People tell you a lot of stupid shit about being a parent. Things like: “You won’t sleep again for the next 18 years! Hahahaha!” That’s a lie and it’s mean. Stop telling new parents how awful it’s going to be, because it’s not. Parenting is good and normal and you get to keep being who you are and it does not replace everything you are. You just get amazing new people in your life for which you are wholly responsible. No big thing.
But there is this one thing…
My mother was right about something. She said “you’ll never know what it is to worry until you have kids.” And I didn’t. But now I do. Perhaps it’s just me and I need very expensive therapy, but I think it is because I am a mother.
It’s not just the news. My god, the news. There’s always a story about someone doing something awful to a child, and I read the headline, and I know I could not stand to read this article, and I click the link and I read the article, and I cannot stand it. And I try to push it out of my mind. It can take days to push it out of my mind.
But more than that, I vividly imagine, or “ideate”, the most horrible scenarios, complete fabrications of the mind. I cannot stop this. It happens most when I’m tired or stressed.
For example, this morning, after a very poor night’s sleep and some career stress, I started thinking about the troubling messages coming from North Korea lately, and how world leaders aren’t sure exactly how to proceed with this guy. And I thought about where we live and the likelihood that we could be a target if he has the equipment to get it that far. And what would I do when the bomb hit, if we survived the impact but knew it was over for us. And how would I hold my children. And how I would whisper that I love them over and over and over. And I cannot get off this train of thought.
Until I hear Husband picking up both Squeak and Elvis to carry them down the stairs. I imagine a misstep, all of them falling down the stairs, one of them dying, or all of them dying, or two badly injured and one possibly dead, but upon closer look, imagining the face more clearly, definitely dead. So I get up, because I’ll get no more sleep this morning.
Later, as we play outside, I imagine Elvis getting a little far from me and someone snatching him and driving off, and me running and running, finding herculean strength, pursuing until I collapsed. Or that female jogger definitely has a cell phone on her, so I mug her for the cell phone and dial 911 as I ran after the car running running running until I die of a heart attack, which probably would not take long.
It’s awful, I know. But I can’t help it. If I’m rested and happy, I get a lot less of it. I never ideate me hurting my family or myself, if you’re wondering. I just run through scenarios of something terrible happening to them.
Or to me. I think about what happens if I get on a plane and the plane goes down or there’s a car crash and how will that hurt my kids and how I don’t want to be a vague memory and a bunch of stories. Ditto with something happening to Husband.
So Husband and I have established a No-Tragedy Policy. It keeps the anxiety under control. I remind him of our policy from time to time, and he affirms the policy in no uncertain terms every time. And then I’m okay.
So if you’re thinking that our lawn might be infested with fire ants that will swarm, attack, and eat the baby, I can tell you that it’s not. First of all, I’ve already thought of that. And more importantly, we have a No-Tragedy Policy.