We had a little drama this morning. Elias participated in the Nursery Rhyme Olympics at preschool this morning, so my work day was going to be all messed up. In an effort to stay ahead of things, I got up earlier than usual this morning and locked myself in my office before the boys got out of bed.
Elias, when he got out of bed, said hello to his papa and then trotted on through the kitchen, intent on giving me the standard good morning hug in our bed. I wasn’t there. So he checked the garage. My car was there, so I should have been in the house. He turned to his papa with the beginnings of alarm, and said, “Where is Mama?”
Paul, trying as instructed to keep the boys out of my hair for half an hour, replied, “I don’t know, buddy.”
And Elias immediately sobbed, “Did she DIE?!?!?”
Even Paul couldn’t find it in his heart to tease him after that. He unlocked the office right away and Elias got enough hugs and pats to stop crying and get ready for school.
The boys have left off the constant questions about people dying and what happens afterward and whether they come back and when we can visit. I guess I’d been thinking they were done, not with grief and memories, but with the anxiety. Obviously not.
Life has been pretty normal, whatever that means, at this house for some time now, and still that question was just under the surface. Even at not-quite-five, he knows that something awful could happen right out of the clear blue sky. He’s scared.
And, I confess … me too.
I feel like I should be just fine. Things are fine. We have the usual stuff, like the morning rush out the door being consistently and comprehensively hideous, but there is really nothing bad happening right now. So naturally, I am inventing terrible troubles right around the corner. If it’s close to evening and I hear a siren, I am instantly sure that Paul was in a fatal traffic accident. If the hospital calls to remind me of an appointment, I see the phone number and decide that they have found a report from a recent throat culture and Levi is culturing some really awful bacteria that requires an inpatient visit. (I think I may have mentioned before that my relationship with logic suffers periodic estrangements.)
So I’m behaving pretty much the same way as my preschooler. Super.
Martin Luther allegedly said that while we can’t stop the birds from flying over our heads, we can keep them from building nests in our hair. He was referring to temptation, but I think it works for anxiety, too. Until they develop a safe and effective procedure for personality transplants, I am not going to stop being a neurotic worrywart. But, I think, I don’t have to let it run me.
I’m finding as I stumble along in parenting that I often really don’t want to raise my children to behave like I do. I would like them to be much better at life than I am. And so I have to learn lessons to figure out how to impart them. I expect that I will fail at this more often than not, and pass on a lot of my own issues to the next generation. (Sorry, kids. Love ya!)
When Elias encounters the unexpected, I’d like him to be able to be flexible and curious (and possibly cautious, depending on the situation) instead of panicked. That probably means I need to do that myself. I’ll let you know how it goes.