A special kind of stress

I always knew mothers worry naturally; it’s part of what mothers do. But now that I am a mother, I am amazed by the things I can convince myself might happen to my child.

Everything from the entirely plausible (falling off the back deck) to the completely improbable (being accidentally shut inside the dish washer).

I actually see things happening to her all the time. The other day, the Mister and his parents and I were taking Roo for a walk on a trail near a creek, and in my mind I saw the stroller tip down the embankment and land upside down in the shallow water with the baby screaming inside. Then I blinked, and there we all were, walking along happily with the stroller perfectly where it should be.

We know of a family – friends of friends – who recently lost their 19-month-old baby boy because he wandered away from a backyard birthday party and drowned in a decorative water fountain in their front yard. IN THEIR FRONT YARD!!!

So now I’ve become obsessed with a small pond of water created by a drainage culvert at the edge of our yard, and Roo may never go outside unsupervised in her entire life. She may never play around water in her entire life. I might just put her into a bubble and roll her around like a hamster. (At the very least, the bubble would float.)

Also, there is way too much mom guilt in this world, and too many people causing it with their judginess. (WordPress is telling me that’s not a real world, but trust me, it is.)

If you stay home with your children, people make you feel bad for not having a “real career.” If you work, people make you feel bad for leaving your children with someone else. As if you don’t already feel terrible enough about that anyway.

If you exclusively breastfeed, people try to talk you into giving formula in a bottle and convince you that it will make your life easier. Then, if you do bottle feed, people try to make you feel bad about not giving all breastmilk all the time.

And then, heaven forbid you should ever want to be without your child. Even just for a short period of time. Sometimes, when I drop Roo off with her childcare person in the mornings, I breath a small sigh of relief that I now have one less thing to actively try to accomplish. And then I feel HORRIBLE about myself for ever enjoying the moments I am away from her.

I can’t take a personal day from work and enjoy it because if I am with her I am worrying about all the things she needs, and if I’m not with her I’m feeling horrible that I chose to take a day off and not be with her. There is no way to win!

Anyway, long rant cut short is that moms have a LOT of internal struggles with themselves about every. single. decision. they make all day long. Don’t second-guess them. Support them, give advice only when asked for, and offer to clean the house and fold laundry. But don’t make hints that something they are doing might not be absolutely the best thing unless a child’s life is actually, physically in danger.

Just don’t.

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Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

We had two and a half more snow days from work last week, and in all the quiet time at home I’ve become strangely obsessed with animal cams.

Through the wonders of modern technology, I can use the web browser on my device to access a webcam attached to a branch hundreds of miles away to watch the apes at the San Diego zoo swing in their trees. They also have panda, elephant, koala and polar bear cameras there too (scroll down). You can watch the giant panda at the National Zoo eat his bamboo, sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, has a webcam above their sea otter enclosure, and yesterday the Mister and I happened to check on them during their zookeeper presentation, so we got to see them being fed and doing tricks for the live zoo audience. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but these are the ones I have bookmarked for the time being, and I feel the need to check on them periodically to see what they are doing with all of their free time.

The camera I am most fascinated by, however, is not at a zoo or aquarium and the animals don’t do tricks for buckets of shrimp.

This camera is attached to a tree in Hanover, Pennsylvania, (wherever that might be) and watches the nest of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. The female is just sitting there now, warming her eggs, which are expected to hatch (according to the website) on or about March 21. You can bet I’ll be watching when I can.

Last night I was trying to think of a reason why I like watching this mother eagle so much, and I realized that it’s a calming sense of focus. This female eagle hasn’t left her nest in weeks – maybe months. She was covered to her neck in snow during the last storm, and still remained at her post. She’s simply sitting, protecting her eggs, with the instinctive knowledge that this is the task of highest importance, and that all other things can wait until this one thing is accomplished.

She isn’t worrying about the state of her nest. She isn’t worrying about what’s for dinner or what anybody else thinks of her personal decisions or appearance. She trusts that her mate will return with enough food to keep her alive; that her babies will develop and hatch as they should, when they are ready; and that the necessities in her life will be cared for. She doesn’t care about the wind or the cold or the cars passing on the road in the distance or the time passing as she waits. She only waits.

Something about that is so reassuring, as I work to finish all my assignments on time. She is propped up on my iPad by the desktop monitor, where I can check on her from time to time, and she is still waiting. Somehow that reminds me that I can slow down and do each task one at a time – I don’t have to be a whirlwind of anxiety at every moment – and everything will get done, even if it’s not all done in the next ten minutes.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34; NIV)

Happy Monday.

It’s A Crazy, Tragic, Sometimes Almost Magic, Awful, Beautiful Life

I beg forgiveness of all those who have called, texted and Facebook messaged me asking why there wasn’t a column last week.

I am honored to know so many are such loyal readers and I hope I haven’t lost anyone in the posting gap. I have learned my lesson: Write on the weekends because there’s no way you’re going to have time during the week. (There will be two this week to compensate, so check back around Thursday.)

I’m taking four classes and working three jobs, but as far as frustration goes I think the mister takes the cake for the week. He got two parking tickets within 12 hours for the same offense . . . that he didn’t commit.

Now, I’m not trying to call out our public safety officers. They work hard; they keep our campus one of the safest in the southeast and are relatively friendly. But I’d like to see the application requirements for their student ticket-writers.

The mister has a parking sticker clearly displayed on the lower driver’s side of his windshield, as required. Yet somehow he got a ticket for failure to display his permit. This was at 5:00 p.m. and the ticket office was closed.

The next morning he goes to class at 8 a.m., planning to appeal his ticket afterwards. The traffic clerk is kind enough to recognize the mistake and void the charge. Everything’s fine, right?

Wrong. Because when he got back to his truck after voiding the original ticket, he found ANOTHER TICKET on his windshield for the SAME OFFENSE! But the traffic office can’t void this one – even though the ticket writer is clearly an idiot – because second offenses must be appealed in writing. To a board that won’t meet until after the ticket is due. So we had to pay the fine.

It was not astronomical and did not break the bank by any means, but it’s the principle of the thing. I’ve never seen the mister so angry. I thought the apartment above us was going to come crashing down on top of me when he slammed the door.

I just don’t understand why public safety can’t seem to hire students who can read. Or at least see clearly. And this is not the first time someone I know has been given a ticket for an offense that didn’t make sense.

For example, how difficult is it to look at the curb and check that it’s red before citing a car for parking in a fire zone? Why can’t you verify that the sign does in fact say “30 minute parking” before writing a ticket for a time zone?

And if you’re going to write a ticket for parking the wrong direction on the side of the road, you should be sure you actually know which direction traffic is flowing. It’s just common sense.

So if you ever come visit us at school, be sure you take a picture of your car before you leave it in the lot. You never know when you’ll be fined for doing something correctly.

*Title taken from a Darryl Worley song