late-night worries come in all sizes

by bam

been burning lots of late-night kilowatts ’round here.

then, when the lights do go out, when the last ooze of lamplight is snuffed from the crack under the bedroom door, is snuffed from the last three steps up to where i try to sleep, i lay awake in the dark, worrying.

oh, don’t pity me, that’s not why i mention it. it’s a mama’s job, after all.

it’s just that what with all the late-night whisperings ’round here these past many days, well, i’ve been thinking an awful lot about this mama business. how it never quite eases. doesn’t let up.

seems the worries get bigger and deeper. what’s at stake matters more.

i remember back to the early days when the only thing keeping me up was the crying that some nights wouldn’t stop. the soft little lips, hungry lips, that nursed till the wee, wee hours.

and then how it was the run-away train, the one that charged through the darkness, came out from the corner, and in through the skylight. scared the wits, yes it did, out of my no-longer-little one, back when he was a boy.

and then, not so long after that, it was rough-and-tumble sorts of ordeals that, when you are the mother of a child with a tender heart, come only with tears. lots of tears.

these days the worries at my house come, at once, in two sets of sizes.

i go from one bedroom where the stories at bedtime are all about the boys who are teasing, singing lyrics ’bout boyfriends and girlfriends. where the whole class laughed along. and the substitute teacher did nothing. and the boy telling the story tells how he was near tears, but no one there noticed. and now, hours and hours after it all, he wants me to know. wants me to come to his rescue.

and i will.

because that’s what mamas do.

and, anyway, all week, he’s been watching me run through the house with my cape. the super-ma cape.

which, when you’re a grownup you know is a cloak of futility, though it looks supercharged, maybe, to a boy who’s gulping back tears. who doesn’t yet know: there’s only so much a mama can do.

though she can try. oh, she can try.

all week, i’ve been putting out fires. and lighting a few. trying to make sure, as best as i could, that a whole school was safe. and a boy i don’t even know. and a boy i call my own. a boy i love with all of my might.

what happened is, just like i said, worries come in all sizes. and last week, a big one arrived. the boy i love, the taller one, walked in the door and told me quite plainly that someone at school didn’t much like him. but that wasn’t all. he’d started a group, a hate group, he called it.

now i don’t know about you, but those there are words that explode in your head. you see great bursts of light. hear popping sounds. feel your arms, your hands start to shake.

you call the school. you tell them, in quite certain terms, that you are worried. and rather afraid.

you find out that, while once upon a time kids sat in classrooms, passed notes back and forth, nowadays they keep tabs on you, without even knowing you, from what you put on your internet page. they don’t like your politics, or your pictures, don’t like how you think? kaboom. they start up a hate group.

i’ve got a bit of a grasp on this now, after all of these days. but i tell you for a night or two there, i was worried as hell. couldn’t stop thinking, seeing scenes in my head. i’d been told a few facts, connected some dots. thought of columbine first. and then laurie dann, the mad gunwoman who burst in a school, killed a child and finally herself. right here on this very shore, north shore. leafy shore. shore that’s all dappled, shadow and light.

as if to hit me hard over the head, in case i’d not gulped the stunning fast-forward from baby-sized worries to ones that alarm every cell in your body, it so happened that the day all this unfolded was the day whole boxes of baby things were due to arrive, boxes from my house to far off in maine. where a baby is coming, where all will be pure, as it should be. as it was.

i couldn’t help thinking all that long day, just how quickly it changes. how one day you are worrying about diapers and colicky tummies, and then, in a blink, you are moving along, now thinking of kids whose scars you barely can fathom, how this is a world, frankly, that too often deals in what i’d call unfettered depravity. the vilest of words and of pictures.

i have a friend whose 7th-grade daughter got a note from a boy. he wanted to rape her, he wrote. this is the language.

just a month or two later, my firstborn comes home. tells me a story, tells me the words that were used. hate group and murder, the ones that alarmed me–and the school–most disturbingly deeply.

some nights when the dark settles in, i tiptoe from door to door of the bedrooms. i put my ear to the frame. i hear the sheets rustling, the pencil marks scratching.

it’s all i can do, really, to keep my two children safe. to stand there and listen and love them and pray.

some nights i wish i could lock all the doors, and keep out the bad guys. they come in all sizes, big ones and little ones.

they shake this house from rafter to rafter.

shake me too.

but i am their mama, so i tie on my cape and i lay there awake. i’ll not let a bad guy shatter the dreams of my children. so i’ll lay there all night, keeping watch on their doors, keeping worries and bad guys and run-away trains far, far away.

so help me, dear God.

are you, too, shocked by the stories our children bring home? are you afraid of so much that comes at them so soon? how in the world can all of us turn back this trash? i am taking a long hard look at what floods the lives of our children, what comes in on the internet, the language, the pictures. i’m lucky, perhaps, i write for a newspaper where i can dig for the truth and lay it out there for readers, in hopes that much comes out from the shadows, and we as grownups can begin to grasp what’s unfolding right under our noses. and what too often we don’t know, till the damage is done. time to wake up, i think. before too many sleepless nights pass us by.