The Big Day

Today is the big day. My younger kid has a motocross race that he’s been anticipating for weeks.

You should know now that I hate that he races. I never watch. I can’t.

I wake up all night long the day before, terrified, thinking of all the possible ways he could get hurt–or worse. I lay there, tossing and turning, hoping that tomorrow night, I’ll get a more restful sleep once the day’s races are over and my kid is safely in his bed.

That’s when I think of my grandmother. When I’d visit her, I’d wake up early in the morning to find her sitting quietly in a darkened living room with her rosary in her hand. She was praying for her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Praying was her way of finding solace for all those worries that keep you and I awake at night, of sharing the emotional burdens of life, even if the person she was sharing with only existed in her head.

I’d sit down beside her, and she’d pat my leg and whisper, “How you doing, Deb?” She was so sweet and vulnerable and full of love. Having children is a privilege, she’d always say, and then she’d go on to tell me about the three perfect girls she’d had, how they never gave her trouble–not once–because there’s nothing better than time and distance to erase the fine lines and flaws of childhood. Most memories, like a Monet, are better from afar.

I’d sit with her until she was done saying her rosary, her mouth moving silently. Though I never said them anymore, I still, if I didn’t think too hard, could recite the Our Father’s and the Hail Mary’s. I didn’t tell her that I was no longer a believer, had not been for more years than I had been one. She just assumed that I was like so many other Catholics of my generation who stopped going to church but still held to their faith. Sort of.

But that peace she found in her rosary, that exchange of saying prayers for God’s attention to the welfare and safety of people you love, I get that. You and I don’t have a rosary. We’re acutely aware that our kids are at the mercy of others, of nature and of luck, both good and bad. Trusting the wrong person or being in the wrong place at the wrong time could have catastrophic implications. We worry for our kids, who have so little fear, if any, who just see themselves as indestructible super-heroes in one giant playhouse. They have a self-image that is much bigger and much stronger than it should be.

So, we worry. And like praying, worrying is futile. But it is the exchange we offer up to the universe, hoping that, if we think and fret about every possible thing that could go wrong, that will somehow be a prophylactic against it happening.


12 responses to “The Big Day

  1. As I try to get my ex to understand: If you can’t do anything about it, stop worrying.

  2. Here’s a little worry graphic that I refer to now and then:

  3. Prayer, in your grandmother’s mind, was a positive step toward protecting her loved ones. Worry is a negative thing that doesn’t help you or your son. But I’m a worrier too, to the point of worrying when there’s nothing to worry about (since, obviously, I must be overlooking something). I know telling you not to worry won’t help, so I’ll just say, “Hang in there, mom.” I’ll be thinking positive thoughts for your son and his big race.

  4. Oh, I don’t know how you survive! My 3 year old just discovered how fast she can go on her Skuut (a balance bike). I found almost every second of our 1.5 mile bike ride / walk almost unbearable I worried about her wrecking so much. I went to bed last night wondering how I would survive them growing up.

    Obviously I am a worrier too. I find some solace in just thinking, “In this moment everyone is safe.” And really, ‘this moment’ is all we really know about.

    Good luck!

  5. @deb: A beautifully written piece, once again. Of course we parents worry though it is futile. I loved your idea of worrying being what we offer the universe in exchange of things not going wrong.
    If worrying really had a prophylactic effect, I’d take ulcer and heartburns any day…

  6. Dear Deborah —

    What a great post!

    One thing I have noticed is that many religions have some form of prayer beads – whether it’s the rosary, Muslim prayer beads or Buddhist amulets and beads.

    This is apropos of nothing – just an observation.

  7. Ahh, yes. Worry, second only to guilt as a mother’s companion.

    Beautifully expressed, as usual, Debbie.

  8. @pir faqir I guess if you’re a worrier, it’s an addiction. 😉 @Lorraine Good graphic–did you paint those watercolors in your sidebar? They are beautiful! @Piedtype Good point about prayer being a positive force & worry more negative. Though they turn out to be the same-with the same results. @Kami It seems like just yesterday, but I remember being worried about the bikes, especially on hills! Just don’t let your put an engine on it! @saab93f & @Lisa Thanks @mktaverner Interesting. I didn’t realize all religions have their prayer beads.

  9. So, how did his race go? I hope that he did well. That sport can be both exciting and frigthening to watch.

    • @dqfan2012 He did well and didn’t get hurt. Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, he ran over a friend. Fortunately, the friend was wearing a chest protect and got up and finished the race. My son has suffered all sorts of injuries in the past. I can’t watch!

  10. @Deborah Mitchell. That would be my daughter. She’s a digital artist. You can see more of her art here:
    She is a non-believer at 18. I tried sending her to those vacation bible school summer camps when she was little but she hated them. She has no interest in organized religion, but having had martial arts training, she does have an appreciation for more spiritual beliefs, if that makes any sense.

    • @Lorraine Wow. Your daughter is super-talented. And only 18?!!

      Yes. Having spirituality does make sense. I have a few friends (one owns a yoga studio) who consider themselves spiritual but not religious in anyway.

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