Catherine Connors is a mother, writer and recovering academic who traded the lecture hall for the playroom and discovered that university students and preschoolers have much the same attention span. She still dips her toes into academic waters by writing the occasional scholarly article about the place of motherhood in Western philosophy, but mostly now she changes diapers and wipes noses and indulges in long reflections on whether Yo Gabba Gabba is a harbinger of the decline of western civilization. Oh, and she blogs: in addition to Bad Mother blogging at BeliefNet, she is, among other things, the author of HerBadMother.com, Managing Editor of MamaPop, moderator of Her Bad Mother’s Basement, co-founder and co-editor of WeCovet, Contributing Editor at BlogHer, and (deep breath) founder of and contributor to Canada Moms Blog. And in her spare time… oh, wait. She doesn’t have spare time. But she’s okay with that.
So my mom called me the other day, to talk about this, that and the other, and in the course of our chatting she says, in passing, words to the effect of ‘… and so after I saw the vascular surgeon…’
At which point I interrupted and said words to the effect of ‘WHAT?‘
‘The surgeon, honey. For my aneurysm? I saw him yesterday, and…‘
‘My aneurysm. I’m sure that I told you…’
‘MOTHER YOU DID NOT TELL ME ABOUT ANY ANEURYSM.’
‘I’m sure that I did…’
‘YOU DID NOT.’
And so on.
A couple of years back she ‘forgot’ to tell me that she’d had a mole on her arm diagnosed as malignant. She forgot to tell me that she had skin cancer. I was furious. I worried enough about losing my parents; to think that there might be extra cause to worry that I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT was enough to send me straight to my psychiatrist to renew my Ativan prescription. Parent-triggered anxiety: DO NOT WANT.
That, as I said, was a couple of years ago. Since then, I did lose my dad, and if anything my fears and anxieties about losing my parents have ratcheted upward a trillion-fold. The idea of losing my mom fills me with abject terror. It gives me nightmares. I can hardly think about it without needing to sit down and breath deeply into a paper bag. And knowing that there might be things that might cause that to be – things that she is not telling me – makes it worse. Much, much worse.
She tells me that I’m a worrier. Which I am. That’s the problem. I worry, a lot. And in the absence of information, I worry more. In the absence of information about whether or not there’s information that may or may not be absent, I worry even more. So. We have a problem. And, I know, it’s not her problem. It’s mine.
Sure, she should keep me better informed about this kind of thing, but she’s not obligated to, any more than I am obligated to keep her informed about every detail of my life. It’d be nice, but it’s not obligatory. What is obligatory is that I should cut her some slack, and not impose my fears and anxieties on our relationship. Instead of getting upset, I should have immediately just asked her how she was, how she felt, was she worried, what did the doctor say. And then said, I wish you would have told me sooner.
Letting fear shape our reactions, our conversations, our relationships is letting fear win. And I don’t want fear to win. Life’s too short for that.