late-night worries come in all sizes
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.
Dangers come in all shapes and sizes. I think each generation has its own fears and tears. Perhaps the illusions that comes with the what we perceive as “advancements’ lull us all into thinking that our children are safer than in years past…..but I don’t think so. Grimm’s fairy tales were pretty grim and written so long ago. I loved my childhood, loved my time growing up…but if I stop to remember the sub-memories, well there was also much sadness and turmoil. I just don’t keep it on surface. It is packed away. My great grandparents had little, lost babies and older children, faced war and poverty, sent children to far off countries at young ages. My grandparents struggled through the depression and sent their 18 year old boys off to fight in Europe. My parents had peace time, but sent children off to the 60’s and 70’s and watch their values go up in smoke with all the “revolution” of that time. I guess like many parents, from any time, we lay awake at night and worry. Someone once told me “A parent is as happy as her least happy child”……that is quite true. I am glad that there are parents that care that much, that worry that much, that love that much. A bigger sadness would be the child who has now one to care or worry….won’t find any of those parents pulling up to this table! Blessings on all worried moms and dads – there we find love yet also laughter and thanksgiving when the burdens are lifted.
lamcal, you are magnificent. the way you put it in historical personal context, just took my breath away……..held up against those heartaches ours are hard to be so afraid of…….good thing i wasn’t blogging if i’d had to send my boys off to war. lord, these fingers never woulda stopped typing. not till the soldier came home. someone i once loved–still love, actually–once told me, kid you have a real sense of history. i now say that to you, beautiful lamcal. and yes the saddest story of all is the one told by the child who hasn’t got a parent with ear pressed up against the door, listening for every scratch of the pen and shift on the nightsheets. and finally bless the fact that the good souls who pull up here ARE the ones who, when need be, worry the night away. but only in the name of love. holy love……thanks for your comforting, now and last week. you are a wise one to lean on….and i did when i needed it most…xo
i remember well the group that met in our middle school locker room, “saten’s little sisters,” and how they scared me. Those were hard days to walk in and go through the motions for gym class. Luckily it turned out that the name of the group was the scariest part about them and they really caused no harm.The stories I read today though where words become realized is causing me to ask how and why do our youth feel such despair and rage at ayoung age. May love find these hurt souls who use big words and cause unthinkable threats. May your tall one and others always have someone older to turn to with both their hopes and their fears. may the children and teens in this city be safe tonight
Is it any wonder that there is such ugliness among youth? So much of entertainment is mean-spirited and mocking (starting with the mainstream Simpsons and Daily Show) or loud, crude and rude. Combine this with a solitary culture where we in the affluent US are not interacting frequently in person as a community going about our business with elders, youngers, in-betweeners, merchants, educators, service providers, but instead with virtual 2-dimension screen sources that lack nuance and human warmth. I fear we are all getting away from human interaction where we hone our social/emotional intelligence. There is new research that shows that US youth have a hard time discerning subtle facial and body language cues that are understood by US elders and by youth in other cultures with greater sensitivity to humans in the flesh..I am sorry for the experiences of your sons. Glad they have you to help them put it in context and navigate.
A parent is always on the job, no matter how old the child is. My mama still prays for us … all grown-ups with children of our own, even grandchildren. As my girls grow older, I find that I long for the days when they slept in cribs and drank from sippy cups. Even then I found myself slipping into their rooms to peer into the sleeping beds to make sure they were safe and warm.These days, the world is much different than when I was a kid. We all know the stories … “mean girls” wrote nasty stuff about the girls they didn’t like on the bathroom stalls … now they post it on-line for all to see and read, regardless of truth or fact. Boys settled their disputes by throwing punches, not with hate groups or threats.I am, by nature, one who worries about far too many things. I thank God that He sees what I can’t, hears what I can’t hear, and can be in places I can’t be. Every day I pray for my girls’ protection … body, soul & spirit, and ask Him for the grace and wisdom to handle it all. This parent thing … not for sissies. Wear that cape with pride, dear bam, and never apologize for being the best mom ever. Remember, God takes excellent notes.
dearest pjv, i am not anything close to the best mom ever, only trying to stay out of the pitfalls that threaten to–and do–swallow me from time to time. i did find, as in all crises in life, that our most condensed selves come forth, as we focus all of our energies and all of our powers to attend to the matter at hand. and, maybe, because we’re converging our efforts, ignoring all the usual distractions, we do somehow climb unclimbable hills. what was interesting last week was how, in the face of forces i couldn’t ultimately control, i found myself liberally doling out those little tendernesses, the little things mothers do, when all else might not matter. i was bringing cups of tea, and cut-up apples to that desk up above. i was stirring oatmeal and sizzling french toast–as if a hearty breakfast could keep the bad guys away. it’s powerful how fiercely and thoroughly you feel the love in your heart when someone you love is threatened. they say love–like God–is an invisible thing. but, oh Lord, i can feel it washing over and through me. might not have shape, but it sure does have depth and dimension. it’s both an ocean inside and a trickling stream. last week, i felt all of it, all of the time.
Amen to “parenting not for sissies” …. It is absolutely amazing how fierce even an otherwise frail momma can be when her ‘cub’ is in danger (real or percieved is a mother’s right to descern, I believe) No mountain too high, no river too wide, no bully too big……… Threaten me, threaten my possessions (just stuff), but NEVER threaten the welfare of my children….. Without my faith in God I don’t know how to do it, raise children in this crazy world….. I DO know that I will risk anything/eveything for my kids… They are the gifts God has chosen to bless me with and He is the one I will answer to…. not the neighbors, the school officials, the friends who may poo-poo my ‘reacting’ to something they perceive as ‘not serious’……… But at day’s end I do have to accept that the world is a dangerous place, a very dangerous place, and I can only do so much…. I can’t control what things my children may face, I can only, hopefully, equip them to the best of my ability for facing those things…. and that I guess that is where the super-momma cape comes in……..WOW, can you imagine how tattered and torn up these capes will be by the time we’re through?? and that will be the day we take our last breath…….. I hope mine is absolutely threadbare…………….
threadbare…….what a beautiful line. xoxoxoxoxyou are fierce, vam-O. in the very best way. xoxo
Parenting is as on-going commitment, one that doesn’t ever end. And, yes, as my own mother told me, the older your children get, the bigger the problems are. Circumstances like you describe were unimaginable when I was in high school. Newer technologies, as we know, lead to newer problems. I wish I had an answer for your question. I don’t know what can possibly be done to protect children from some of these on-line threats and problems. But I’m sure that in this post-Columbine world, most school administrators do act quickly to make sure nothing will happen, to assure the safety of our children. Also, I do believe in the concept of technology. I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to living without some of what I take for granted today. But, when good things are used for bad purposes, the resultant damage can be immense. I do pray that this situation is de-fused before it goes any further. In some ways, what’s going on is a life lesson for your son. The world beyond adolescence is dismal and nasty. Rude and obnoxious people are present in work places and life. But, threatening people do fall into a different category. I’m sure that you will use your cape and your super mom powers to do all that you can to keep him safe, to protect him from so much evil at a young age. That is what moms do. The hell hole that is high school will some day be a memory. Hopefully, this one chapter will be forgotten, replaced by better memories of happy times. Good luck to all of you!
That’s right vam & bam … anybody that messes with my kids better be prepared to deal with ME!