overactive imagination were remotely comforting.
I was clearly the ruffled one. After that initial wave of relief, I experienced that familiar and distinctly unpleasant adrenaline let-down. Completely drained; I could barely stand up. Luckily, I was able to go for a swim and that helped snap me out of it, more or less. The whole episode lasted under an hour but felt like an eternity.
Once again, it all comes down to the importance of maintaining good channels of communication. Loving our children, while key, is merely the down payment. They need more - much, much more, every step along the way. When they're babies, at least, it's relatively easy: food, sleep, a dry diaper. Accompanied, of course, by bounteous quantities of love. But, at the exact same time we are effectively addressing our young 'uns' needs, they are growing, changing, and inevitably moving away from us. It doesn't seem fair.
As parents, we aim for a tiny bulls' eye that signifies getting it right: showing enough concern but not too much, differentiating between opportunities for teaching versus those for listening only, and so on. And as soon as we're finally getting the hang of it, the job description morphs into something else entirely. It never ends - ever - even when our children reach adulthood and have offspring of their own. Once our kids reach those treacherous teenage years, we must switch from nurturer/protectors to mentor mode. It's a bit overwhelming, but it sure does keep us on our toes.
Prescription for mental health
In order for me to be a good mother, I receive regular infusions of sound advice, understanding, and validation from friends with kids the same age or older. Luckily, I did a stellar job of selecting friends who have proven to be calm, nurturing parents. I have benefited immensely from their finely-honed listening skills and infinite patience. Whatever would I do without these folks? They are truly my lifeline to mental health.
Even when we become grandparents, though, we still have some tricky relationships to navigate - namely, with our grandchildren's parents. Oh well, nothing's perfect. Still, interacting with our offspring's offspring will surely be a refreshing change from what often feels like tiptoeing through a minefield. I admit, I'm looking forward to it.