The dread starts when I get into the elevator of the car park after work. It increases bit by bit as I walk towards my parking spot and almost overtakes me by the time I get to it.
I know, without a shadow of a doubt, Kit has been in a hot car all day while I’ve been at work and has died a terrible death.
Of course, this isn’t true. Kit is safe at daycare where I dropped her off hours earlier. But this doesn’t mean that every day, I’m positive The Worst has happened and that somehow I’ve forgotten and she is back there, dead.
I start my car and force myself to look in the back seat, where the empty, filthy car seats sit. And I can finally breathe.
Every day I go through this 3-minute, all-encompassing torture. Every day it’s fine.
When I’m in the elevator and the dread starts, I tell myself that of course I dropped off my kids; I remember dropping them off. I make my brain recall what happened when I signed them in to daycare to try to calm myself. I remember dropping off their lunch. I remember hanging up their jackets in the cubby. I remember my conversation with their teachers.
But memory is a fickle thing. And I begin to doubt myself. I won’t know for sure until I get to the car — and either they are there or they aren’t.
My friend lost sight of her little boy briefly at the pool this weekend. He was fine; he was with another dad. But still. After he was found, my friend said, “I just kept thinking when I was looking for him: ‘Is this it? Is this right before The After?’”
Every mom I know is pretty much a basket case; we are all riddled with anxiety. I tried to make light of it in yesterday’s post but it won’t work. Nothing will work. I’m convinced we moms will all just worry incessantly until we die because we are all paralyzed by fear of somehow, through some fault of our parenting, of reaching The After.
That being said, I do think it will get easier when they aren’t so helpless, so vulnerable. That soon, they will be able to help themselves a bit more. They will learn to swim, they will learn to unbuckle their car seat, they will have the fortitude to get out of bad situations. They will need us less.
There will still be accidents, of course, but hopefully accidents I don’t cause. Is that a strange way of thinking about it? I guess it is. But, for now, I’m 100% responsible for their wellbeing; it’s all on me. If I don’t keep them safe, there is no one else to blame. Once they become more autonomous, some of that responsibility for staying alive transfers onto them and we become more and more free. Less anxious. Less paranoid. More ourselves.
Until, of course, they become teenagers, and then we have to worry less about them being in a hot car, and more about them becoming heroin addicts.
Just something to look forward to, I guess.