I'm slowly realizing that I'm never going to be able to turn it off. The Mom thing, I mean. I'm destined to worry about my kids forever, and I will always be the more emotional parent.
My son attended his first sleepover party this weekend. I guessed he'd have a problem falling asleep at the party, and I told him that he wasn't to make an issue about it--not to the parent in charge, not to me. I doubted he'd miss home and joked that he wasn't to call me to pick him up at 11 p.m.
We were already in bed when the phone rang around 10:30. My instant reaction was anxiety; my husband's was annoyance.
Our son called to say he'd eaten "way too much junk food," and didn't feel well at all. (Did I mention that self-control around food is not one of his strong suits?) He was nearly weepy when he spoke to me, and I tried to determine if he was sick and needed to be picked up. When my husband got on the phone, the kid was more matter-of-fact and got it under control. We hung up, and he stayed and worked it out on his own. (Score one for Dad.)
I never wanted to pick him up from the party. I didn't want him to be the kid that had to leave early. I didn't want him to miss the fun. And I really didn't want to have to make an hour-and-a-half drive to do it. I was pleased with his decision to stay, but the call wasn't the end of it for me.
I knew he probably was fine. But I lay there in bed with my own stomach ache, fretting about it. My husband said he could feel the "waves of discomfort" wafting across the bed at him. It was true. Rationally, I knew the kid was fine. But the Mom thing is not rational. It's instinctual, and you can't reason with it. All my body knew was that my child was upset, and I wasn't there.
My husband claimed to be concerned, but it was of a different sort. More rational, less emotional. It's always that way, and I envy it.
It reminded me of the few nights we let our infant son cry himself to sleep. We agreed it was the right decision, and that was enough for my husband. While the baby's cries tore me apart, my husband seemed untouched by them. Rationally, he knew the baby was fine, and that was enough. Rationally, I knew the baby was fine, but the Mom thing didn't care about rational. All it heard was crying, and all it wanted to do was make the crying stop.
I wish I could turn it off. I wish that I could be as rational about my children's well-being as I am about everything else in life. I particularly wish that I could turn it off--or at least crank it down a few notches--as my children grow up and away. I instinctively want to be needed, but I rationally want my children to need me less and less.
I doubt that I ever will stop worrying. I'm going to get that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach frequently over the next decade. The best I can hope for is to allow my children to do without me anyway. Fortunately, I will have my less-emotional voice of reason right next to me while I do.