Friday, September 17, 2010

It's a jungle out there!

I think every mother remembers those first days of heart-stopping panic every time her newborn snuffled or grunted in his or her sleep. Or, paradoxically, whenever the infant slept quietly and peacefully, too silently. I don't know that that feeling ever entirely disappears.

In his eloquent and heart-breaking memoir, "What is the What," Dave Eggers describes (at least twice) young boys being attacked by wild cats (sorry; I can't remember just what kind of cat -- leopard? tiger?), whisked into the jungle and eaten, like a character from The Jungle Book. It happened in the blink of an eye. And, remember, this is a memoir: it is true. Not a myth or a cautionary tale or a Disney cartoon with a happy ending.

While I read the book, I thought, "Oh my goodness. Can you imagine ever taking your eyes off your children when you live in an honest-to-god jungle?" Because, in point of fact, I already worry about my kids as if there were indeed a tiger stalking them at every turn.

This is partly because I'm generally an anxious person, but also because each of my children has cheated death at least once -- despite my slightly neurotic surveillance of them. You may call it luck (bad luck!), guardian angels or, well, I don't know what else you would call it (though I did have a third one in mind when I started typing this sentence). But the fact is, if the worst had come to pass, I would be a childless mother right now.

Think I'm exaggerating? I don't think so.

At the age of four, one child decided to pretend to be a kitten. She strung a cord around her neck, attached it to her bedpost and purred her way to sleep. When Steve checked on her later, the cord was so tight that he could barely fit his finger between it and her neck, because she had rolled around in her sleep.

One day at the cottage, Steve was moving rocks by the shore, when one child trumpeted, "Oh, look, he's swimming!" One of our toddlers - within arm's reach, mind you - had lost his balance in the lake and was trying unsuccessfully to right himself.

And, alarmingly, I could go on. Each of our children has a story.

My point is, there really are tigers out there - of our own making or beyond our control. Steve and I count ourselves blessed every single day that we spend with our children.

One of our therapists was of the opinion that none of this was coincidental or accidental, that we were somehow cursed or, worse, neglectful parents. But I really don't think so. I think that if you talk to any parent of an adult child, you will hear stories of "near misses," of rescues, and of guardian angels. It might be allergies or experimenting with drugs, or car accidents, or congenital disease ... you get the picture. And, I'm willing to bet, where they are not "near misses," they are actual tragedies.

So what's a worried mama to do? Here's my [unsolicited] advice to other mothers:
  • Trust your gut. If you have a "funny feeling" that something just isn't right? Listen to it. Let your kids call you overprotective, let their friends (or their friends' parents) call you neurotic.
  • Have faith. I've mentioned before that I believe in miracles and in angels. You may believe that "it takes a village." Either way, we just have to trust that we are not the only ones caring for our children.
Today, as I drove Brian home from school, I road-raged aloud about some teenagers walking blithely down the middle of our residential street, not disturbed by my ton of metal bearing down on them. Then I apologized to Brian for complaining.

"It's okay," he said. "You're a mom." I'm glad he understands.

P.S. A dear, old friend of ours, now deceased, used to bless all infants he met as follows: "May you never be eaten by tigers." To my knowledge, his blessing never failed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What did you think? Any comments?

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...