We all know there are things about becoming a parent that no one ever tells you about beforehand. Like even if you are successful at losing all your baby weight, and even a few extra pounds for good measure, your stomach will absolutely refuse to get the memo and continue to look at least three to four months pregnant.
But the thing I most wish I had known was that upon giving birth to my first child, I would also be delivering something else into my life: completely irrational anxiety. If you are a mother, you know what I am talking about. If you are a father, you’ve likely just rolled your eyes at me and silently (or not) called me crazy, because you also know what I’m talking about since your wife is probably the same way. This is how I have explained the phenomenon to my husband: “Let’s say we take the kids to a carnival. You see a hundred different ways you can have fun with the kids and evaluate which money-sucking games to avoid so you don’t spend a small fortune. I see hundreds of opportunities for child kidnappers and evaluate which rides my children would be most likely to die on.” It’s very simple really.
At first I thought maybe I was alone in my certifiable anxiety. Maybe at the very moment my motherly protective instincts kicked in, I was inadvertently drinking a Red Bull, resulting in an overprotective nature on steroids. But then I read Tina Fey’s brilliantly hysterical and absolutely truthful “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter,” which made me feel normal when I came to this particular part:
“Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the nearby subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called ‘Hell Drop,’ ‘Tower of Torture,’ or ‘The Death Spiral Rock N’ Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,’ and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.”
I guess the only bad thing about finally feeling normal was that I also then gave myself permission to continue to feel anxious about things I logically know I shouldn’t. Let’s take this past weekend for example. We took a little trip to a place called Black River Lodge with my husband’s family. In reality, it is a no-frills vacation spot along the Black River where families can spend time together and enjoy many activities and a summer camp-like experience. But seen with “Anxiety Vision,” it is a virtual cornucopia of catastrophe.
With that, I give you my Instagram Diary of Anxiety from Black River Lodge:
Reality: The Black River. The perfect place to fish, go tubing or canoeing, catch tadpoles, and make “hotels” out of the beach rocks for said tadpoles. Anxiety Vision: A quick-moving current just waiting to grab hold of my kids and take them away forever. Just looking at this picture, I am chastising myself for not having life-jackets on them even though we did not actually get IN the river this time.
Reality: A cabin overlooking the scenic river. Anxiety Vision: How sturdy are those concrete stilts? Have you ever heard of mudslides, people? They happen in California all the time. If I’m not mistaken, the New Madrid fault is about due for a pretty sizable earthquake, and I’m not liking my odds if it happens while I’m sleeping in one of these things. Do you feel a slight tilt in this floor? We are going to wake up in the river. I just know it.
Reality: A centrally located playground where the kids can play while you can keep an eye on them from your cabin. Anxiety Vision: I’m pretty sure those are the same see-saws that were there when I was a kid. Have they repainted those things? Have they been tested for lead?
Reality: A free-standing dart board. Darts are fun. Anxiety Vision: Who the hell puts a free-standing dart board right next to the tether ball pole and right outside the rec hall where my kids spend a good chunk of their time, roaming around? Don’t they realize how easy it would be for my kids to walk right in front of this board and end up with a dart in their brains? And if they do safely make it past the dart board, there is an archery target about ten steps away. An ARCHERY TARGET! At any point of the day, some middle schooler could be shooting arrows or throwing darts. Just think about that for a minute.
Reality: The “train” that takes kids on a little ride every night after dinner. Anxiety Vision: Do the sides of those cars meet any safety regulations? Because I’m pretty sure my son could and would jump right out of those while the thing is in motion. Or at the very least, fall out because of his inability to sit still. And what about that guy driving? Does he have a license to operate a tractor? How fast is he going to drive that thing? Isn’t that the same guy I just saw drive a golf cart into a tree? Because I think it is. Can I trade out that train whistle he’s blowing on for a breathalyzer?
Reality: A well-intentioned sign warning motorists to slow down because children cross this road in order to get to the “train” and the mini-golf course. Anxiety Vision: I don’t think that sign was visible to the guy with the mullet who just drove his four-wheeler past us at max speed. Maybe we could paint a cross walk on the gravel road? Perhaps install a small stoplight? Crossing guard? Call me crazy, but I just don’t want to risk my kids’ lives to hit a ball into a hippo’s mouth.
Reality: Family style country cooking Anxiety Vision: A potential health crisis on a plate. Isn’t there a saying that you should eat the rainbow? Last I checked, brown and beige aren’t colors in the rainbow, and that’s about all that is here. So one of two things will happen. Either my husband or I will suffer a heart attack from eating this OR my kids will refuse to eat this and instead fill up only on the sugary dessert and candy from the rec hall resulting in diabetic coma. And we are in the middle of nowhere. Can someone tell me where the closest hospital is? Has anyone clocked exactly how long it takes an ambulance to respond to a medical emergency out here? Do you maybe just have a carrot in the kitchen I could munch on?
Reality: A harmless (and dead) garter snake. Anxiety Vision: THE PLACE IS INFESTED! WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE! (By the way, I am truly amazed that this picture even exists, based on how extremely horrified I am of snakes. This photo came about only because of camera zoom capabilities, cropping magic, and the fact that I was pretty sure it was already dead. Still, there was intense and prolific heebie-jeebie-ing as soon as the image was snapped.)
So there. I have just given you a glimpse into my truly disturbed mothering mind. I would like to think maybe my anxiety will mellow as the kids get older, but then I would just be fooling myself. I am anticipating the need for tranquilizers when they hit driving age.
To further quell my fears that Tina Fey and I are the only neurotic mothers out there, please feel free to share what your biggest anxieties are concerning your kids. Then we can bask in the crazy together.