Yeah, so let me explain.....before Child Services and the FBI show up at my door. Wait, there's the doorbell.......pizza's here!
So there was life before children. You know, life where you didn't worry about getting home at a certain hour, where staying out until last call was pretty much a given on the weekends, and you could go to the grocery store whenever you wanted, even a couple of times in one day if you had to. Alone. With time to browse. Actually read a label or two. Grown up stuff.
Now I don't know about most of you, but I didn't have my first child until I was over thirty. Before that, I worked in child care, retail, and as a teacher in elementary school. I've worked with kids of all ages since I was twelve.....babysitting, working with camps, at church (yes, I actually went to church), and volunteering. I'd always wanted to be a teacher, and so I put myself through college, got my degree, and worked for the public school system for several years.
For years I had the chance to observe the parents of the children I worked with. Parents of varying age, experience, backgrounds, and ideas. I would think to myself often that, "I'll do that differently", or, "Wow I'm going to have to remember that when I have kids," or, "Oh HELL no that did NOT just happen."
Kids throwing a fit in a restaurant? Oh my children would be taught to know better. Child pitching a fit in the grocery store over candy? My children will be standing quietly, hands folded behind their back, waiting patiently for me to finish checking out. Teenager in the department store arguing about why she needs a $100 pair of jeans? Oh no, my children will be taught to be respectful and to value themselves, no matter what they're wearing. I was full of judgement and self-righteousness, knowing that when I had my own children, things were going to be different.
And WOW are they different.
We all hear the saying that babies don't come with owner's manuals. There is SO MUCH that you don't get told about what it's like to all of the sudden have this tiny life literally in your hands. And you're expected to keep it alive. For like, EVER. Sure, they'll help you learn to breast feed, they'll ask you if you know how to change a diaper, they'll even help you give the baby a sponge bath in the hospital. They'll show you how to swaddle, how to support her head, the basic stuff. Then they'll send you home like you know what you're doing. And you leave the hospital absolutely terrified.
And then it sets in. PARENTAL PARANOIA. Come on.....you know you've had it. Situations that before seemed completely innocent are now danger-prone death traps that might harm your newborn baby. You'll conjure up these ridiculous scenarios of what MIGHT happen to the point that you'll give yourself mini panic attacks thinking they could actually come true.
Hence the trash chute. When my oldest was just barely a year old, we moved up to the Boston area. Until we found a house, we had a temporary apartment in the city. We were on the 8th floor. My husband went to work every day, leaving me, the baby and the dog to fend for ourselves in a city I knew nothing about. I do know that I am NOT an urban dweller. By any stretch. I need grass. (No, not that kind.) But I digress. Anyway, to take out your trash, you had to go down the hall, use a key to open the trash closet door, and put the trash down the chute. Most of the time, I was holding my daughter in one arm and holding the trash in the other. After doing that a few times, I told my husband that I would no longer take the trash down, he would have to do it. Why? Because I would have little panic attacks as I stood there and I would think to myself, "What if I put the wrong one down the trash chute?" I would envision this to the point where I would literally get sick to my stomach.
Now OF COURSE that wasn't going to happen. I am not a complete idiot. I do have my moments, but for the most part I'm a pretty intelligent, level-headed girl. Really I am. But having this little life that I was completely responsible for just changed my perception on so many things. Normal, every day things. Simple, common sense things. But you become so much more aware of the dangers out there, the things that can hurt you, your child, your family.........and I haven't even gotten to the dangers that include the crazy people. That's a whole other blog for a whole other day. Hell, that's a book right there.
So, parental paranoia. It's that feeling of panic when you can't see your child in the department store even though you know for a fact that he's standing on the other side of the t-shirt you're looking at. It's those ridiculous scenarios you'll create in your head when you're driving down the road about what exactly would happen if the car went into the lake.......how would you get out? How would you get the kids out? Then you realize you live in a desert. It's the wide-eyed panic you feel when your little one is eating a cracker and coughs.....and you're sure they're choking to death and you hope to God you can remember how to do the Heimlich on a toddler. It's seeing the video of the woman leaving her stroller on the train platform......and the stroller rolling off.......and the train hitting it (the baby, miraculously, was fine)......and thinking to yourself that you're going to handcuff yourself to the handle of your stroller every single time you use it from now on. It's checking on your newborn fifteen times a night during their first year because you've been staring at the video monitor for an hour and you just can't be sure they're still breathing. It's all of those things that common sense would tell you don't make sense, and yet it doesn't matter.
It's Parental Paranoia. And no one tells you about it. And it doesn't go away. But it's real. It's out there. And it's not fun.
Good grief......when my kids start driving I might just have to check myself into a mental institution.