I’m going to take us back to the OG topic of this blog, “worrying,” as this time of year and the busy-ness that is school and activities tends to stir me up a little. It’s always an adjustment, going back to school. For us, it almost seems like relief because we can re-establish a solid routine, and of course who doesn’t just LOVE Fall!? Getting back into said routine can be tricky, and there are just so many boxes to check off at the beginning of the school year. It feels like a sprint, but once we are back into the swing of things, I can unclench a tad.
But at the same time, for some reason, this time of year can trigger some anxiety. It sneaks up on me like a ninja in the night. Sometimes I think it’s because school used to once be a completely safe space, and now that guarantee isn’t necessarily there; but Fall also represents a chaotic and action (and excitement) filled time. School starts, sports and activities pick up, and the running around commences. So many things, positive or negative, can cause our souls to churn a little, seemingly out of nowhere.
I think every Mom carries with her a varying degree of anxiety or worry, specifically when it comes to our kids. When you become a parent, there is something so very, very powerful ignited inside you that it can be overwhelming at times; maybe even take your breath away. It has had me sometimes contemplating putting my kids in bubble where nobody and nothing can ever hurt them. It is a severely protective instinct, commonly known as the “Mama Bear” instinct.
And then there are times we parents can cross the line in the sand to what we lovingly refer to as “Psycho Mom.” I, myself, have a few legendary stories about Holly the Psycho Mom, and I will share one of those with you now…
After one particularly rough day at work, I was driving to pick up my kids at their daycare. As I approached the turn to take me to the center’s parking lot, I noticed a police car pulled off the side of the road with the lights on, the road was blockaded, and there was a law-enforcement officer directing traffic around the school as if to make people avoid the area.
Sadly, in today’s world, and having already been on edge from a stressful day, I immediately assumed the absolute worst possible scenarios. I first looked for flames and smoke shooting out of the building, and when I didn’t see that my mind went to another grim scenario: There must have been an act of violence.
My stomach immediately dropped and I felt the feeling leave my arms and face, and then I felt an internal swelling of emotions (that I guess must have been adrenaline) kick in. I did what any mama bear would do: I whipped my Pimp Ass Mom Van out of the lane of traffic (nearly onto the sidewalk) and pulled up right next to the officer and basically screamed,
“MY KIDS ARE IN THAT BUILDING!”
The kind officer looked at me puzzled, and right about that moment a beautiful red convertible with a lovely princess in a tiara and sash sitting on top of the backseat passed by, and I realized that all of this hullabaloo was because it was time for a parade. Nothing was wrong other than a small road block that caused me to have to go down 1/2 of a block further to access the daycare center parking lot.
A FREAKING PARADE.
We are all laughing now, right? This little event happened a couple years ago and I still tell people this tale of total overreacting by Yours Truly. (It was the Marshall Homecoming parade, in case you were wondering. Ah, Fall. Such a lovely time.)
But then again, did you get a little uncomfortable or anxious for me before you saw what REALLY happened? Can you relate? Maybe you would have done the same thing? (Maybe not? LOL!) Every parent is different. Every situation is different. And I have learned the reaction absolutely depends upon your disposition heading into said situation. I was already in a bad mood. If I hadn’t been, maybe I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction.
I will never forget that initial feeling when I thought something was wrong and my sweet babies were in harm’s way. I blame that Mama Bear instinct. One moment you are a totally rational person, and the next you are invoking the guy from Mortal Kombat who rips a guys head off and throws it at his body. #FINISHHIM
These emotions are powerful, and I think it is present in all of us to varying degrees.
And that brings me to my point (I hope)…. Where’s the boundary between reasonable protective instinct and total Psycho Parade Jamming Holly? It’s often at the root of Mommy Shaming. We have all been guilty of it, referring to someone as a “helicopter parent” or, on the flip side, a “free-range hippie.” We think to ourselves, “OMG, what a Psycho Mom,” or “OMG, I would NEVER let my kid do that!” (Parental Note: Invariably, if you say your kid will NEVER do something, I guaran-damn-tee they absolutely will do that thing you said they would NEVER do.)
There are days when I feel pretty reasonable about gradually extending my kids’ metaphorical leashes, feeling free to let us all go out and experience everything life and this beautiful world has to offer. And then there are days when I want to become a “Dooms Day Prepper” and secure us all in a padded safe house deep in the wilderness away from all the negativity the world also has to offer. I’m on a quest to find the middle ground between those two extremes amidst the worry and the need to protect my babies no matter what.
Where is the boundary between reasonably protecting your child and stifling their growth through experiences? They have to learn to take care of themselves eventually, so how do we meter raising well-balanced kids and creating everything-phobes who can’t tie their own shoes or use a can-opener when they get to college? How can we parents sleep well at night (like, ever) when the world can be so scary sometimes?
Back in the day, I traveled a lot for work. Leaving the kids for days in a row was excruciating, and I was convinced that by leaving them I was doing permanent damage and certainly my plane would go down in flames leaving them motherless. (I know, morbid, right? But that’s the mind of this Weekend Worrier.) I was in an airport gift shop once and found a book called Psalm 91 for Mothers. For those of you unfamiliar with Psalm 91, it is commonly known as the Psalm of Protection. It is a favorite in my family, and while I often refer to myself as a “very flawed Catholic,” I find profound comfort in this verse.
Being a parent is so hard; the world is scary. Even if I don’t have something specific to worry or ruminate about, my kids are always at the forefront of my mind. I’m not alone, right? I guess the best thing we all can do is our very best, and even some days get by with good enough.
I don’t have all the answers. But, Dear Lord, I wish I did. Mother Theresa once said, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Some days, that’s all we can do, and most days, it’s all we need to do.