Dread overhead

Bubby and his mamaMegan called Tuesday night to ask a few questions about Bubby. And his rash. Another in a long line of ailments that have plagued the little guy since around Halloween. Ailments that can be, for the most part, chalked up to the germapalooza Bubby faces with Mom being a teacher and him being enrolled in daycare -- a double whammy of germ-catching probabilities.

First it was -- or so the pediatrician thought -- asthma, which turned out to be just a bad cold. Then Bubby ended up with H1N1. That cleared up a bit ... until the second coming of the flu threw him for a loop. Then the little pink dots of roseola made an appearance (although the doctors apparently call it something a little more fancy nowadays). Then, after months of the yuck, Bubby finally seemed himself again.

Until last night. When little pink dots appeared again all over Bubby's chest.

"I was just settling into thinking things were back to normal," Megan said. "Then I saw the rash and got this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me!' Is this what parenting's like, Mom?"

(Bubby's 19 months old and we're just now having this conversation ... ?)

"Uh, yeah, Megan," I told her. "Welcome to parenting. That dread never goes away."

"That's what that sick feeling is? That's dread?"

"Yep, and it never, ever, ever goes away. You'll be living with it for the rest of your life."

She laughed. And so did I ... just so she wouldn't feel stupid when she realized how serious I was. I proceeded to point out to her all the moments of dread I've had just in the past two weeks, all related to one thing or another I've faced as a parent. Dread, dread, dread. And my kids are grown, hurtling faster than I ever imagined they would toward the 30-years-old mark.

She, on the other hand, has a little one, with more surely to come. And as long as you have a child -- which, once you have one, will be the rest of your life, one hopes -- you have dread overhead. It begins with worries about delivering a healthy baby, getting him past the point of SIDS, feeding him correctly, keeping him safe in the world around him. Then he grows, his world expands and a plethora of dreadful possibilities keep Mom awake at night.

Some moms may think -- moms of youngsters, that is -- the age of 18 is some magical year that means Mom will no longer worry, no longer dread. It's not true. At what age might a mom say to herself, "Okay, my kid's old enough now that I don't have to care what happens to him"? Doesn't happen. In fact, I've found the dread increases as one's power and influence (Mom's power and influence) decreases.

So yes, Megan, that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach -- that dread -- will remain with you for the rest of your life.

That's not to say the dread is overwhelming, though. Parenting comes with a host of stronger, happier emotions, too, welcome feelings that also reside in the pit of your stomach, wrap around your heart, stretch from your toes to your hair follicles, and ooze from every pore.

But that dread is always lurking. Maybe it's a fail-safe measure to ensure Mom deeply appreciates and savors the warm fuzzies, knowing the cold pricklies may bear their burrs unannounced at any time.

As soon as I hung up the phone from scaring the bejeezus out of Megan, I realized that THAT -- dread -- is the difference between parenting and grandparenting. It's the lack of dread. Grandmas don't have to worry, to fear ... to dread ... what will become of her grandchildren. That's Mom's job. Grandma's job description demands loving, spoiling, hugging, rocking, adoring the little one. Nary a mention of dread.

Grandmahood, I've learned, is a dread-free zone -- a zone in which I'm oh-so happy to have arrived!

Today's question:

What are you currently dreading?

My answer: I'm dreading going to small claims court because Renewal By Andersen owes me money. But I'm going to; it's my current "feel the fear and do it anyway" moment. (ugh!)