The two most intense emotions that come with being a parent are fear and love.
People talk about the love all the time, and it’s great, that love unlike anything else.
But the fear, not so much. No one tells you about that though it is just as intense and powerful.
The fear that Bad Things will happen to your kids.
Not the regular, everyday bad things that do happen: broken bones, scrapes, small hurts, being picked on, a friend betraying them, an adult letting them down, things of that caliber.
Those things happen.
They’re basically growing pains of life, bad but just part of the process.
These are not the Bad Things that parents fear deep down inside. Your child getting lost, abducted, or kidnapped, taken. Your child being maimed in a car accident or killed or getting an incurable cancer or debilitating disease.
Things that happen but not that often; terrible, horrible, mostly unlikely things. Things we can’t prevent, fix, or control.
You get a small taste of it in the store when you turn away from your toddler; you turn back seconds later and they’re gone.
Empty space where your precious little person was. Your stomach drops, your heart pounds, time stops, you can’t breath. Panic.
Fear seizes you…until you see those mischievous little feet poking out from the bottom of a nearby clothing rack. Relief floods through you and suddenly you can function again.
But that’s just a snippet of the fear that hovers beneath the surface of every parent all the time. The proverbial tip of the iceberg. An iceberg with the power to sink the Titanic and more.
This fear lurks at the back of my mind all the time. I push it aside, keep it at a low level buzz, so that I can remain a functional human being.
I’m pretty sure this is normal but maybe not. Maybe I’m more paranoid than most. But just because Bad Things haven’t happened yet doesn’t mean they won’t or can’t.
That’s a true story.
Like all decent parents I do my best to protect my kids and keep them safe. That’s not to say I don’t let them learn some of life’s lessons the hard way (really how else does a person ever learn anything?) but I look for every opportunity to reduce the chances of those big Bad Things from happening. I don’t let my eleven year old walk to town by herself….even though it’s close and a small town and she’d probably be fine. But maybe she wouldn’t. Who knows?
You never really know. That’s where the fear comes from.
Divorce has been a defining factor in our family life the past couple years. It’s a bad thing that has happened to my kids; I’m not sure if it’s one of the Bad Things.
Not being a child of divorce I don’t really know what they’re going through. Sometimes I wish I was so I’d have some idea, some clue of how they really feel, how bad this is for them.
It’s probably better not to know.
I do know that divorce has changed my children in a way that’s not positive.
A friend I’ve had since childhood, who’s known my kids their entire lives, commented that they’re different now. They’re more reserved, less sure of themselves, less comfortable than they were before all this happened. They’re walking through life on eggshells right now, being careful not to make a wrong move, not knowing who they’re going to upset.
She didn’t say it but I am at least partially to blame for that. I chose this. The divorce was “my decision”.
The irony of it is that they were the deciding factor in that decision.
I didn’t want my kids to learn or think it was acceptable to treat someone they love, or any human being really, that way. I didn’t want them to be part of a cycle that was spiraling through generations of a family.
Repeating and destroying.
It’s not okay.
Not for my kids and ultimately not for me.
But I did it for the kids, pulled the plug on a lifelong commitment after just over a decade.
It’s not a choice I made lightly.
And I didn’t know it would be like this.
I never fathomed that I would loose so much of them, have half their lives hacked from me like a limb in a medieval battle. It was one of my worst fears come true and I was totally unprepared for it. I’m the good parent, the one who’s been with them their whole lives. He had been barely a spectator at best and much worse than that at times.
Everyone knew it, surely the courts would see it.
Of course the kids love him and wanted time with him; he’s their dad. I understand that. I didn’t want to or think I was going to take them from him but I thought I’d be able to give them the stability, security, the safety that I’d worked my whole adult life to provide for them.
I thought wrong.
As far as divorces go it was not a good one.
Monday afternoon when I woke up it was storming. The tornado sirens had just stopped going off. Mondays are one of the two afternoons of their dad’s parenting time week that I pick the kids up from school.
I go to the preschool first then to the middle school where all the others are bussed.
When I got to the preschool I found out the school was on tornado warning lock down. Parents were allowed to take their kids or they could wait in the small windowless room with them until the warning was lifted. It had about twenty minutes left. An e-mail had come in from the other school saying they too were on tornado lock down and kids were not being released yet. I stayed with my youngest at the preschool for part of the time then left with him.
Another e-mail came through saying the warning had been extended another half hour. My older kids were stuck at their respective schools huddled in a windowless hallway.
As I drove to the other school to wait I began to feel worried, not that my kids would actually be caught in a tornado but about them being scared that they would.
My nine year old is afraid of tornados among other things. It’s an anxiety producing fear that wakes him up some nights and keeps him awake others.
Tornados. Fires. Car accidents. Abandonment.
Bad Things, things beyond his control, things that seldom happen but are entirely feasible.
This broad sweeping anxiety is one of the changes this past year of stress has yielded in him.
I try to make him feel safe when I’m with him, calm him when the fear flairs up, reassure him that everyone he loves is okay.
I try but I understand, I know this fear all too well.