When I got back there were small white eggs hatching. Little baby puff balls huddled up close to mom. Some lay still, not moving or breathing. I moved in for a closer look, stuck my hand in the box. The mama bird that had looked near death sprang into action with a high pitched cry and a beak that was made for hurting things. I was stunned by the strength she possessed, but knew that's how a parent reacts when its children appear to be in danger.
I awoke from the dream, with the weight of worry on my heart. Like the bird when my maternal instinct kicks in I'm ready and willing to attack.
It seems lately there has been a lot of worry going on in the lives of parents I know. Some of it is the hand-wringing, floor pacing kind of anxiety that gnaws at your gut. Some of it is the general malaise that comes from knowing there's nothing much that can done but you're uncomfortable just waiting. For me, worry is what fills up the waiting spaces.
I recently got an email that had undoubtedly been around the world a couple thousand times. It asked the question, how long do you worry about your kids? From the moment our children are born, to the time they first teeter on their own two feet, the world is theirs just begging to be explored. From learning how to ride a bike, being a school patrol person, figuring out the principles of geometry, getting a driver's license, going away to college, having their heart broken to signing a lease of their first apartment, a parent must develop a sixth (7th, 8th, 9th?) sense about how far to let go and how long to hold on. More than one child? Double or triple the ability to fly into action if needed. I'm not saying parenting is all about seeing boogy men behind every corner, or dreading every minute your child is out of your sight. If excitement and pride at seeing your child grow and succeed in life is like the salt in parenthood stew, then concern/worry is the pepper.
Then come grandchildren. And reports of cyber bullying, texting while driving, teen pregnancy on the rise, school shootings and ..... The only thing worse than seeing your child in trouble is seeing your child's child with a hands off posture getting ready to jump of a cliff. Learning to fly solo is an individual job. Like the Arctic Falcon I saw on a Nature show last week, all Grammy can do is stand nearby and squawk encouragement (and prayers).
Then, if you are lucky, comes the time when the child/parent roles are reversed. The baton is passed backward instead of forward. When your mother or father becomes weakened by age or illness (or both) and you suddenly realize (s)he is no longer invincible. Fear of losing the one who has always been there no matter what becomes a constant companion. Concern for their well-being is tinged with the unpleasant idea of becoming an orphan. Will this be the day becomes a silent mantra as you go about the busy-ness of caregiving.
Long gone are the days of living in a fight or flight state. There are no saber-tooth tigers to fend off. We don't have to live in a state of fear. We have to learn to trust in ourselves, in those entrusted to our care and to a higher power. To live in a stress-filled world, we must develop an attitude of gratitude for the joys that each day brings to combat a fear of the unknown and just waiting to happen. We must nurture ourselves the way we would care for others. Like the sequined lady on the high wire we must set an example of courage, putting one foot gingerly in front of the other, all the time looking forward, not down. For me that's easier said than done.
Wishing for you enough bubble wrap to surround the ones you love,
Merry ME, aka The Worry Wort