Monsters in the closet…Boogeyman under the bed

11 Jul

Most of us when we were little went through at least one phase of being terrified of what was hiding in the corners of our room…what was creaking through the house…what was sneaking around our home.  In fifth grade I remember being delighted that our new house had a big street light right outside my bedroom window.  It gently lit the creepy corners and washed out craggy shadows.  Generally as time goes by, whether it’s because our imaginations become less active or we mature, we stop hiding from imaginary monsters.  We think we’re done with them and then we become mothers.

There have been some periods in my parenting journey where I have had restful sleep.  More often, however, I have had fitful periods of quasi-rest.  I think perhaps the discomfort of pregnancy and the sleeplessness of infants were designed to prepare me for the mental fatigue I was going to face going forward.

Like most moms, or maybe it’s just many, I would wake with a start and fear would rush over me that something horrible might have happened to my baby – I would quickly check on them, feeling for breath, laying my head horizontal to their chest to watch for the rising and falling of each breath.  Typically I would watch for several minutes to confirm that there was a steady rhythm and all was well.  This was just the beginning.  Most days now I do not check their breathing, although I do confess that there are nights that I will walk in and check on each one of them.  I will cock my head and watch for the rising and falling of teenagers chest, just to make sure he’s still breathing.

It seems to me these days, that I am right back to the early days of childhood, and I lay fearfully in my bedroom not so much seeing the monsters and boogeyman, but hearing their voices.  No longer do they threaten to eat me, kidnap me or drag me to a terrifying monsterland.  No, typically the voices tend to threaten me with failure – the worst kind of failure – failure as a parent.  I am afraid that my children are unhappy and I have not cared for them well enough and spoken to them lovingly enough.  I am afraid that they are ill-equipped and that I haven’t been disciplined enough to teach them properly.  I am afraid that they are unhealthy and that I haven’t been careful enough with nutrition and doctor’s visits.  I am afraid that others have hurt them and I have not been attentive enough nor protective enough.  I worry that my own shortcomings have deprived them of opportunities.

Many nights I wake-up with calendars of missed dates on my mind reminding me of the commitment I forgot.  Sometimes I have balance sheets and adding machines running in my head as I panic over financial shortages and how I am going to meet their needs.  I hear recordings of educational experts, videos of doctors and professionals outlining the simple steps I needed to follow, but fail to do, to ensure my children’s successful future.  I recall promises unintentionally broken.  Many nights are like a giant preschool star chart where my name is neatly printed next to columns along with several other people’s – Stars line each row and are in each column – with the obvious exception of mine that remains blank with frowney faces in their place.

Unlike my fears when they were babies, they cannot be easily abated.  I cannot simply rest my hand on their chest, stir them gently to watch them roll over or, most desperately, gather them in my arms to feel them.  Each fear is intangible – it’s like steam – solid enough that you can feel it there, but untrappable.

The intensity of these fears has the same depth as my childhood imaginary monsters.  But try as I might there is no light to turn on, no outdoor street lamp to illuminate the room to show me the illusion and let me see reality.  Just as the laundry hanging on the chair held an essence of truth about the presence of the shape mistaken for a troll, each of these thoughts and fears in my mind have some root in reality.  For this reason it is so hard to decide just how wrong I am and without an illuminating truth I can remain indefinitely in the darkness with my monsters.

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2 Responses to “Monsters in the closet…Boogeyman under the bed”

  1. Trish July 12, 2010 at 2:19 am #

    Yep, it’s scary. I wish I could tell you the fear and guilt ended when they get older. I used to think it would. Of course it doesn’t. Your kids are always your kids and you always want to make the road easier. It’s very hard when you know you can’t.
    I was talking to your Aunt Glinda yesterday and she said she’s trying the “Let go and let God” approach. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I know God is present but I also know He expects me to contribute, too.
    It’s hard. I know. You can’t know until after you’ve goofed up that you did. Funny but sometimes the things you think were your worst moments are not even remembered. Whereas something you have absolutely no memory of, is the terrible, awful thing you did. Hopefully, there are also those marvelous, wonderful things you did that you don’t remember also (yes, I’m fishing).

    It will all work out. Remember my childhood and my parents. They made some horrible mistakes but it worked out okay. We have some not so good memories but we survived and, in fact, have thrived. Your kids will be fine.

  2. Jen July 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Wow– do I ever relate to this… so well-said, and true and accurate. I’ve had sleepless nights of late, myself, and feel the fatigue, which then, in turn, feeds the fears because it diminishes the ability to think with a rested mind. Vicious cycle.

    Big hugs from one mama to another. I hear you.

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