I used to not be afraid of anything. Well, almost anything. There were the usual fears of rabid dogs and strangers offering candy, which was well justified. (I’ll tell you that story another time.) But for the most part, nothing caused the sort of fear that made my heart beat fast, my throat close up and a vague sense of nausea sit at the bottom of my stomach. I never had an overwhelming urge to get out of bed on a chilly winter night to make sure that things around the house were okay.
Then, I became a mother. Suddenly the world held dangers that I had never before realized. Around every turn, out every door, beside every stranger there is some horror about to befall us. I constantly check that my doors are locked, both to keep others out and to ensure Dylan stays in. Windows are closed and locked at night, regardless of the warm summer breeze, because, GOOD GOD, someone could sneak in the window and steal my baby. The boys are strapped snugly into their car seats because car rides have become the number one danger. Plane trips, which used to hold so much excitment, now instill a fear in me that never existed before. Not because I’m worried about terrorists, but because PLANES CRASH, and who’s to say that the one I’m on with my children won’t? Car doors are locked because of the fear of a carjacking. Banks are off limits because we might be involved in a bank robbery (we have a serial bank robber running amok in our area right now).
I’ve woken up at night before, out of bed and screaming because of a dream that masked men had come into my bedroom. Last night, I dreamed that Dylan’s shirt had gotten caught in an escalator and he got sucked into it right before my eyes. I woke up with that now familiar rapid heart beat and sick feeling. I FORCED myself to stay in bed, because I KNEW there was no way an evil escalator had snuck into his room and gobbled him up. He was FINE. There was no need to check on him. Within about 10 minutes he’d made his nightly trip into our bed, so I pulled him close, just to reassure myself that he was there and whole. As soon as I heard Zach start to stir on the monitor (YES! He sleeps in his own room now!) I got up and brought him back to our room. I needed them with me, to reassure me, their crazy, insane mother, that everything was fine.
I’ve been shaking my head and pulling my hair out over the “insane” fears that Dylan has developed. Santa is currently at the top of the list, but the vacuum and any type of power tool are a close second. I keep wondering how long these “irrational” fears will last. Will he grow up terrified every time a drill is used? Will he be 8 and still run away in terror every December when we run into Santa at the Mall? No. He’s only 2 1/2 and as far as he’s concerned, the vacuum is just as likely to suck him up as it is the dog hair on the floor. Santa is a big, imposing figure in a bright red suit with a hidden face. Can’t really blame the kid for being wary of him.
He’ll grow out of his fears and dive into the ocean, as I did as a child, without any worry about drowning. He’ll hop into a car with his friends one day and won’t even think twice that they’ll get into a car accident. He’ll grow up to use power tools and won’t be consumed with fear that the saw will cut off an appendage.
I realize that it’s my job to worry about all of that. To make sure that the lifeguard at the beach is close by and that the surf isn’t too high. To make sure that seatbelts are worn, safety glasses are donned and bike helmets are snug. That’s the job of being a parent. To take on the fears that your children are too innocent to know on their own. To keep them aware of the dangers, but not consumed by them. To get up in the middle of the night to make sure they’re okay. To be on guard for potential dangers, without instilling in your children a fear of the outside world.
So, I accept my temporary insanity. I won’t make any apologies for it. I’ll allow my children to run in open fields of wildflowers without telling them that a rabid dog MIGHT, JUST MIGHT, run out of the forest and attack them. But I’ll be there with a big, rabid dog beating stick tucked securely away, within easy reach.
Hey, you never know. Better to be prepared than caught off guard, right?