Both on personal and global levels, this has been a rough week to be a mom.
First the personal: Ruby left for sleep-away camp on Sunday, and Georgia has had a fever ranging from 100.3 to 104.1 since Monday night. This means that I dropped Ruby off seven hours away, drove home trying not to cry (and failing) and immediately had to switch gears from a 9-year-old telling me brusquely, “OK, Mom, time for you to go” to a 4-year-old who wouldn’t let me out of her sight. High fevers, despite nearly a decade in the “mom biz,” still freak me out – I can handle anything up to probably 102.5 without wincing, but beyond that, I get irrationally panicked, no matter how many times my pediatricians try to tell me that kids can handle fevers much better than adults.
So the past week has been spent alternating Tylenol and Motrin; letting a burning hot child sleep on me; sending care packages to Ruby; staring at the clock to try to figure out what Ruby’s doing at that very moment (right now, it’s 8:48 p.m., so they’re finishing up “night activity” and about to line up for taps and the camp song); Googling things like “Coxsackievirus progression” and “how to write a good camp letter”; calling my pediatrician; texting the other moms whose daughters are at camp with Ruby; attempting to “work from home” with a burning hot child sleeping on me; and avoiding the news.
I don’t normally avoid the news. I majored in journalism; I love the news and typically pride myself on being up-to-date on current events and being able to separate fact from rumor. But I feel too raw right now to be able to take in the dual horrors of the Pulse shooting and the toddler killed by the alligator. I just can’t. I start to read the profiles of all of the victims, so many of whom could easily be my friends – I start to read about the guy texting his mom from the bathroom saying he was going to die. And then the story about the father trying to snatch his child back from the alligator and … I can’t. I have anxiety even on a good day, but these stories plus Ruby so far away and Georgia so sick is just a classic recipe for me to have a total panic attack.
I sort of think that once you’re a parent, you’re every parent. Every child that has something unthinkable happen to him or her is your child on some level because you can all too easily imagine the parents’ anguish and grief. (And even if I’m not a seasoned enough mom to be completely blasé about a 104 fever, I am seasoned enough to know that your baby is your baby forever, no matter how old they get.) And of course, having watched what losing two of his adult children did to my father, I have even more insight into just how long-lasting and life-altering that kind of loss is.
I am not going to talk about gun control. I have given up on that. If Sandy Hook didn’t change it – if 20 first-graders slaughtered in their classroom didn’t change our gun laws – nothing will. In fact, Ruby said it better than I could: “This is America. We like our freedom. But we shouldn’t spend our freedom on killing people. I don’t think we’ll ever agree on this even in a thousand years, and if we do I’ll be very surprised.”
And of course the alligator nightmare, much like the gorilla tragedy several weeks ago, just hammers home how quickly and indiscriminately accidents can happen.
As much as it stung to have Ruby all but push me out of her cabin and tell me to skedaddle, I felt good about it. It’s good that she is so confident, so ready to separate from me in small, measured, healthy increments.
But even though I hate seeing Georgia sick and miserable and even though I am completely anxious and exhausted and worried about her, I have to admit that it’s been kind of nice having her cling to me so tightly this week.
Because no matter how ready Ruby might be to go out into the world without me, I am not ready to send either one of them out into this scary world.
I want them to be strong and independent – but right now, for as long as they’ll let me, I also want to hold them while they sleep, listening to them breathe and knowing that, at least for right now, right this very second, they are completely safe.