Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, April 23, 2012
I had a weird and scary moment the other night. I was standing in my kitchen getting a yogurt out of the fridge. The kids were in bed and the house was quiet except for the faint sounds of television from the downstairs rec-room. I suddenly realized I was standing in my own home, taking food from my own fridge, with human beings that I am responsible for sleeping in the other room. I nearly had a panic attack.
I know, you’re probably reading this and thinking, “What the heck? What is she on drugs or something?”
No drugs. In fact, I find drugs even scarier than raising children.
What I am on is a steady dose of a busy life where you don’t have a lot of time to sit back and ponder the pieces that make up your life.
The other night after dishes, homework with the kids, a trip to the park, answering emails and a bit of reading, things were quiet. The stillness and the relaxation allowed my situation to slap me in the face. We regularly go through the motions of our life, living day-to-day, dealing with kids, and work and parenting and bills. We’re juggling meals and hockey and housework and our relationships. I don’t have time to think about the life I have because I’m too busy living it.
But that evening, in that moment, I wondered, just for a minute, how the heck all this happened. When did I turn from a daughter into a mother? It only feels like a few years back that I was asking for allowance money and being told to clean my room.
And now I am my mother – a woman in charge of children – harping about the same things and reminding my kids of their own responsibilities.
I still sometimes wonder when all this happened. When did I get to be the one in charge? Who made it so? I still feel inadequately trained sometimes.
After my dad died, I remember having more than a few of these panic attacks. I blamed it on the bout of depression I experienced during his illness and after his death, but I think I was just having a hard time facing reality. I worried about my mom being all alone, but worried selfishly that she would leave me, and if she did, I’d have no one to go to, no parent to come home to. She was always my safe haven, my go-to girl. And after dad passed away, the reality quickly hit me that she too is human and could be taken too.
While your parents are still here on earth, there is a feeling of safety. There’s the stability their living gives you. It is instant comfort – that no matter how bad things get there are two things you can depend on – that someone will always love you and that you can always go home if you ever had to.
I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad when my friend Kevin lost both his parents. I physically ached for him, knowing his world was forever changed. I felt the loss deeply; knowing the security he felt with his parents still living no longer existed.
I knew I’d be him someday.
And now my husband and I are the safety net for three other human beings. I am an adult with responsibilities. I am 44 but some days I still feel like I’m much younger. There are days when I think, ‘How did I end up with a 24-year-old?’ Each day melts into the other. Each morning I rise and go with the flow. Like most parents, I follow a schedule but also allow the situations that surround my daily interactions with my children to lead me.
I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the enormity of our lives, which is a good thing. Raising children, ensuring they become happy, well adjusted and contributing members of society, and being the people responsible for them is a huge task. Sometimes the reality of the situation – that I am a person who holds the world together for three children – feels like a huge weight. Thankfully, those feelings are fleeting and infrequent.
Most days I count this responsibility a blessing. I revel in the uncertainty that is life with children who are unique and beautiful human beings. But on nights like last Monday, I breathe deeply; remind myself that my mom is still here, and that my journey in this responsibility-laden life is not a lonely one. I am thankful for Stephen, and know that if my mom, God forbid, wasn’t here and I needed a shoulder to cry on, or a good heart-to-heart pep talk, he’d always be there for me.
Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or join her group, My Big Fat Life, on Facebook. She’s also on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE