Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Fear

The trip was quiet. I glanced back to see J with his head tilted to the side, his hand still clutching the little red truck he brought on the trip with him. As I reached back to smooth his hair (in truth, to check to see if he was breathing. I know, it is morbid, but sometimes the most peaceful expressions usher in a storm of dark thoughts).

Wanting to stretch our legs, we pulled into a rest area. The sky was clear, the trees just beginning to show signs of fall, and the air was the perfect jeans and t-shirt temperature.

We gently tickled the sleeping baby awake. I know. Who does that? Apparently, we do. Crazy, no doubt.

He woke with a grin. Squinting his eyes as the sun stretched across his face. He knew freedom was imminent. We unstrapped him from his seat and walked him over to a large grassy area (which I found oddly beautiful for a simple roadside rest area).

The moment his feet touched ground, he was off.

We attempted to contain our laughter as he would take several steps and then stop. Look back, checking to make sure his fan club was still paying attention. Grin. And then on the move again.

He giggled as he waved his arms around, balancing himself as he deftly avoided tripping over unseen leaves, branches and even blades of grass. Oh, the precarious walk of a toddler.

I watched as he would walk onto the path and then off and on again. Clearly he was relishing in his newfound freedom. His growing confidence came to life in the thoughtful smile on his face.

I called to him, beckoning him to follow me, to come to me. But he wouldn't. This time he didn't even look back. He looked ahead. On the path . . . then off.

As his father walked toward him, J giggled and ran ahead. Off the path . . .

I stayed behind. The dark thoughts invading my mind again. I looked ahead at my son as I steeled myself against an unspoken fear.

He walked away from me. Today, I can run after him, scoop him up in my arms and carry him to safety. Tomorrow I will have to let him go . . . he will have to navigate the world on his own.

I fear accidents and illness. I fear strangers who only mean him harm. I fear fate and nature. I fear not being there . . . waiting. Watching. Protecting.

I know. My fear is not logical nor is it practical. But, the day I found out I would become a mother logic and practicality became afterthoughts.

I knew what I was getting into the moment I saw that flutter on the screen. The moment I heard the heartbeat. The moment I felt him move beneath my hand.

I knew . . . and thus, I fear.

But, my hope for him, for the world he lives in outweighs my fear. A fear that has no permanent residence in my life; its visits fleeting.

J comes running to me, wrapping his arms around my leg and then lifting them up to me. I reach down and pull him up. He rests his head on my shoulder as my arms stretch around his little body.

We walk together, J and his mommy and daddy, to the car.

Fear will not grip me.

Deep breath.

Fear will not grip me.

A strange new reality. Motherhood.

One I will never relinquish.

Great news! Veronica of Sleepless Nights is back home and doing well!


Anonymous said...

You are the most amazing writer, I swear. I could practically see J running away from you at that rest stop. I know the run away move all too well. Being a parent sure does bring up all sorts of new fears, doesn't it? BTW, the weekly Spin Cycle I participate in is on Fear, you should really submit this, it's perfect. If you're interested, email and I'll send the link.

Julie said...

I'm in that era of life...letting them go.

My first has already traveled overseas for a 5 month's missions trip.

My second has already traveled overseas for a 3 week missions trip...

More are on the horizon....though all have returned and are currently at home....

I understand the fears, and yet I must trust. After all He created them, He surely will carry them.

Thanks for sharing your heart. I just wanted you to know I understand.

I found you at Becoming Me's blog.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I always say this, but I get such joy out of the way you take me back to the early days. Yes, it was exactly like that.

Lori said...

you are so right... the balance between letting go and fearing what will happen when you do let go is hard, but so worth it when you watch they grow and develop. Seeing your child gain independence and personal strength is one of the most rewarding gifts for a parent

Karen said...

That's a very real fear, and one we're dealing with all over again with our teenaged daughter. It just doesn't get easier.

But the good thing is that they always come running back to you. No matter how big, no matter how far they've gone, it's always mom that they want. said...

Fear canNOT rule our lives, or what is the point in living? I swear, I get more ideas from YOUR posts on things I had MEANT to write about and then never did. (I do link back to credit your genius, though. :) )

Justin and I have this conversation WAY too often...

imbeingheldhostage said...

yes, the hard side to parenting-- always worrying about what could happen without letting our fear hold them back. This was a beautiful post, and I love the little picture!

Tara R. said...

I remember those early years when I was so anxious about letting go just a little to let my kids try new things. Now that they are in the near-adult stage, that old anxiety is back, this time about letting them go for good.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! Great post, I completely understand. My own toddler invokes those feelings in me too. Casey's right. This post actually is perfect for this week's Spin Cycle. If you would like to be linked up, let me know!

Manager Mom said...

We spent the day at a waterpark today. I took my 7 year old girl to a water attraction with stairs and slides and multiple levels. I told her that if we got seperated that we should meet at a that looked like a giant toadstool.

I tried to follow her through the maze up to the waterslides but I got a spray of water dumped on my head and got discombobulated. I lost sight of her. I ran to the top of the slide, and completely ignored the lifeguard who was trying to tell me it wasn't yet my turn, because I was desperate to catch up with her.

I got to the bottom and she wasn't there. I ran through the water sprays, the misting guns, and the showers, screaming her name. I felt a curious mixture of terror and disbelief.

I went to the mushroom and about a minute later, saw her skipping happily towards me. I scooped her up and hugged her tight, and I told her how glad I was that she found me.

"But you told me to meet at the mushroom, Mommy. So that's what I did. I knew that what you told me was important."

I guess you just try to teach them the best that you can and hope some of the stuff sticks.

Anonymous said...

I have to mention are wickedly talented.. I love how I feel as if I am there.. It is so hard to let go.. to let them grow.. and I truly do not think it gets easier..

Unknown said...

It's not for a long while though so relish is these moments while you can. : )

(p.s. I think you are already doing that!)

tommie said...

First, I hope you know you have an amazing gift of expressing your thoughts...putting them into words on keyboard.. but you know what i mean!

With kids at ages 4 and 5, I don't know that these feelings are gone yet. I continually second guess things....can Liv (age 4) go outside in her jammies or undies (My opinion is HELL NO!...what is some freak is in the neighborhood!) what if ...well the scenarios are endless....but I am always second guessing myself.

Momisodes said...

I was just thinking these same thoughts today about my daughter. So beautifully put. Often times the reeling fear consumes me, far more quickly than it takes for me to let them go.

p.s. I'm guilty of the breathing check, too :)

KG said...

Aww. What a sweet post.

Ok - so this isn't sweet at all, and is sorta lame, but Sumo NEVER looks back at me when he runs away. He just sort of runs away in that "the hell with you people" kind of way.

Oh well - at least I can still run faster than he can at this point.

Karen MEG said...

I used to do the breathing check all the time!
Worry, comes with the territory of course. Somedays you wish they could just remain glued to your hip at all times. Learning to let go, let them explore and establish their independence is the toughest part. I try not to think too much about them getting into their teen years... to be honest, I'm petrified.
Wonderfully written!

Aracely said...

Bravo Friend.

My 4 year old recently revealed he's going to live with us forever... if I can get him to convince his brothers to do the same I should be golden.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I still do the breath checking and Jonathan sleeps so soundly sometimes. Plus, he does this thing where he holds his breath and then lets it creeps me right out. I think he is never going to breath again. his dad does it too.

I love the part you wrote about as soon as you knew you were pregnant..and all the stuff that went with had fear.

I can so relate to that.

Great, inspiring writing.

April said...

Oh, my kids hate it when I try to tickle them awake! I've stopped doing that now.

I loved your line about practicality becoming an afterthought - you sound like my mother!

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful. I am reassured somehow by the thought that this fear, this restless checking for breath, will never leave me.

You give me such excitement and hope for what is to come for us. Such a great post!

Unknown said...

Just when you get comfortable with where they are they find a new way to make you scared and nervous about where they are heading to the is never ending. We will be worried and scared for them until the day WE die.

Anonymous said...

You are really letting it all out lately. You were right to have asked for the deep stuff. It's very hard to let them get a little more manly. One of my friends asked me when I'd stop putting Knute's name on his clothes and I was puzzled. Apparently, I forgot crazed sickos could call him by name & he'd just think he knew them. My heart really dropped at the thought. Do we have to worry about everything?

Anonymous said...

Honey, those are my fears too. All the time. And I check that he is breathing. All the time. I have to be able to hear him at night. You are a Mom, and that is what we do.

Unknown said...

"I fear accidents and illness. I fear strangers who only mean him harm. I fear fate and nature. I fear not being there . . . waiting. Watching. Protecting."

Me too! A million times.

Unknown said...

A father's fears, too, though perhaps not as keenly felt. Fathers don't have, cannot possibly have, the same kind of connection. They didn't grow that baby in their tummy. They didn't give birth to that baby. They didn't nurse that baby with their breasts. (I know, some Moms don't - just go with it.) The point is that Moms have a much deeper and more penetrating connection with their children than do Dads. Dad's are more concerned with futures, with pride of accomplishment - for both child and himself - the 'Look what I made' thing. But I, like every other Dad I know, would lay down my life for my wife and my children. I know that's not every father. But it's every Dad.

Laural Out Loud said...

I know that fear. Every parent knows that fear. It may not be logical, or practical, but it's normal. And 100% acceptable. It's what makes us such great mothers, that desire to protect our children and teach them how to protect themselves. Lovely post.

ConverseMomma said...

I wish I could just put them in a bubble, take them out for hugs and kisses, and then put them back. It would certainly be helpful for my worried heart.

Lisa said...

So, so true. There is no love that can compare with the love you have for your children....beautifully written!

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

Yup, this is all true. But I try to remind myself that I will deal with that if and when it happens and for now I will just enjoy the ride.

This motherhood gig is pretty great. Hard but great.

Oh and you might change you mind a bit about letting him go when he starts back talking ;-)

Cecily R said...

I get this...OH how I get this!! We've discussed this very topic. That balance is such a hard part of motherhood! There are days when I have to fight the urge to just gather all my kids up, lock the doors and not let anything in. I know it's not rational or healthy, but I HATE the thought of them being hurt or sad for any reason.

I really hope Karen is right and that they DO keep running back. I need that. :)

the mama bird diaries said...

I have never known real fear until I become a mother. It can be overwhelming.

Momo Fali said...

Oh sweetie, I hear you. I am always a bundle of nerves. We've almost lost our son twice (once to a strep pneumo infection and once to complications after one of his eight surgeries). I lost an 11 month old niece, a three year old was run over and killed at our preschool, and my son's five year old friend died last summer. I am always fearful. Yet, I let my kids go as much as I can. To let them be kids, so that THEY don't live in fear. It's a very fine line.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

This is just gorgeous darling. You have expressed it perfectly. How many times have I held my hand on teeny chest or under little nose to check for life.
Oh the balancing that is motherhood, keeping that fear in check, finding the courage to let them run and soar...

Anonymous said...

"i fear fate..."

yes indeed.
me too.

just jamie said...

This was AMAZING. I don't think there's a mother around who hasn't had these thoughts, however, you seemed to capture them so eloquently, and with such heartfelt depth. Absolutely perfect! The words, the picture, the emotion...!

Just B said...

This one got me--in so many ways. I know that feeling that creeps into those otherwise lovely, innocent moments.

Beautifully written.

Thanks for your encouragement on one of my earlier (whiny)posts:-)

Wineplz said...

I have the same fears. When I don't hear from one or both of the kids by a certain time of the morning, instead of being grateful that they slept in, I get frantic wondering if something happened to them during the night. Crazy, I know. But it's the truth.

Woman in a Window said...

It's to utilize that fear to be smart and then to push it away so that they don't see it. If they see it it'll screw with their minds. Their fear will begin where ours began at Motherhood. It's been a tricky thing for me but I'm getting better.

Lovely images here...

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