Every night, before going to sleep, I whisper the same prayer. I am not a religious person, but it makes me feel better to ask whatever powers that be to watch out for our family. I ask that my children be safe, happy, healthy and at peace with the world around them. I ask that my husband remain positive, focused, as understanding as he’s always been, and that he continues to be gainfully employed. I make sure to thank the ether for all that we have and for giving me so much happiness that I don’t deserve. And I always add to the very end of my prayer a passionate request: “Please don’t let me ruin my kids’ lives.”
I’ve spent the vast majority of my adult life (and much of my childhood, as well) under the black cloud of depression. It doesn’t take much to bring out my melancholy. Stress eats at me from every avenue, and I worry incessantly about things that aren’t really in my power to change. I am overcautious when it comes to the kids, a trait that Mark finds in equal parts endearing and frustrating. He often tells me to relax and to go with the flow. I find it difficult.
I took one of those Buzzfeed quizzes that show up on Facebook recently. It was titled “What Kind of Parent Are You?” I saw no less than 25 of my mom friends take it, and I was the ONLY one who got the result “Helicopter Parent.” The rest of them were bragging that they were “Cool Parent,” or “The Free Ranger.” They are the permissive parents who are happy to let their kids lead the way. Not that they are bad parents… far from it. They understand that kids have to have the freedom to learn and make mistakes. They don’t hover. They love and guide, but they leave it up to the kids to tell them what they can do.
Me? I am right there. I am reminding them not to forget their galoshes. I am running after them with a warm jacket just in case they need it. I am standing to the side holding six different crayons in case they don’t like the color they get. I am the mom at the playground who is standing just behind and underneath my son as he climbs the ever so steep “rock wall.” It is a whopping three feet from the ground to the top, and if he fell off of it, at worst he’d get a skinned knee. But this mama can’t quite shake the thought that there’s the chance he might twist as he falls, catch his arm on one of the hard plastic knobbly rocks, breaking a bone and then shattering his skull as he hits the bottom. Hey – it could happen.
My kids, for their part, have learned to just get on with it. They are not afraid of anything. They still climb and jump and run around like tiny tornadoes. When they see their mom worried or sad or looking anything other than radiantly happy, they run over, big smiles on little faces and beam up at me. The older will say, “Don’t cry, mommy. Be HAPPY.” The younger will climb into my lap, get right in my face and thwack a big wet kiss on my lips and then hug me close.
These are not kids to let anything get to them. They are wonderful children who bring joy into the world in every action.
So each night, I say my prayer, and I sleep the fitful sleep of the worried mom, and I wake with one thought in my head: I wonder how the kids will be today?
And after I feed them their breakfasts and change diapers and set them up with a toy or a favorite show, I look across at them and smile. And I ask one question with bated breath. “Are you happy?” The older always smiles and says, “Yes. I SO happy.” The younger just smiles and coos and shows me that he, too, is a happy little boy.
For one more day, I can be happy, too.