We can’t time travel, obviously. Yet. But how fascinating would it be to watch yourself grow up? How cool to be able to manipulate your Younger Self at crucial times? To be able to change things just in the nick of time to make your life or personality go this way or that? Witnessing myself grow up is what I’m doing now as I watch C age and become a young person with hopes and dreams and, unfortunately, fears. He looks like me, he acts like me, he thinks like me. What worries me, naturally, is that he worries like me. From time to time he becomes anxious at night, around bedtime, for no real reason. At least not one he can give voice to. He tried last night, saying it was a story from a book of short stories I read to him and JP which was, admittedly, too scary for bedtime. I didn’t realize where the story was going until it was too late. He said it scared him, which it probably did, though he somewhat overreacted. I knew it wasn’t the story. I knew it was just what happens to him sometimes in the night. Kristy can’t understand it because being anxious is foreign to her, but I remember just what it was like to be C’s age and have that feeling in my gut. That feeling that you can’t explain, can’t rationalize, because it just is. What I can’t remember is what would have made it better at that age. I’m trying. I’m going through my childhood like a biographer, recalling nights when I’d lie awake thinking about school or worrying about nuclear war (it was the ‘70s) or killer bees in Mexico headed for the U.S., or some other thing I couldn’t control. The more I think about it, though, the more I think that there is nothing anyone could have said or done to chase the anxiety away. I know my mother tried. And I know Kristy has tried. And I believe I should be able to do more than try because he is me.
We’ve talked about it before and I told him that I understand exactly what he’s going through even if no one else seems to. I told him that I went through it all myself and I tried to make him understand that everything turns out just fine and that with all the sleepless nights I had worrying that there was a test at school I’d forgotten about or that someone was going to come into our house to do us harm (I know it’s morbid, I’m not saying it was pretty, but does anyone remember Leslie Gattas? She was taken from, and hidden in, my childhood neighborhood.), that despite all of that, I’m still here. Not only am I here but I have a wonderful, happy family as well, and none of the good that has happened is because I was up worrying all night.
I began writing this earlier in the evening then stopped for dinner and family duties. At bedtime, when I was reading to the kids, S became upset for no reason and wanted her mother, so I took her in and put her in our bed with Kristy and GK. Then C came out of his room, upset again with no explanation. I took him back to his room, he got in bed and I sat with him. After a bit, I told him we were going to try it again and that he should just close his eyes, take deep breaths and try to relax until he fell asleep. Maybe none of this can be rationalized and all he needs is to be sat with for a few extra minutes, to be reassured that family is close. Perhaps that’s all I ever needed. I know for sure I got that.