"I'll take Parental Guilt for 1000, Please"

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When I made the announcement at Mother Daughter book Club last night, the last thing I expected was to be awake at 4 a.m., later that night, in full panic attack mode, envisioning my daughter as a destitute crack whore living in the crevices of St Catherine.

Now in my defense, I have been off my meds since last week when I ran out.  Since I couldn't see my doctor until this coming Monday, I have been crazy Med free for nearly two weeks..... for the first time in more than 10 years.

 (And don't get me started on how the pharmacist wouldn't refill and the doctor couldn't be gotten to fax a script in to refill and me, off meds and getting increasingly angry with myself for not being more on top of things and thinking vaguely that I DESERVED withdrawal, but I increasingly digress as the symphony in my head gets louder and adds in more critical voices )

It was the utter silence, I think, that unnerved me.

In choosing books for the upcoming months, and trying to work schedules etc, there was a sudden uptick mother voices talking about the high school entrance exams and how they aren't sure if they are going to be able to make the October meeting because everyone has eight billion entrance exams scheduled. Now, this isn't just for private schools in Montreal. Oh, No. They do this shit for the "better" public schools too.

Me being Me, cheerfully announced that I opted Emily out of ALL of that - that our stance was it was all Bullshit, and we weren't going to put Em through it.  "No reason", I said. "The tests are meaningless. She has two parents with PhD's in education, she is going to be just fine."

I might as well have announced that I had conceived Emily through Alien anal probing. (although god knows, Terrance does try every now and then)

Silence.

One of the Moms who knows me a bit better smiled at me. I am the quirky parent after all. Who KNOWS what Dawn is going to say.  Sweet Dorothy even said "Well, that is really refreshing!" I know she was sincere. I am sure it WAS refreshing. I may have been the first parent in the history of English Montreal who made that statement in a public room with other parents present. I may as well have said "I hope for Emily to be a stripper in one of Montreals various skin clubs. Maybe a stripper with Herpes. And a Meth addiction."

In that moment of silence, the panic saw it's opportunity and nestled itself in my reptilian brain.

In the light of the day, I can look at that panic. I know it well. It was the same panic that came to stay when her brain injury was first diagnosed and I envisioned her, 32, living in my basement and walking to her minimum wage job. No college. No marriage and children. Nothing.

And it was my fault. Me. Her mother. I didn't do something right. I was depressed. I drank coffee during my pregnancy. I put her down too hard in her crib one night. I didn't love her enough and I ruined her life before she could even escape me. It is part of that panic that whispers to me to have another baby, you know. Have another baby and prove you can do it better. Be absolved.  Which is ridiculous. And uber Crazy.

In the space of hopelessness it feels like something. Something I can do. Prep her for a test. Make sure she gets into the best high school, make sure I am doing everything right so if it goes wrong, I can be held blameless.

It is our collective parental nightmare. Our moments of indecision, of selfishness, or disinterest or sheer exhaustion in parenting are going to revisit us. They are going to sit in our kitchen and stare at us with dead eyes and accusing words.

When Terrance found me flighty and sleepless this morning, I garbled all of this out to him.

"We are doing the right thing, right? It will be all right, right? This is the best thing for her and she will end up in a good school? She will be happy? Should we start looking to see if she should take these tests?"

He soothes me. This episode was small compared to the panic after the diagnosis when I curled in bed and sobbed for my daughters imagined future. Professional Dawn has taken a powder break and left the Uncertain, anxious, parent in her place.

He holds me. "Dawn, if there was ever two parents who can exert sheer force of will, it is you and I. She will be fine. This will all be fine. We will find the right place where she will be happy and succeed, we always have..."

I hold the panic at bay.

4 Baleful Regards:

roo said...

That panic can be a sneaky bugger-- esp when you're off your meds.

Good man, Terrance, for helping you keep that panic growling outside the door, instead of letting it in.

jwg said...

Just reference your previous post and substitute high school for kindergarten.

Public Artist said...

You know, kids whose parents push them constantly and who value you them based on the meaningless assessment hoops society seems to impose them...yeah those kids become strippers too. I don't know much about life yet, but I'm pretty sure love is the closest thing to a guarantee you can get in parenting. Emily has plenty of that. She will be fine. And, can I just applaud you for saying no to the bullshit?

jwg said...

PS For the record, the only thing worse than being a Professional parent is being a Professional grandparent. You've had so much more time to learn about the things that can go wrong and the many ways to screw up a kid and have so much less tolerance for stupidity.

 
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