Throughout the spring and early summer, a song stalked me. The song that followed me was “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals. The song came on the radio when I was driving, not once a day, but multiple times a day whenever I got in the car. Every. Single. Time. My sons noticed the phenomenon and would say, “there’s your song” when it started playing the first line, “Sometimes, all I think about is you.” It became so repetitive I started to wonder if I needed to learn something from the song. Was it trying to tell me something?
The other day, I felt overwhelmed with worry about three of my four kids. They were still at camp, and one of them wasn’t feeling well physically, one was traveling back to camp from Colorado on a long bus trip, and one had heard some information, that if true, would be very disappointing, hurtful even. Thankfully, one child was all good. I found myself spiraling with anxiety. I just wanted my babies to be safe, healthy, and happy, and I couldn’t talk to or hug them. Not knowing how they were handling their situations was excruciating.
I was in a drive-thru line when the song came on for the second time that day. The song is about a relationship that is not going to survive and the pain that both people are suffering. The singer realizes they can’t make each other happy, but he laments his inability to do so. In one line, he says, “I just wonder what you’re dreaming of / When you sleep and smile so comfortable / I just wish that I could give you that / That look that’s perfectly un-sad.” While the song is about a romance, I can’t help but relate to it as a parent because I desperately wish I had the power to make my kids “perfectly un-sad.” Not just on the day in question, but all the time. Every. Single. Time.
I wish I could deflect all pain and rejection from their lives. But as they get older, I know I have little to no control over their daily lives, and I hate that. I despise that helpless feeling. I can give them advice that they might accept or not; I can pray for them; I can encourage them to get rest, hydrate, and avoid stress, but I can’t make them do a whole lot. And I can’t make the people with whom they interact do anything. Even though these observations make sense intellectually, I struggle to accept them emotionally. My heart hurts when my kids hurt or face struggle. My brain becomes distracted and preoccupied. I struggle until I know they are safe or feel better, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
I don’t have a cure for the challenges of parenthood. No one does. To love our kids is to care deeply about their lives and wish we could protect them from all hardship. But I guess all we can do is stay available for our kids – to absorb some of the hurt, to hold them when they cry, to let them know we are on their team always and forever even when we cannot be together in person. And to make sure they know we think of them constantly. Kind of like the song that plays over and over when I’m in my car – we can be there in the background when they need us even though we may experience pain along with them. Every. Single. Time.