Let go of my tail! I’m getting dizzy.

To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.  ~Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved

This past week, Kevin and I went on a 5 day trip to NYC to celebrate our 15th anniversary. I love to travel.  L. O. V. E.  it. I like the experience of being out of the comfort zone of home – not that NYC is very extreme in that regard… but still.  I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit, and often without the kids.  This time, something felt VERY different.

Ever since the ‘flying’ incident way back in October 2004 – it is a long story, however, the short version is that for several long minutes, I was pretty sure the plane would crash, and by the looks of the hyperventilating flight attendant, he also thought we were going to crash – I have been a bit tense on planes.  My level of tension and anxiety has improved dramatically over the years (ask my cousins Kyle, Jennifer and Auntie Marylou about the return trip from Vegas, where I was a total disaster through a turbulent landing, made more humorous for cousin Jennifer as I was sitting in the emergency exit row and would clearly be of NO assistance in an emergency).  I can handle take offs, landings, and even minor turbulence without much notice now.  Major turbulence gets my attention, but I haven’t cried on a plane in years now…  🙂   But I digress.  Last Thursday, Kevin and I were on the plane taxiing down the runway.  I was quite suddenly and unexpectedly gripped by an overwhelming sense of fear and dread.  Nausea reminiscent of the unrelenting morning sickness of my early pregnancies caused me to break out in a cold sweat, and I felt like I may lose my breakfast.  But this time, it wasn’t flying that made feel this way.

My fear was about Berrik.  Well, it was about Berrik if something should happen to me.  It hit me like a sucker punch to the gut (not that I have ever been sucker punched in the gut…but I have a good imagination). Now, I have often had anxious thoughts about all three kids and how it would impact them if I was to die while off on a trip somewhere.  But it was more feelings of sadness for them that they would grow up without a mother, and for myself having to miss all those milestones that parents look forward to.  Some anxiety for the girls navigating puberty and those confusing teen years with only Dad to help them (not that Dad isn’t wonderful… but he’s just not Mom).  This time though, it was different.  It was this cold-sweat inducing fear for what would happen to Berrik if I was not there to advocate for him, to make sure he accesses all the resources he needs, to make sure he is learning in a way that works for him, to make sure no one writes him off as ‘not smart enough’.  We have been making great progress, but we have much more progress to make.  I felt completely selfish and guilty that I was on a plane flying away from my kids when Berrik (and the girls too) are at such critical points in their lives.  I know intellectually that driving my car on Deerfoot is more dangerous than flying to NYC for the weekend, but this was an emotional response, not an intellectual one.

Now that I am home and everyone is safe and sound, I wonder if all parents of kids with special needs feel this fear of leaving their kids more acutely than other parents? These past few months have been really telling for me in terms of how much a difference I can make for Berrik by spending this time with him. It’s this knowledge that I believe has instigated the fear I was feeling on the plane.  Based on past experience, it is scary for me to imagine what would happen to him if I was not here to advocate for him.  And it’s not just because I think I am SO good at teaching him or helping him.  It’s really not that at all.  It’s because at this moment in time, I am the one who has the time, and who has arguably the most vested interest in his success.  I know his learning needs best right now.  Could someone else figure this all out, just as I did? Quite probably.  But still.

I am comforted though, by how amazing my parents were this weekend with all three kids.  Berrik continued his studies and made excellent progress with Grandma’s tutoring and encouragement.  McKenna made it to all her dance classes, and got her homework done, Avi made it to choir rehearsal, sewing club, and practiced her piano AND the kids had a great time, AND they had homemade buns and homemade cookies (AND suckered Grandpa into 2 pizza nights!!).  I am fortunate that my parents are young, and also young for their age, with a ton of energy and so much love for my kids that they will do anything for them.  I know that if I was unable, for any reason, my parents would step in as much as they could to ensure all three kids got what they needed.

Would it be the same? Obviously not.  Would my kids be fine in the end.  Very likely.  Will I stop worrying about this?  Sigh.  Nope.  But I’m glad to be able to look at this from an intellectual perspective, now that the emotional response has diminished some.

As an aside, about 1/2 way through the flight we encountered some pretty intense turbulence for about 20 minutes.  I didn’t cry, but in light of the extra anxiety at the beginning of the flight, and my PTSD reactions to turbulence, I did bury my face in Kevin’s shoulder and squeeze the blood out of his hand until his fingers were numb, all the while making silent bargains with whomever could pick up on my brainwaves to please keep me safe and alive for a few more minutes, days, months,  years so I could make sure Berrik had everything he needed, McKenna continued to have her biggest cheerleader at her dance competitions, and so I could bask in the pride of watching Avi sing with such joy as part of her outstanding choir.  So far so good. Let’s hope my luck holds.

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