I’ve always been a headcounter. From my days as a camp counselor with twelve little preschoolers running around me, to my days as a middle school teacher with 30 plus kids to usher around, to my days with little ones of my own, I find comfort in counting heads to insure everyone is where they are supposed to be.
When my babies were young this was much easier. They were all located in the same space. As they grew and became more independent, my head counting evolved from a visual count to a mental count. Unable to lay my eyes on each one, I would visualize where they were, sometimes making a phone call to confirm. It’s my way of keeping them close even when they wander.This ritual comforts me. However, any one of them will be the first to tell you that an unanswered phone call can send me into a state of panic in a very short period of time. “Answer mom’s call or she’ll be all over facebook tracking you down!”
I remember the first time I couldn’t locate child #1. He was a freshman in college in North Carolina. I was living in Texas. For thirty minutes he was MIA, not answering his phone, not returning texts, and absent from facebook. My vivid imagination took over with thoughts of crashed cars, kidnappings, and a number of other absurd possibilities. He was my first. I’ve learned since then that a dead phone battery is most likely the reason.
Over the past several years, the time span before panic sets in has grown longer for me. With each child I’ve relaxed a bit more. Learning to trust that they are safe, they are capable, and they will call me back.
When did I start worrying that they were going to a movie? When was it that a concert became a threatening situation? How did I shift from feeling safe to feeling insecure? And most importantly, how do I shift it all back?
I find myself more often doing a mental check of where our children are at any given moment. These checks now involve a new element of concern with children living in Paris, working at Disney World, studying on University campuses, and traveling outside the country. Lockdown drills at school have evolved into real time threats. Text messages in the middle of the day saying, “I’m okay mom. We’re in lock down again. There is a possible shooter in the area.” Late night conversations with a scared child who’s too far away. Reassuring them they are okay, all the while shaking myself.
They are safe, they are capable, and they will call me back.
I maintain calm and trust. Keep a positive mindset. Think good thoughts. Believe all is well. Stay in the moment. Don’t let fear creep in. Fear comes from thoughts of the past. Anxiety comes from worries of the future. Stay in the moment. This moment all is well.
This morning I kissed my child good-bye and thought, “Dear Lord, please keep him safe in his school today.” A mother shouldn’t ever have to feel this way, ever. This is the feeling of being terrorized. It doesn’t matter who is doing it or what their agenda might be. Domestic or foreign, it doesn’t matter. The motive is to terrorize. The media feeds it and despite my resolve not to let it change me, it will. In tiny, slow, steady increments, it will.