Apparently the summer came and went, and I haven’t posted a damn thing. Truth be told, there has been so much chaos swirling around my orbit, I’m not sure I would have been able to get out out anything coherent if I tried. (Although I did manage to come out of retirement for this Hollywood Reporter story.)
With the beginning of fall, I have vowed to devote much more time to writing and to sharing much more of my bumbled attempts at being a mom. This week? My newest neurosis: Perpetual Parent Paranoia.
The last 12 months have seemed to go by in a blur of floor samples, moving boxes and salted caramel yogurt, so as we approach her third (!) birthday, it blows my mind how much Tallulah has grown and learned over this past year. What’s more? I really, really like the person she’s becoming: funny, clever, adventurous, sweet and mischievous. But becoming her own person means that one day she’s going out into this world on her own, and I won’t always be around to protect her.
Let me be super blunt: that’s a really fucked up thing for her to do. She’s just going to grow up!? Like, seriously? She’s going to want to go places without me? She’s going to want to drive a car? She’s going to want to travel or go to college? Oh, hell no. Not on my watch.
I’m gonna back my psycho ass up for one minute…
A few weeks back, I got a text from our nanny that there was a pretty creepy, seemingly intoxicated guy at our neighborhood park that had made her uncomfortable. Laguna Beach couldn’t really be much safer a place, but at the end of the day it’s a beach city with lots of out of town visitors, particularly in the summer. And, honestly, people like to do drugs at the beach. It is what it is.
To hear our nanny tell it, he wasn’t aggressive or even much larger than she was (and she’s a small person), but he approached them, and it freaked her out enough to grab the pepper spray from her purse, pack up everything else and head home.
She wasn’t sure if she was blowing it out of proportion and was worried she might have been rude, but she said he just gave her the creeps. I reminded her of what she says to Tallulah every time they walk down the stairs: “Safety first!” (If you’re feeling uncomfortable, your LAST concern should be if you’re being impolite.) Our neighborhood park is popular and always busy, and we made sure to let other parents and caregivers know, but it seems it was a random thing because no one has seen him lurking around since.
Maybe he really was just some stoner who decided to go sit at the park, but I still couldn’t shake this hideous feeling that took over: I felt wildly out of control. My husband and I may have gone to the park to look around. Maybe I brought a tennis racket. (At the time I thought it to be a more sophisticated choice than a bat.) And to be honest, the feeling of soul-crushing worry hasn’t much gone away.
Yesterday, I went to LA for the day to celebrate one of my best friend’s new fall fashion collection, and the thought of being 60 miles away from my daughter sent me into a bit of tailspin before I left. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because underneath the surface is a glacier of fucking crazy. I have alarms on every window and door of our house, and am really having a hard time letting anyone besides me drive her anywhere. Luckily, I’m in love with our preschool so that’s not an issue, but I did almost get into a fight with a 7-year-old at the beach. But honestly, he was sort of a dick. God forbid I even hear the first few notes of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You” without losing my fucking mind.
You wanna know a cool television show to watch when you’re struggling with parenting anxiety? I would too, because it sure is shit ain’t The Handmaid’s Tale. I love her so much that even the remote idea of anything bad ever happening to her crushes my heart. God bless the poor young boy (or girl, I’m a love-is-love kind of mom) that one day wants to take her on a date.
I wish I could wrap up this post with some really poetic, thoughtful insight to help calm the rattled cage of any parent, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I guess this is what people mean when they say, “it’s a parent’s job to worry.” And if that’s the case, I need a raise…because I’m fucking CRUSHING it.
(***Forty-five minutes later***)
Fine. I guess, the takeaway is that, as parents, all we can do is our best, right? To talk to our children, endlessly…and without mercy. To remind them that even though they are small, they are also fierce and their voices are loud. To somehow teach them to not live in fear, while always being thoughtful, smart and aware. To teach them to be brave, but not careless. To teach them to be compassionate, but not foolish. To teach them to weigh risk and reward, and to always consider the consequence of an action, even if they know they’ll choose it anyway. To teach them that there is goodness in the world and to have faith in people, but to always trust their instincts.
I have a folded up letter that I stuck inside a book and shoved to the bottom of some storage box. I’m not totally certain where it is now, but it’s around. It’s a note from someone I love very dearly, but who is no longer a part of my life. And it was one of the best gifts he ever gave me.
It read: “Leslie, in this life, have more fun than you can handle, but always be the one in control.”
And one day, I think that’s exactly what I’ll tell my kid.