Tony, Isaac, and I just got back from a wonderful trip to WV for my 15 year class reunion and Isaac’s 1st birthday party with my family. As always, we had an amazing time. There are so many things I love about going home for a visit, and one of those things is having conversations with my dad. He loves to talk about deep issues, which is something we have in common.
On Sunday morning before we started our journey south, Tony, Dad, and I sat at the breakfast table long after our plates were clean and our coffee cups empty to talk about what it means to live in the “now”. Our discussion lead to the fact that we humans tend to live more in the past or the future than in the present moment. We also discussed how this effects our overall health and longevity. “Now” is hard to define since we live in a linear world, where time is always moving forward.
Living in the present moment and experiencing it as it is takes a lot of intentionality.
Through our discussions we decided that Jesus knew what He was talking about (imagine that!) when He said over and over in so many different ways that we shouldn’t worry, stress, do things in our own strength, etc. He instructs us to give Him our burdens, trust Him with our future and our past, and not lean on our own understanding. Jesus frequently took time away from the crowds and his eager disciples in order to have time to himself. To pray, get rest, and hear from His Father. He desires that we do the same, which is why He models it himself and speaks about it often. Jesus knew this world would demand so much from us, and that we would easily lose sight of Him.
Of course, applying what Jesus teaches and lives is much easier said than done.
We live in a country that expects and demands so much from us. Multi-tasking, Busy-ness, Overloading, Stress, and Worry are all shiny golden gods that we worship and sacrifice ourselves to day in and day out. We revere folks who work themselves to the bone, and we judge people as lazy or irresponsible that don’t kill themselves to run the rat race.
You know what they say about all work and no play, right!?
One of the ways we cope with all of these expectations is distraction. There is no time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Any “down time” (what is that, anyway!?) is spent trying to distract from the heavy burden that clings to us like a constant, unwanted companion. This constant companion likes to remind us of all that we’ve got left to do or all the mistakes we made. A wicked task master that is never satisfied with us no matter how hard we try.
Is it any wonder we as a country suffer from so much stress, anxiety, depression, and all-around poor health?
We are looking to the future and worrying on how we are going to do it all. We are looking to the past to remember all the things that we have experienced that we want to prevent experiencing again, and when we do have a few moments rest from all the demands, we distract ourselves so that we don’t have to face the thoughts, emotions, and feeling that are always waiting for some air time.
I love being Isaac’s mom. His little life has changed me in so many wonderful ways. My love for him is so deep and permanent that there is no way I could ever turn it off.
This scares the shit out of me.
(I hope you don’t mind the language. It’s actually a much tamer word than the one that I could use that more accurately expresses just how scared it makes me. Missing Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale scares me. Roaches, spiders, and grasshoppers, scare the crap out of me. Sick babies….scare the shit out of me. It’s just the truth.)
I feel that I live in this constant state of worry, thinking “what if something happened to him and he died or got badly hurt and I could have prevented it”. I try to stop it, but it just won’t go away. When I try to live in the “now” and just enjoy these beautiful moments with my amazing son, there is always that little voice reminding me that I better tighten my grip or I could lose him.
But what I’ve realized lately is that I have already lost him when I do this.
Yes, he is still here with me. Alive and well. But I have lost the moments with him. The ones where I can just enjoy him and his beautiful personality without thinking about some tomorrow filled with horror that may never come. When I live in a constant state of preparing for the worst or believing the worst is imminent, I am totally disconnecting from my son and am not giving him what he needs most.
Thinking and wishing I have more control than I do is one of my major sources of fear and anxiety. My desperate need to save myself and Isaac from any and all pain, causes me to believe that I can actually prevent things that are not preventable.
When Isaac was diagnosed with reactive airway disease a few months ago (they don’t typically diagnose babies with asthma until they are older), and was told he would be more susceptible to breathing issues until he grows out of it years later, I felt my heart drop into my feet. His breathing has become my number one concern in life. If he so much as sneezes or coughs, I feel my heart jump a bit. When I lay him down to sleep, I have to fight the urge to check his breathing every 5 minutes or just camp out on his floor every night…just in case.
Living in the world of “just in case” is exhausting.
I read a blog post the other day that a British nanny wrote about how American’s are ruining their kids and she fears for their future. She really did have some valid points and I agreed with a fair amount of what she said in general, but there was something about it that didn’t quite sit right with me.
As someone that isn’t from our country, I think perhaps it was easy for her to come and point the shame finger at this generation of American parents without taking the time to understand WHY we do what we do.
We are a generation of latch-key kids. We were the first generation of kids that didn’t always have mom at home. Mom’s went to work alongside the dads and the kids were watched my babysitters, friends, family, or sometimes, when they were old enough, the kids were home alone until someone came home from work. I think it’s possible that many of us are just trying to give our kids what we felt we didn’t get. We want to do it all. We want to continue to work full time and provide all that our kids need full time and that is causing some major cognitive dissonance. We are living in a state of feeling that we aren’t doing enough, when we are actually doing way too much.
Another issue I believe we are experiencing as parents in this generation is the ever-seeing eye that is social media. When we were kids, our parents didn’t have to worry that every parenting mistake they made might be captured on a camera phone and then put on the internet for all the world to judge. They didn’t have information overload like we do today. A simple 5 minute scroll through your Twitter feed or Facebook newsfeed and you see article after article about children dying in hot cars, or dying from secondary drowning, or food allergies, or getting bitten by neighborhood dogs. It’s enough to make someone crazy! (That someone would be me).
Yes, we need to bring awareness to issues that are causing harm to our children. Yes, we need to take steps to prevent preventable deaths and injuries. We are always growing and changing and realizing ways to be safer and better parents and that is great. However, the dark side to this is that we get totally overwhelmed by all the horrible things that can happen to our children and we begin to live in this constant state of fear. I understand helicopter parents now. When all you hear about are horrifying statistics about how your child may die, you start to hover in hopes that you will be able to prevent it.
I understand that people are trying to bring awareness to these issues, but the downside of fear is that it isn’t effective. Fear actually causes distraction. And when we are distracted that is when we are more likely to do things on accident.
I think that British nanny is right about how American’s are with their children, but finger pointing and shaming isn’t the answer to the problem.
I think we, as a society, need to take a look at why we do what we do and start to deconstruct it. There are so many times I second guess myself all because of something I read or because I am afraid that someone will judge me if I don’t do something I certain way.
Parenting has become a spectator sport in this country and we are missing a referee.
I honestly don’t know what the solution is to this problem. I went to bed last night feeling heavy with responsibility. Isaac was on his third day of breathing problems and I had just laid him down not knowing if I should have given him a breathing treatment or not. I felt as if his life was in my hands and if I didn’t do the right thing, it would be all my fault if something were to happen to him. All day long I am constantly thinking about Isaac. When does he need his bottle, his food, his diapers changed, his nap. When should I be on the floor playing with him and when does he need time to play on his own. When should I let him cry and when should I go pick him up. I can’t turn it off even when he is sleeping. The weight of it all stays with me. Even leaving him with someone else to watch, it is still my responsibility to let that person know what Isaac needs. I know him and his needs better than anyone on this Earth, and that weighs on me.
When I lay my head on the bed and try to sleep, thoughts race through my mind. Did I start the dishwasher? What time should I try to run to the grocery store tomorrow so that he gets his nap? I hope Isaac is okay. What was the name of the actor that played Charles on Charles in Charge….I should know this? Did I take a shower today? Was that the baby crying? I hope he isn’t too hot. That rug I saw at Marshall’s would look really good in the kitchen. I need a new toothbrush. Is Isaac’s next doctors appointment scheduled at the same time as our story time at the Library? I forgot to pay our electric bill. I hope Isaac isn’t too cold. I really need to invite people over for dinner. I really need to call my friends more. I really need to…
I know I should just try to relax and live in the “now”, but my mind won’t stop and it’s so loud.
The only solution I can come up with is to have less distractions and more living in the “now”. Not worrying about things I can’t control and know that God has Isaac and me in His much more capable hands. Knowing that and doing it are two different things.
To all my fellow parents out there that are worriers, I want you to know that you are not alone. Don’t let my Facebook or Instagram pictures make you think that there aren’t hard moments in the Alicea household. Isaac is an amazing little guy and I thank God for him every single day. It is an honor to be his mom.
But that doesn’t mean that parenting is a breeze for me.
After having that awesome conversation with my dad, I have decided that I need to be more intentional about living each moment as it comes and not live in the past and future. That’s easy to type, but hard to apply. One way I am going to apply it is to limit my time on social media. I desperately need a break from information overload and spend more time enjoying my adorable baby boy.
To all my fellow moms and dads out there who worry….you are not alone! We can help each other out if only we take our eyes off our devices and look at one another.