Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Not the Only One

At an AP playgroup last week, another mother surprised me with her question to the group. She wanted to know if any of us ever had "those flashes" when you see something bad happening, some absurd yet horrifying accident involving your child. The flash (a perfect description, I think) does not actually happen, but catches you off guard and leaves you working to breathe, and let it go.

Who knew I wasn't the only one?

I thought these flashes must be a consequence of my environment, my own upbringing, the way my mind works... Who knew this happens to, maybe not all, but so many mothers?

Sitting together at the bottom of the stairs, I see her toppling, head first into the hard floor below. Buckling her into her car seat, I'm seized by an image of a car slamming into the passenger door and can feel the scream in my throat. Holding her on my hip, while I scramble eggs on the stove, a scene plays through my mind where she reaches down and grabs hold of the hot pan in her small, tender fist.

All these weird, startling, heart-stopping images- they're rare but powerful. They happen in seconds, bursting through my brain like a train through a house, racing through as speedily and leaving just as much damage to my mental interior, and wrecking my heart entirely. Even writing about them, my chest tightens and I realize I'm holding my breath. I'm left with the question: do these thoughts serve me?

I watch Dory and see a natural confidence, an enthusiasm for exploration and adventure radiating from her. She's bold and brave. She loves to stand in the rocking chair, lean forward, look over the edge and then pull back, while I watch from the floor. She loves to walk down the stairs, holding an adult's hands. She loves to stroll the aisles of the grocery store, and run around the park, always glancing back to check Matt or I are there. I've realized, she's adventurous, not stupid. She doesn't want to fall out of the chair, she doesn't want to get lost at the park, she is as aware of us as we are of her, most of the time.

So I am trying to keep my mouth shut. This is not easy. I could, if I put even a little effort into it, see terrors at every corner. I could be frightened and worried constantly. I could voice my concern all the time, turning my worry into the soundtrack of our lives and making both of us tense and anxious. But watching her, I know, that isn't the path I want to guide her down. I admire her outgoing and brave soul. Bumps happen. Bruises, hurts, tears. They all happen. But "bones heal faster than timidity and fearfulness" Dr. Cohen points out in Playful Parenting and that's the mindset I want to develop.

Back to these flashes. I don't think they're here to drive me crazy. I don't think their purpose is to send me rushing to the nearest padded room with Dory tossed, fireman-style, over my shoulder, where we can wait out all the dangers. I'm choosing to see them as the question my mind poses: where are you right now? Are you present? Are you HERE?

Often yes, sometimes no. But maybe those flashes, maybe they're built into the DNA, and maybe their very existence is Nature's way of keeping us mothers aware. We are not all-knowing. We cannot be all places at once. We cannot stop every little danger. But can I be totally available, physically and mentally, when she and I are together? Can I, with effort (such effort for a million-thoughts-a-moment person like myself), be just here, just now, with her, watching, enjoying and, yes, keeping an eye out, supporting her exploration of this big, bright world around her?

Maybe I'm reaching. Maybe it's a stretch. But so far, everything I've read about Mother Nature, from wanting to breastfeed my child to her sleeping cuddled up next to me, has been true. We're made with these instincts. They might be trained or cajoled or bullied out of us over time, but I believe we are born with knowledge of how to care for our children.

And I've decided to think these flashes are part of it. I've decided to make friends with them, to remember to breathe when they happen, and to let them pass. And to ask myself, when one has seized hold of me and then bolted just as abruptly as it came- Where am I right now?

Whatever the reason, its always so reassuring to know I'm not the only one.

1 comment:

Rubys & Purls said...

Found you yesterday through Ravelry and I would like to thank you for your open and frank posts on Motherhood. I have an almost 5 month old little boy. He's a breastfeed, bright little guy, who we are trying to give the best start we possibly can.

I have the same types of flashes/thoughts and I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. Thanks for the new perspective, that these thoughts are to make sure we are HERE, in the moment. :)