I spent a reasonably carefree life before I had children. Of course, I had the occasional panicky day when confronted with certain headlines about global warming and radon, but all in all it was a fine life.
Then I became a mother. All at once, the world became fraught with dangers. Electrical sockets, which I had not ever even noticed before, posed a hazard to my children, and I had to buy little covers to plug into them. After that, using appliances was a challenge, because neither I or my husband was able to pry them out of the sockets in order to insert a plug. Childproofing was small potatoes, however.
With the first fever, our carefree life ended. Babies don’t tell you what is wrong. They just cry. And reach out beseechingly. They do this all night long, and nothing—Dr. Spock or Tylenol—seems to soothe them. With every childhood illness, my first thought was of cancer, followed by encephalitis or meningitis. Our pediatrician learned how to deal with me by telling me that “Really, it is extremely hard to kill a baby.” That helped a little.
I managed to survive chicken pox and Coxsackie virus. Teething went pretty well, except for the loose bowels. I took medication for that. Sports injures were pretty straightforward, and we got through those with only a few sleepless nights.
During the teen years, I had a much harder time. Just as my head hit the pillow, thoughts of sexually transmitted diseases, the high rate of teenage death due to auto accidents, and the ugliness of peer pressure loomed into my head, and I often found myself back up and in front of the TV, drinking chamomile tea and hoping for the best.
As if that wasn’t enough to shatter my fragile equilibrium, news of the dangers of certain foods came out. I worried about pesticides, hormones, and preservatives. My dreams were filled with Mad Cows and aflatoxin. I accepted the fact that insomnia was my lot in life.
As empty nesters, we heaved sighs of relief, and looked forward to fun and freedom from anxiety. Our children were off on their own lives, and I no longer had to take responsibility for what they ate, how many beers they drank, or if their teeth were flossed. Life held promise once again. I got a good eight hours in every night.
But then our dog got older. One of the cats developed a digestive condition. I learned that aging pets can develop arthritis. I did comparison shopping for dog vitamins. There was that huge scare about melamine in pet food produced in China. I have sat up nights, Googling “Dog Influenza Vaccine,” and “Anti Plaque Mouth Spray for Dogs and Cats.” Once again, a good night’s sleep is elusive.
It’s not going to get any better, according to my husband. With the marriage of our two daughters, he reminded me that our girls’ biological clocks make grandchildren a looming certainty. My gosh. I wonder if technology has improved those outlet covers…