What If Overdrive

Parenthood can be anxiety-inducing. Some parts are scarier than others and I’ll admit that I’m entering into one of those stages right now. The last time I remember being this scared was when we brought our first child home and I worried about her dying of SIDS in her crib while I took a shower or slept myself or did anything other than watch her chest move up and down and up and down.

It’s the lack of control that gets me.

When they were little, I had full control. They weren’t going anywhere without me. They weren’t alone with anyone unless I allowed it. Then they went off to preschool. I knew all their friends. I knew the families of all their friends. I had full knowledge of everything they had going on. I talked to their teachers every day.

Then they headed off to Kindergarten. And they started talking about kids I didn’t know. Eventually, I got to know their friends, but I didn’t really know their friends’ families very well. And they interacted with a lot of kids that I didn’t know at all. As they got older, I didn’t necessarily stay at the birthday parties they went to. I was losing touch.

Still, they didn’t go anywhere that I didn’t know about. I took them places. I picked them up. They had no ability to slip from my grip. Or at least my awareness. I still had a handle on things. For the most part. It still felt safe.

Now Jane is in high school. And she’s bringing a boy home to meet us tomorrow. I find myself in a mild panic. I was much more comfortable over the past year when she had steadfastly held that relationships weren’t worth the drama. I had honestly hoped and foolishly believed that the perspective would hold through high school.

I should have known better.

At first, I was happy for her. Basically. They aren’t “dating”. They are friends who think they might be interested in pursuing a relationship. It seemed mild enough. Then I realized that I didn’t know this boy. At all. Never seen him. Never met him. And the what-ifs started.

What if he’s not a nice person?
What if he hurts her?
What if he has dishonorable intentions with my daughter?
What if this relationship distracts her from her grades?
What if the relationship changes her personality?
And then it struck me: Oh, no. He’s a Sophomore. He’ll be driving by the end of the school year.
What if she turns on us? He could pick her up without us knowing.
I won’t know where she is.
She won’t necessarily be where I think she is.
What if they lie to us?
What if they run off?
What if they have sex and she gets pregnant?
What if he’s a perfectly nice boy but not a great driver?
What if she dies in a car wreck with him at the wheel?

The whole driving thing has already been weirding me out. I’m terrified. It’s just too simple for kids to do something stupid. And then they are gone and there’s no getting them back. I don’t want that to be my kid. I don’t want her behind the wheel. I definitely don’t want her in the car while any other young person is behind the wheel. Even if she did say that the Senior who drove her to our church the other day is a better driver than I am. I don’t care.

So, see? It’s the lack of control that I can’t handle.

Parenthood is about slowly and surely losing control. I started off feeding them with nourishment from my own body. Ever since that first weening, I’ve been letting go a little bit at a time. Sometimes I haven’t noticed. Sometimes I’ve rejoiced (never was a big fan of wiping little bottoms). Sometimes…

Sometimes, I’m like that moment a few months before Jane was born when the reality of impending parenthood overwhelmed me and I kept backing up on the bed, trying to pass through the wall into oblivion to avoid this thing that I couldn’t stop. “No, no! We aren’t ready for this! What were we thinking?! We can’t do this! We don’t know what we are doing!”

Too late now.

We don’t know what we are doing. We don’t have a clue. We’ve never done it before. The stakes are so high during this tumultuous time in a child’s life. Not everyone makes it through, but everyone has to enter. So here we are.

I understand now why parents wait up for their children to come home. I understand now why, even past 40, when I leave my mom’s house for the long drive home, she tells me to call her when I get home. I get it. It doesn’t make me any less scared though.

Advertisements

When Your Comfort is Less Important Than Someone Else’s

There are certain things that I absolutely do not like to do.  Singing in front of people ranks high on the list.  Especially if it involves hand motions or dancing.  And forget it if I’m not familiar with the song.

It’s amazing how circumstances can affect what you offer to do.

Last night I was the group leader for the 4th and 5th grader group at Vacation Bible School.  Being the last night of VBS, all the groups were getting up one at a time to perform the songs they had been practicing all week in music class.  I was not the group leader the other four nights.  Just the last night.  No problem, though, the group leaders weren’t joining their kids in the theatrics so it didn’t matter that I didn’t know the songs.

My group was the smallest.  With several kids missing, we were down to only four kids: 3 boys and a girl.  A very self-conscious girl.  A very self-conscious girl who was getting more and more anxious about singing in front of the group.

I feel your pain, sister, I thought.  I wouldn’t want to get up there either.

As the oldest group, we were last.  By the time the group before us was heading to the front, a thought came to me.  I didn’t like the thought, but it came and it was right and it was good.

“Would you feel more comfortable if I went up there and sang with you?” I asked.  “Then you wouldn’t be the only girl.  Nor the only person who feels silly.”

“Yes, that would be a lot better,” she said.  I began to share her anxiety.

I looked around the room and reminded myself that it didn’t matter if any of those people thought I looked silly.  The girl would feel less silly and that made it worth it.  I’m forty – she’s ten.  One of our egos is more important to protect than the other’s and it ain’t mine.

And so I joined my little group on the stage, having no clue what songs we were about to sing.  The song leader announced a song that I knew and I breathed a small sigh of relief.  And then my precious angels corrected her – that wasn’t the right song.  I vaguely knew the new one and hung in there well enough.

The second song was from the curriculum so the words and a video of some kids doing the motions were projected on the wall in front of us.  I can handle this, I thought. Almost done.

And then the song started.  My kids started giggling.  They love the song.  Why do they love the song?  Because it gives them a chance to act like they are in Kindergarten.  It was so ridiculously below their grade level that it cracked them up.

Next thing I knew, I was having to roar like a lion and act like a cute kitten and swing my elephant trunk and flap my bird wings and hoot like an owl and jump like a frog.  Three or four times through.  No wonder that girl wanted me up there with her.  No way she was going to attract any attention with a grown woman trying to keep up next to her!

To top it off, they then called all the kids up for the theme song.  The girl checked to make sure I was staying.  And then Hal rushed to join me.  And then the song started.  It was impossibly fast-paced with so many motions that I couldn’t possibly watch the motions and read the lyrics and sing.  So I ended up just holding the cardboard house that kept getting knocked over and hoping that if anyone was video-taping, they weren’t trained on the woman standing there red-faced in the sea of dancing youthful energy.

I think that’s the truest sign of maturity and age, when you willingly give up your dignity for the sake of others.

Addendum:  When I read this to my husband, he said that I was wrong, that the truest sign of maturity and age is when you recognize that you are not giving up your dignity at all.  And he is right.