The most terrifying reality I’ve experienced

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Philosophy
Tags: , , , ,

Ooh, how can you resist a title like that??  Seriously, though–another random inspiration struck me today, this one being the scariest thing I’ve come to know in my adult life.

I’m afraid of the dark.  Now, before you think to yourself how lame that is as a blog topic, rest assured, any experience I’ve had in the dark is NOT what this is about.  But, I’ve had to come to terms with this as my kids are becoming, well, kids (and not babies anymore).  I remember not that long ago trying to tell my four-year old that there’s no reason to be afraid of the dark, that there are no creatures lurking, waiting for the lights to go off.  The truth is, I have no problem having those conversations–because they are reasonable, rational, logical strings of thought that kids are able to grasp.  And even as I sit here in my dining room, mostly in the dark, I can reasonably, rationally, logically accept that I have no reason to be afraid.

But kids have something else, too–they have imagination.  They have an ability to receive the abstract, but not process it.  That’s a big change we experience physiologically between childhood and adulthood–the gift of abstraction, or at least, the means to process it slightly better than our younger counterparts.  A child’s imagination, and their inability to logically process abstraction is what makes it so hard to convince them there isn’t a monster under the bed or in the closet.  Fast forward 20-25 years, after all the physiological changes have run their course, and there’s me, still with that inability to process the abstract, the unknown, the scary.

Deep down on the inside, I know I have no reason to fear the shadows in my own home.  When my front door or back door opens, the alarm system beeps.  I have every reason in the world to believe that my home is secure (and frankly, if I rationally thought for even an instant that it wasn’t, I would not let my family sleep here).  But still, when it’s late and I’m doing laundry, coming up the basement stairs, I hate turning the light off because the irrational takes over, and I fear for whatever is waiting for the dark to jump out and get me.  This irrational aversion–it’s a phobia.  It sucks, by the way; I hate it.  And the logical, reasonable, rational part of me often times struggles to stop the fear.

And in spite of this, I truly wish a silly phobia was the only thing I had to be scared about.  It’s not that damaging (at least not at the level I deal with it), and it’s easy to be comforted in time of fear.

Last month I went to NHRA’s Night Under Fire at Norwalk with my Dad.  It was the second time I had gone, and I had a great time.  It reminded me a lot of my trip last year to the Indy 500, because there were a lot of people in a small place.  (Side note: if you’ve ever been to the Indy 500, you know how much of an understatement “a lot of people,” and how misleading “small place” really are; if you’ve never been about 300,000 people nestled around and within a 2 and a half mile track–by the way, the largest sport facility in the world–you’ve not experienced “a lot” of people).  But, while at Night Under Fire, I told my Dad that it would be a long time before I was comfortable bringing either of my kids to an event with so many people, because the idea made me incredibly nervous.

Over the last six weeks I’ve gone to three Browns games, thanks to my father-in-law and his recent acquisition of season tickets.  I went with my brother-in-law, niece and a friend of mine to the second pre-season game, and took an unusual route up West 3rd instead of crossing on the east side of the Cleveland Municipal Court building on Lakeside.  We never go that way–because EVERYONE goes that way.  And, it was particularly nice out that day, so there was an especially large number of people walking down West 3rd that evening.  My niece just turned five.  As we were shoulder-to-shoulder with a bunch of complete strangers, waiting to cross the street, I looked at my friend and recanted the story of Night Under Fire and my conversation with my Dad about bringing kids to an event with so many people.

Fast forward a few weeks to this past Sunday, another Browns game where, in our section, a couple of really stupid people started arguing about something equally stupid, and almost got into a fight.  It is rare for me to call people stupid, I don’t think it’s appropriate or respectful and that’s a big deal to me; I’ve blogged before about how important it is that my kids are respectful to others.  But, later that day as I was telling Janine and Zoe the story of the stupid people, I didn’t hold back the label, and explained to Zoe that some people really are stupid.  It’s not meant to be disrespectful, and it’s certainly not politically correct, but there is a line that can be crossed, and these folks had done exactly that.  Maybe I’m not the guy to make that judgement, but as someone who just wanted to go see a football game, they lacked similar rights to take that away from me, so we’ll call it even.

Then, on the boat ride back (there’s a chartered boat in the Flats that shuttles folks to the stadium every Sunday), I was looking over the side of the boat before we got off the lake, thinking about if Zoe were with me, or Zak, and how incredibly uncomfortable the idea of them being on that boat with me made me feel.  As a parent, I do my best to saddle the irrationality of jumping to the worst conclusion, but in my mind, at that moment, I was pondering how I’d go about rescuing one of them in the event they fell off the boat.  Then I thought about if they both fell and I had to choose.

Being a parent is a terrifying thing.  My cousin was just blessed with a beautiful baby boy, and it got me thinking–thinking about how I would do literally anything for my kids, would risk whatever, face whatever fear or uncertainty I had to in order to make sure they were safe.  Then, the irrational kicked in, and I started thinking about how vain it all seems sometimes…how one little thing could take them from me, one thing that can’t be predicted, one random thing, and it got scary.  Scarier than any experience I’ve had coming up the stairs after doing laundry, scarier than any night when I haven’t been able to sleep because my imagination won’t stop putting monsters behind the door, in the hallway, waiting until I close my eyes.  But this random thing, it doesn’t help me sleep, it doesn’t make the other irrational fear seem not as bad, it just replaces it with something way worse, way more painful and distracting.

My job as a parent is the best job I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything–on the contrary, I would give anything to make sure I can keep it.  But it is also the most terrifying job I’ve ever had, and I know it won’t get harder as my kids get older.  They’ll get hurt–physically, emotionally–and there’s not a whole lot I can do to stop it.  Kind of sucks, if you think about it, but I guess it’s in the job description.

All the usual–thanks for reading.  Be well and stay tuned.

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Comments
  1. Lori says:

    You NEVER stop worrying about your children, and YES, as a parent, the worries are even worse than those childhood fears of the dark (and Libyans).

  2. […] month to go to Kindergarten, I have become more and more reliant on the need to trust others.  I’ve written before how, as a parent, you sometimes jump to the worst possible conclusion when….  Just the other day, I wasn’t feeling well and while laying in bed (another story for […]

  3. […] can sleep well at night feeling confident in the amount of attention they actually receive.  I’ve mentioned before the plight of parents, how we over analyze everything and jump to the worst possible conclusion […]

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