Posted on | August 24, 2012 | 4 Comments
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a tentative sort of person.
I keep three cars lengths between me and the car in front of me on the highway, I never ride in a car without my seat belt, and I always slow down for school zones. I don’t participate in highly charged debates, I excuse myself from situations which could result in anyone’s anger, and I find myself saying “Can’t we all just get along” like it’s the prize at the bottom of my cereal box. I floss. I brush. I don’t sit on strange toilet seats. I am a follow the rules, don’t stray from the lines, please make sure no one’s feathers are at all ruffled kind of girl.
And it stems, primarily, from the cluster of fears that sit firmly on my shoulder: the fear that my opinion isn’t strong enough, the fear of repercussions, the fear of being talked about behind my back. I fear the unexpected, the unknown, the un-allowed.
I am, by nature or nurture, a fearful person.
And since I became a mother, my fears have multiplied and reproduced. They have morphed into a many-headed monster that perches on my shoulder, whispering to me of all the things that could go wrong at any given time.
When J was first born, I was scared all the time. I was terrified he wouldn’t wake up when he closed his eyes. I was chased and haunted and taunted by thoughts of him falling from my arms onto the concrete or getting his tiny head stuck in the crib rails. I learned to tuck in, slow down, and scale back, reminding myself that I could only do the best I could do, whispering to myself that what will happen will happen. I learned to feed the beast on my shoulder in the dark, silent hours when I paced the floors in the absence of sleep, never allowing it to raise it’s head in sunlight.
As J grew, as he grows, my fears grow with him, no longer confined to the dreamless hours in the middle of the night, but stepping out into daylight for all the world to see. I send him to daycare and grill the teachers the day after he comes home and says some strange man had a snake in his pants (Turns out it was a Nature Center visitor and yes, he had an ACTUAL snake in his pocket). I tell him that when he says “Stop” whatever someone is doing to him should be stopped immediately because only he has control over his body. I remind, I reprimand, I redefine his parameters.
I spread my worry over him like a woven blanket and as I weave I fear, too, that I am sculpting and molding him into a fearful child. The monster on my shoulder tells me it is good and right to give him the tools he needs to be strong. The monster on my shoulder reminds me that evil happens everyday, that horrors take place down the street, that children are wounded with each tick of the clock.
But the mother in me, oh how she suffers. Because how do you salvage the heart of a child, the sweet care-free nature of his mind, and the trusting spirit of his soul while building a fence around his body?
I am a fearful person.
And I am so scared I am doing it all wrong.