Christmas reflections...

>> Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas for many of us is a time that you might call 'stupidly busy'. We - or I, at least - panic over the most inconsequential things. Are there lumps in the gravy? Have I got enough mince pies? Did I spend enough on Auntie Flo's present? It's easy to get wound up by things that for the rest of the year might just be water off a duck's back. Throw your nearest and dearest into the mix and it can be a recipe for turmoil.

For example, I've just got off the phone to my mother-in-law who was panicking that Husband might be on the roads driving to join us in the west country on this cold, snowy, icy, foggy evening. Quite what she would have done if he had already been en-route, I don't know, but midway through our conversation, as I reassured her he was safe and sound at home in London, I found myself starting to get a little frustrated by what seemed a fuss-over-nothing call. But then, I was suddenly reminded of my walk out with the Boys this afternoon.

It was cold, and the low-lying sun had made little impact on the icy slush in the lane we were walking along. My parents - with whom the Boys and I are currently staying - live on the side of a steep hill, and as we toiled up it to post the last (alright - the first) of our Christmas cards (no-one ever said I was organised, least of all me...), I found myself gripping Boy *2's hand tightly and instructing Boy *1 to take care. As the few cars willing to brave the ice drove by, I shepherded my sons onto the verge and out of the way. Boy *1, at least, would have been more than capable of taking the same evasive action without any lead from me, and yet I still felt the need to protect and look out for him.

So as my mother-in-law was talking to me about her concern for her son during our call this evening, I suddenly checked my irritability. Was what she was doing so different to my probable over-protectiveness earlier on? Who's to say that the feeling of responsibility that comes hand in hand with bearing and/or nurturing a child should stop when they are 10, 15, 20 or even 25 years old? It may be that as our children get older our protective instinct becomes more focused - we worry less about cuts and grazes, and more about drugs and alcohol, for example - and it may be that some of us become more expert at hiding it from others, but from what I've observed, it never lets up.

I hope that I'm not a helicopter parent, but what I realised during that call this evening was that you can't turn Motherhood off, the good or the bad stuff. Being a parent is project that you will never get to see finished and which you can never - god willing - draw a line under, or shut the door on, saying; 'well, that job's over and done with'. So my mother in law will no doubt continue to make those vaguely annoying phone calls for as long as she can dial the number, and I will probably continue to metaphorically reach out a hand to steady my sons on the icy roads they might walk for just as long.

And yes, both of us should probably just stop stressing.

But since this constant hum of low-level anxiety seems to be part and parcel of the way we love our children - along with the day to day highs and lows that come from rearing them and interacting with their emerging personalities - I think the best I can hope for is that I can rein in the worst of my protective instincts and give my sons enough space to grow up confident and independant. And that the next time I get one of those calls from my mother in law, that I will remember the chances are, I may well be making them myself in years to come...

7 comments:

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... 23 December 2009 at 16:35  

I worry about my boy, now 13, but in a different way than when he was little - but the feelings of anxiety are always there. And my mother despairs of my brother who, at nearly 50, still drives her to distraction with worry (with good reason, I have to admit)!

TheMadHouse 23 December 2009 at 16:45  

You know you are so, so right. I know my mum worries about my brother ever so much, but not so about me. How strange!!

aims 23 December 2009 at 19:09  

Hey girl - things have changed around here and they're looking pretty good.

Sorry I don't get a chance to drop by as often as I used to but do have a wonderful holiday and just think - we have the kind of weather you're experiencing now for about 9 months of the year!

Happy (cold) Holidays! Doesn't snow make Christmas seem more real or something?

sharon 24 December 2009 at 01:37  

Not only do you continue to worry about your children forever but as time passes you add your aging parents to the mix! My boys are 25 and 30 and my Mum is 82 and widowed now. It is a constant worry.

Hope you have a lovely Christmas PM and family. I'm looking forward to hearing of your exploits in Russia in the New Year.

Expat mum 24 December 2009 at 02:07  

I remember a few years ago asking, in exasperated fashion (as is my wont) "When do you stop worrying about your children?"
My mother and mother-in-law were both with me and, as one, replied "Never".
Pah!

Glowstars 24 December 2009 at 13:31  

They'll always be our babies. My mother too seems to have forgotten I've grown up and still worries about me. I see it in her mother as well.

Sparx 2 January 2010 at 00:02  

My Mother has informed me that it never lets up, Motherhood, never never never... we're in it for the longest haul...

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