I spent last weekend tending to a sick Benji. For once, I maintained a facade of calm, enough to rib V whose panic was showing. Deep down though, I had The Fear.
The Fear is one that I suspect every mother carries around that something terrible might happen to her child. It’s possible every parent has it – and V was certainly exhibiting signs of it this weekend – but I can’t be sure, because fathers often exhibit a stoicism that makes it hard to tells. Mothers, however, talk about and exhibit their feelings and at least two mothers have told me they have The Fear. My sister told me and asked me if she thought I was crazy. My husband’s friends wife who I had called in panic during Benji’s first months told me: “You’ll always be afraid for your children.”
I realised my mother is always afraid for us when we’re sick, even though we’re grown up and thousands of miles away. She may have pissed me off by being more concerned with the health of my children than me, and maybe that’s the mother’s instinct too – to prioritise the young and more vulnerable – but she is still concerned even when my sister as a cold, she is still upset if she thinks we’re being overworked to the detriment of our health.
I have stopped feeling apologetic for the panic instinct when my kids are sick. I understand the need to stay calm, but I know that the state of high alert has it’s uses. It makes us look for every sign and respond to it. It is part of our skill at nurturing. I may mask it for the convenience of others but I won’t unlearn it.