Unparenting

What if they don’t live?

Do the safety briefing. Let them go.

I wrote those words just there back in 2016. It was the first time myself, friends and my husband were really discussing the questions and logistics around a bigger question;

What if I give my kid a freedom/responsibility – because they’re growing up fast and needing to detach as part of a new and natural stage – what if I do that and… and…  What if they die? 

The words above, in bold, are the ones I stuck down in a draft post to do a reckoning on;  they were the beginning of an answer we were all kinda formulating and which has crystallised for me in the years since. In that time one of my kids went on a whole holiday to Berlin with his pals (and without me) and then went and completely moved out this summer past.

If I had a pound for the number of times I have pictured said son falling out of any one of his new top floor flat windows while simply admiring a view or opening a blind I would have a decent stack of quids, by now. My brain likes to do this worst-case scenario imagery as a special, massively unwanted, self-horror gifting exercise. It’s part of my hypervigilance which flares from PTSD now and again and I’ve learned through therapy interventions that when I bring it into focus and look hard and lovingly at it, examining where it came from and why my brain would do this kind of thing, it helps to deconstruct unhelpful behaviour or feelings that might otherwise follow, and usually even makes me laugh and feel grounded instead.

dchtbc 2016 1

Recently, during a flare, one of my best friends and I sat and listed all the horrific ways we had pictured our fledged kids dying, thanks to the brain CGI movie that the experience of parenting adults often plays in the mind. It seemed like the right thing to do – to lean in fully to the macabre, deeply unlikely possibilities looping in our heads and torturing us, to throw light on them and see exactly what we were dealing with. We ended up in hysterical fits of laughter; hearing how ridiculous I am when I say things like, ‘Ok, well I’ve worked out how it’s possible for him to have a fatal accident while replacing a toilet roll’ is a great needle for puncturing an inflated fear with.

My son has had a word with me about it all too, as has his sister. Their points, paraphrased with swearing removed?

  1. Some credit, please. I am fairly invested in staying alive to enjoy my new found freedom.
  2. Mother, you are frightening me now as well as yourself.
  3. Oh my god, shut up mum.
  4. If you keep this up, I will send you gifs of me running down tenement stairs, wearing flip flops and holding open scissors between my teeth.

And so I have done the safety briefing, done the safety breathing, and let them go in different ways. And it actually feels really good. I’m acknowledging again I can’t control everything for my kids and that’s OK – this is a lesson I seem to revisit in different guises bi-annually, since commencing motherhood. That being the case, I think it might be good to factor this thought and behavioural change catalyst in as a constant point of mediation, for the kids and everything.

Roots and wings, Heather. Roots and wings.