Seeing the child alert “TS-42″ flash across the screen during the sermon in church is never a good thing. And today, my mom instinct didn’t even need Guy to confirm that our sticker matched the number to know it was our baby.
For those of you who have never experienced a flash such as this, let me translate what it means.
“ATTENTION PARENT: WHILE YOU HAVE BEEN SITTING ENJOYING CHURCH, YOUR CHILD HAS GONE 100% APE$### DOWN HERE AND AFTER USING EVERY RESOURCE AND STAFF MEMBER WE KNOW TO USE (FOOD, TOYS, BRIBERY) YOUR CHILD IS STILL BEYOND COMFORT. SO PLEASE GET YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE STAT. KINDLY, THE NURSERY STAFF”
So after the flash, I slowly walked out of the sanctuary as calmly as I could, then rushed down the stairs into the nursery as fast as my wedges would possibly allow. And before I even opened the door to the hallway of doors containing the nursery, I could hear my baby’s shrieks loud and clear.
“Yikes,” I thought to myself. “That is one unhappy baby.”
As I walked in, all the workers sweetly smiled at me as they watched the girl holding him hand him over to me. “He just hasn’t been very happy.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
“I think he might be teething.”
And I nodded agreeing with her that teething was definitely a likely cause.
But suddenly, as his body touched mine. The crying ceased.
As if some magic spell had been cast over him.
“Abra. Kadabra. Crying Stop!”
Within about 15 seconds, all that was left coming from his little mouth were the huffs and hiccups that are the normal remnants from a huge crying spell.
And in that moment, all I could think was…
“Dang, I’m good.”
Just kidding. Actually, I always feel a little guilty toward the people who have been working so hard to offer him comfort.
All I could really think was, “I love you too, babe. And I’m here now.”
As I left the nursery to head back to church, I realized my hands were sticky from an earlier coffee spill, so I decided to see if I could quickly wash them in the bathroom. I mean he was completely calm again. So why not? But when I tried to set him down, the crying began again. And intensely.
So I quickly washed my hands, and just touched him with my leg. And once again, his crying stopped.
I’ve experienced this before. This sort of raw and mystical power you hold when you are the parent of an infant. How you, above all others, have the power to make or break someone’s world with the absence or presence of your being.
It’s called separation anxiety. And it is a very really thing. And when you are the one experiencing it…
It is humbling. And scary. And amazingly sweet. And innocent. Because unlike star-crossed lovers, there are no games played with this kind of love.
It is straightforward. And consistent. And if it could speak, it would sound like this.
I want you.
I need you.
Your presence makes me happy and your touch makes me calm.
When I look at you, I’m not scared anymore.
I don’t care where I’m at, as long as you are near.
My world is better with you in it.”
And even if you’ve already experienced this kind of love from a baby, it still blows your mind when it happens for a second time. Or third.
Since he’s been crawling, he will follow my voice around the house. And when I walk in from an outing, I will hear his little baby voice make squeals as he crawls to come get me.
The formula is simple.
When I walk away, the tears flow.
When I return, the smiles come.
ADULT SEPARATION ANXIETY
I’ve been hearing the question a lot lately, “So are you excited about your move to Houston?”
And I think people are surprised when they hear me say, “No, not really.”
I mean, sure. Are there things I am excited about? Absolutely.
Guy not traveling. More space for the boys. Being much closer to my aunt and cousins.
Yes. All of those things are going to be awesome.
But despite that excitement, I’d say I have a larger awareness of pending loss. Loss of the relationships we’ve built over the last 8 years. The friends we’ve shared our lives with. The easy access to the family that has loved us and our children as their own. The house we brought all three of our sons home to. The neighborhood and neighbors we love. The practice I have built as a therapist and professional connections…
I guess you could say, that I, like my little guy, am experiencing a separation anxiety of my own.
Anxiety that I won’t like it.
Anxiety of starting over.
Anxiety of being bored.
Anxiety of not having the support we’ve had.
Anxiety of feeling responsible for making the boys adjust well while fearing I may not be feeling that way.
Anxiety of not knowing the best way to make it go well.
I mean really. Focusing on just my adjustment is one thing. But feeling pressure to make sure three other little beings are happy. And peaceful. And secure.
Well that is really more pressure than I want. So, I’ve been praying a lot lately about how to do it well. And reading parenting books on best methods for working with kids.
And then doing my fair share of worrying about the whole thing too.
Because I know good and well that I can do my very best to control some of the things in our transition. But so many of them ARE OUT OF MY CONTROL. And that is where my anxiety takes over.
Which is why Fisher’s little episode today was the most helpful thing to have happen. You know the old poster that used to be everywhere that said, “Everything I need to know, I learned in Kindergarten.”
Well today, I was reminded that everything I need to fight my anxiety, I can learn from my infant son.
And here is what he reminded me.
FISHER’S SEPARATION ANXIETY CURE
1) Don’t be too proud to admit, you need your mother. (Or in my case, Heavenly Father.:)
2) Stay as close to Him as possible and reach out to him as soon as you feel unsettled because when you do, you will immediately feel better.
3) Don’t forget that no matter where you are (Kansas, Texas, Afghanistan…), as long as I’m by His side, I can have peace. And joy.
4) And never be ashamed to send an SOS to God or in Fisher’s case, a nursery signal.
Because just like Fisher’s crazy little mama in wedges, when God hears our cries, not even 12 flights of stairs can stop him from getting us.
And after we sit with Him for a minute, we are strangely overcome with amnesia as to what was causing our previous tears.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11