I find myself fighting irrational thoughts – terrified about leaving my child at Chinese school, forcing myself to walk away and leave him in a classroom; nervous about the hour he was in Sunday school while I was fifty yards away at church; paranoid about a full day at pre-school, even though I have difficulty gaining access to the classrooms, even with a key. All of these places I didn’t think twice about before last Friday. Before someone stole the safe haven of elementary school, making even pre-school feel like a risk.
I know it is all irrational. I know the chances of something happening to my child at school – be it Chinese, Sunday, or pre – is near minimal. But the fact that there is still a chance is something I cannot shake. The panic that any moment I leave my child could be the last that I see him will not leave me. I find myself trying to imagine what those parents must be experiencing, but then the thought of anything happening to Robbie sends me into a new wave of terror. When did our children become targets? And what can we possibly do to protect them?
I’m working to make the best of all this terror, though. Mornings, always so hectic, have to be a time of togetherness and fun. This morning was a challenge, since Robbie work up screaming and didn’t stop for twenty minutes. Normally, this results in me losing my temper and a swat on the bottom. Then tears and both of us feeling terrible. Finally, attempts to salvage the morning.
But today, I just tried to be grateful that I had a child who could scream for twenty minutes. Silly, isn’t it, that this had to be my perspective? That I am so much more fortunate that the poor parents who have no child to console, even for something as ridiculous as wanting to wear pajamas instead of getting dressed for school, all while standing naked in the bathroom. So I tried something new. I knelt down and held Robbie while he cried, not worried about the precious minutes this was costing my morning routine.
Suddenly, without reason, he stopped and started singing Christmas songs – something I would have completely missed if I had jumped to losing my temper. And then he blew bubbles from Halloween, still stark naked, in the bathroom, delighted that the heating vent shot them straight up in the air. All I could do was stop and watch Robbie, taking in the pure joy of his adventure. And then my mind spiraled to that dark place again, wondering how I could function if these were the last moments I had with my son.
I know that in time these feelings will fade, this panic when I leave him or think about leaving him. But I hope I never start taking all of the moments for granted and rushing through my mornings, panicked about walking out of the door in time to be five minutes early for work. As minute as the chances are, they aren’t worth a potential lifetime of regrets if it really was our last morning together as a family. I’d much rather have spent a few minutes singing Christmas carols and blowing Halloween balloons.