Not So Hot at Keeping My Cool

As I was driving home from a quick trip out of town recently, I received a frantic phone call from my youngest son that there was a tornado warning and he was rounding up the other kids and the dogs to head to the basement. I always get immediate text alerts when there is any kind of severe weather, so I asked him if he had heard tornado sirens. He said he had not, but he had just heard an alert on the radio. I told him the warning was probably not for us, and calmly assured him I would check it out and get back to him. I was correct, and the warning was for the far regions of the state, so I let him know all was well and if anything came up, I would be sure to alert his older sister, who was in charge at the time. It was pretty easy for me to stay calm as the weather in our area really didn’t seem bad, and I haven’t been let down yet by my text alerts.

Staying calm for my children isn’t always possible, though, especially since I’m a rather high strung person. A few years ago, my daughter and I were in a similar weather situation and were huddled in the center of a huge box store during a tornado warning, while rain pounded down on the metal roof, echoing like gunfire through the store. My husband and two youngest sons were just outside of town camping and despite my desperate attempts to try to reach them, there was no phone service in their location. My older three kids were at home, and I was able to call and get them to seek shelter and stay there until I gave them the all clear. Now, logically, I knew that everyone was going to be ok, that everyone would be safe and even at the campground they had emergency procedures in place. But emotionally, I was scared to death that someone was going to end up hurt. I’ve watched far too many disaster movies and news reports not to fear the worst. I stood there crying, trying to be as quiet as possible and not let my daughter see that I was worried out of my mind while the torrent raged all around us. She actually ended up consoling me, and assuring me that everything would be fine, something an eleven-year-old shouldn’t have to do for her mom.

Minor disasters always seem to hit my family when my husband is working all night or out of town. One January evening, my youngest was escorted, crying, into the house by his siblings. They let me know they had been playing, and he had slipped on some ice and hit his head on the concrete driveway. I checked his head and, while there was a large bump forming, he was calming down and seemed ok. When he came back in the kitchen about five minutes later he asked me if I knew why his head hurt. He had no recollection of having fallen or hit his head. I was able to keep my wits about me and put the oldest kids in charge while I bundled him into the car to head for the emergency room. I called my husband and was able to hold it together briefly while I explained the situation. I called my best friend because I needed to decompress and called my mom to put her on alert that I might need her to make the trek up from Kentucky to stay with my kids should I have to stay at the hospital with him through the night. Each mile closer to the hospital, I seemed to cry a little harder as my fear grew. I was worried about my son; I was worried about my kids at home; I was worried about trying to not be a hysterical mother. My son just looked at me in bewilderment because he obviously didn’t think this was such a big deal, and my reaction seemed bizarre. Thankfully, his injury wasn’t too serious; we weren’t at the hospital too late; and I was able to get home to the other kids before the clock struck midnight.

Usually, I can be the calm, sensible mother I should be through all the bloody knees, fights with friends, trouble in school, sibling rivalry, and general mayhem that can arise in a household of six children. I can soothe my children and assure them that everything will be ok. However, there are times when the pressure, the anxiety, the stress and frustration build up and I become, as my children affectionately call me, The Hulk. I rant and rave, or I cry curled up in the fetal position on the floor. I slam doors; I lock myself in a room; I stomp up the stairs or stare blankly into space with no idea what to do next. Because the thing is, I may be a mom, but I am also a human being with the same fears, worries and insecurities as any other human being.

Sometimes I feel like there are two versions of me – the “supermom” who can always save the day, and the basket case who has no idea how someone could have trusted her to bring these kids home from the hospital all those years ago. With a little luck and some hard work, I think supermom will usually take over, but even when she can’t, it’s good to know there are good people surrounding me who know how to bring this basket case around and save the day when I can’t.

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