The other day, I was reading one of these funny books on parenting. Amongst many advices that the author gave (in a less funny part of the book) was a list of all the things we should do while we still can – carry our child, kiss him, embarrass him – before he or she will not want us to do these or be too old for these, and these aspects of being a parent would be over with this child.
While I was reading this, my son was playing on his own in the same room, a play-list of videos of French songs in the background, and I felt afraid, an emotion I am very familiar with.
Fear is a constant companion of the mum, I believe, and it is surely one of mine. As such, I could even say that I am a “naturally” anxious person. Though I have always been a little anxious, during the pregnancy things went up to a whole new level. I was afraid of what I ate, of going out, of walking for too long and too far, of taking the plane or the car, that the baby would have defects. Basically, I was afraid of losing him and not doing the right things, absolutely all the time. In the end I had to get help for this.
After his birth and once my hormone levels went back to normal, things got slightly easier. But I was still afraid. Afraid he wasn’t growing well, afraid he didn’t get enough milk, or wasn’t sleeping enough, afraid he would catch diseases.
Fears just kept adding themselves to the pile. The vaccinations. That he would fall in the stairs. Hurt himself on the balcony. Fall from the couch, not looking at what he is doing. Get sick. Not eat enough, or too much, or too sweet. Doesn’t talk enough. Too much screen time for his eyes and his brain. That he would fall playing with his dad, or using his walker. That he could lose us…
In a less dramatic way, but still very frightening to me, I also worry that I will miss out on him. That I will miss the important milestones by not being aware or present in mind at those moments. That he will grow too fast (it is already happening). Afraid that I am not spending enough quality time with him – him alone in the living room while I read… And books and articles reminding me that “they grow so fast!” are just not helping.
My son is healthy as we also are with my husband. We have a good house, if a little small. My husband has a good work. We have family, who, if they are a bit far, could still help us if we needed help. Things are good, and I am afraid. And while fear can be useful, to prepare ourselves and to be careful, it turns out that constant background fear is actually paralysing, debilitating, until I find myself enable to care for my son at times, and unable to take basic decisions – should we go out this afternoon? Maybe not.
The last time I remember not being afraid at all, at least for a moment, was already a few months back. We were the three of us, listening to music one evening before our son’s birthday, and there was a perfect moment there where I remember feeling amazingly happy. No cloud, just joy. Wondering what had happened, what the difference was, I realized that for just that moment I hadn’t been afraid. Only enjoying.
Later that night, I sat there, watching my son play with his dad, afraid, always. Afraid of what? That he would hurt himself, that he would grow too fast, or not well, that I would finally lose it for good one day. Thinking of all that I could do to protect him and us. Terrified, paralysed. Until lightning stroke. I cannot live that way all the time. I cannot waste more time and spoil happy moments with unnecessary, non-useful, if not unrealistic, fears. I cannot take more decisions based on fear – decisions and actions, such as playing with my son or taking him to the playground, should be based on hope for joy, not on the fear that he will grow too fast.
I also cannot bear the thought of transferring my fears to him, of risking to paralyse him, for nothing. For what could possibly happen, but might not, ever, happen, or not the way I think they will anyway. He should have the possibility to be free of my worries, or in Teri Carter’s words: “This is what normal people are like, I think, and this is what I envy: the luxury of true spontaneity. The lack of expectation of impending disaster. How comforting it must be to never imagine and imagine and imagine such an event. The lack of worry and anticipation. The lack of mentally creating and dreading what-might-be.“ I find it hard to believe that people can really be free of worries that way, but maybe it is true for some, and it would be great if it could become true for me and for him.
Worrying will not stop things from happening, as being afraid of something will not make it happen. I cannot ignore my fears -it is like a pressurized container, after a while it blows up- but I’m doing my best to work on them. One by one leave them behind. To work on today. Now. Enjoy. Believe that tomorrow will come. Because it usually does.