The Raven Lunatic

Still trying to figure it all out

Bernadine Spitzsnogel

Bernadine Spitzsnogel
December 01
All material on "The Raven Lunatic" blog is copyrighted by the author. Author of "The Luxury of Daydreams"--available on amazon and all major book sites.


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JANUARY 16, 2012 5:47PM

Mothering, Over Time

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Something happens to your brain chemicals when you become a mother. That chemical change never, ever goes away. No matter how old your child is you worry.


Yesterday we put our only child on an airplane to go back to college for his final semester before graduation. I hugged him, and watched him walk away with his carry-on luggage and a small backpack.


And I swear, truly I do, that it was just yesterday he stood—wearing a red polo shirt and plaid madras shorts—waiting for the bus to take him to kindergarten.  (The plaid shorts were probably a mistake, only one of many I’ve made as a parent.) That day I watched him step up onto the bus, and watched the yellow oversized vehicle wind around our street and back to the main road.


Our son has some minor special needs, and was in special education classes until second grade. For his kindergarten year, he spent half his time in special education class and the balance of the day in a standard classroom. He was the only five-year-old at the school who ate lunch in the cafeteria.

I worried every day at 11 a.m. (his lunchtime).


Would he be able to even find the cafeteria in that big building? Would he be ostracized because he was the only five-year-old in the cafeteria? Would I physically go over to the school, stand next to the hallway window, and secretly watch?  (I did not.)


At his first teacher conference, he had it all figured out. He owned the place and was proud to show us the walk from his classroom to the cafeteria. Everyone seemed to know him, because as the smallest child in the cafeteria, he stood out.


Now he lives in a major urban area, and uses public transportation. During his freshman year, I worried. Would he be able to navigate the city, a place where he didn’t know anyone? Would he be able to figure out the maze of the Metro system? Would I have to go there and drive around, spying on him? (I did not.)


At parent orientation, our group leader told us that every year she sees freshmen come to campus who seem terrified and unsure of anything. A miracle happens, she said, in four short years. She will often see those same formerly frightened frosh—standing confidently in business attire at the Metro stop—heading downtown for an internship or job interview.


Most of my worry was for nothing, but all mothers know

 you just cannot turn it off.  Worries roll in our heads like waves upon a beach, sometimes subtle and sometimes crashing.

When a child is born, assuming he is healthy, the mother is generally relieved that the birth is over. That relief lasts for about thirty seconds until that child is placed your arms. I remember thinking, “How in the world will I know what to do?  I can’t protect him anymore.”


With an infant, toddler, or young child, your worries involve safety and security.  There’s a trick, however that you won’t read about in any baby book. Worries just change, they don’t disappear.


Is he ready for cereal? 


Did I leave the iron on while I stepped out to answer the phone?


Is there an unprotected outlet anywhere in the house?

What if he doesn’t pass the kindergarten readiness test?

Should he play soccer or baseball, or both?  Why is he sitting on the bench all the time?


Why can’t he figure out fractions?


Am I letting him watch too much TV?


Should I let him stay overnight at John’s house?


What if he can’t remember his locker combination?


Is he ready to drive alone?  Can he make a good left turn?


Why isn’t he home yet?


What if he doesn’t do well on the SAT? What if he doesn’t get into college, and if he does, how will we pay for it?


What if, when, where, why?


And if you are very lucky, your worrying never ends.

© AM Abbott "The Raven Lunatic" column 2012

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The worrying never stops. It seems it just morphs and grabs onto new things (can he pay his rent? Will she remember not to put her sweaters in the dryer?). And that's why I love your last line.
The worrying never stops. It seems it just morphs and grabs onto new things (can he pay his rent? Will she remember not to put her sweaters in the dryer?). And that's why I love your last line.
You know how deeply I understand this, though you have said it all so perfectly. I remember the phrase " Being a mother is like having your heart walking around outside your body." wish I'd said it but to that and to all this piece describes...amen. Rated for truth, heart, and writing.
Motherhood-the toughest multiple choice test you'll ever take!
I recently came across a photo taken at Easter one year when my formerly little guy was 'dressed up' in madras shorts and a turquoise Izod. I can't believe he let me get away with that! They do grow up just fine in spite of us most of the time. (or TO spite us maybe)
You're talking about good mothers, Bea, like you.
I completely understand times 3. Good on you Mom!
You are one dear old mum. I wish though that you had followed through on your skulk & peer expedition outside his classroom windows and the Big City streets. What great stories you'd have. that you in the black ski mask?
God Bless you and your husband and your child, and you, for this.

So true, so true. But I might also add that the sentiment isn't solely female. Dads worry, too. (They just don't get ridiculed as much of for being protective.)
With tears welling in my eyes, I 'get' this. What a wonderful Mother you are.
Never having been a mother I can't relate but I see kids your son's age every day at work and in class. They do pretty well for themselves though I do wonder about fashion choices.
Oh sister! Do I EVER get this. In SPADES.
So, so true, and the better mine do, the more I worry that disaster is just around the corner. Superstitiously, I can't erase their messages from my phone until they're in my presence again (never mind the doctorate in theology — you understand).
It never ends. My yougest of my five living children is twenty-three and I worry about him....and the others....every single day and wonder if i could have done anything better as a parent when they were all growing up.
You know you are preaching to the choir with me. This is so true and perfectly told. xo ~r
Oh, my, yes, and it doesn't change when they've grown. Change the word "mother" to "father" and I can endorse everything you wrote. And you wrote it bea-utifully.
Guilty, guilty, guilty. And guess what? I never stops. Even when they turn 40!

The worries get different with the decades when you're a good mom. (Mine are in their forties. Still worry.)
Both of mine are back in college and I often find my throat closing up at the most random times during the day....I will never stop worrying1
Oh, indeed! The worrying never ends. Once in a while, they are all tucked into bed. And we sleep peacefully.
I did sneak back and peer in the window the year my daughter screamed when I dropped her off in daycare, she would be happily playing just moments after I left, the little bugger, they know even then.
Great post, loving and funny.
I worry a lot about one and not a lot about the other. Of course I still tell the older one to drive safely home for a hockey game 3000 miles away.
The other one is driving me to drink.
We are what we are and I apologize to no one and even to them.
I am their mother.
Poignant, beautifully written, heartfelt! Just the kind of writing I need to read at the end of a long day! Thank you!
Lovely story, though I'm not a parent and I suppose as such should not comment at all. But I still liked your words and emotions.
Yes, I am lucky to have them to worry about. Great post. Thanks for the perspective.
Great last line. Makes me feel better about my worrying. :)
What everyone else said. And i love the phrase Persistent Muse mentioned. Writing that one down.
It will follow you to your grave (or in my case, to the crematorium). Having just visited my daughter and her boyfriend in their roughish neighborhood that they told me the SWAT team also had recently paid a call to, it has only escalated. Even worse, there's the elderly parents that I also worry about constantly. As you stated so well, "you just cannot turn it off."
My mother is 88 and still worries about me. I find the older our son gets (just turned 28), the less I worry and the more I qvell. The worry still lurks in the background, and you've captured the feelings beautifully.
Lovely post. I think Garrison Keillor gave my favorite explanation of chronic mother-worry. He said it is his mother's worrying about him that single-handedly keeps him safe; that in fact it was her concern that kept the stage lights from falling on him during his show. Maybe he figured it out.
Lezlie is right, you worry even when they're old and very responsible. A mother's Love is like that, you always need your precious child to be okay.
Mothers are the thoughts and wishes of all their children and you have spelled that out oh so nicely.
Testify! So true. Mine are almost 30 and 33 and I think about them daily and worry about things all the time.
The caring and concern will never cease, but I hope the worrying will give way to the enjoyment of his accomplishments, and trust in his own capability through the love and support you've given him all his life. ♥
I sent the link to my mother. I am 44 years old and have 3 kids of my own now, but I am leaving the country in a couple of days and I know (by the recent flurry of emails) she is worrying about it. Thanks for writing this, Bernadine!
You capture the heart and soul of motherhood with this piece. Wondereful writing.
I came back today to read this again. I'm so glad to see it's an EP. It's very beautiful, Bea.
Oh man, this was the day for this post for me! I'm glad I'm not alone in this constant fretting, or whatever it is. Fretting isn't exactly right. Worrying isn't either; low-level panic? I don't know...
Thank you for sharing this. I love what you wrote in the last sentence - it puts it all into perspective.
Congratulations on having an almost-launched child! This piece reminds me of the comment a friend's mother made (she had raised four children and had a wicked sense of humor): "Another day, and I kept them alive."
Bernadine, I so relate to the part about vigilance when they are young. Exhausting but necessesity.... I was going to say that as an adult 25 year old my worry for my daughter blinks on and off. But of course the minute I had that thought I almost had a panic attack. It runs so damned deep... And when young they do not worry back as we did not either. Sending love. R
Concerned parents everywhere should read this. Caring for and about our children doesn't ever end. When I find myself "mothering" my grandson, I realize worrying is testament to my lacking trust in others.
Thank you for this post. My son is three, so I have lots of worrying ahead of me. As I type this, he's sleeping upstairs (still, at 10:32am) and I've been wondering if I should go up and make sure he's still breathing.
So much truth spoken here. All mothers get this.
My oldest son turns 30 today. Your article came at a good time. There is so much truth here. R
My mother-in-law is 87 and still worries about her 60 year old son.