I’m not ready for this.
I keep looking over my shoulder for the adult I hope is standing behind me, ready to take charge.
Because….who else is going to clean the baseboards?
It certainly isn’t me, and Eric is more likely to volunteer to teach 3-year-olds ballet than meticulously move the furniture and clean those bad boys.
Then there is this weird rubbery thing that holds the door of our washing machine on, and the slime on that thing repulses me to my core, and there is no WAY I am cleaning it.
Then there are the harder things, like when a tearful mom, reeling from the news of her child’s cancer diagnosis, asks me if her 5-year-old is going to die.
How do I figure this out?
I’m not prepared to fail over and over again, I’m not prepared to learn these big adult things.
I recently realized that I thought when I was grown up I would know how to be a grown-up. I would automatically know how to raise a child and file my taxes.
You know that feeling when the staircase ends but you’re not expecting it? So you’re just suspended in mid-air for a second and then you kind of land clumsily because you weren’t ready to be on solid ground again? That millisecond of the unknown, that fraction of a moment of unpreparedness is how adulthood as a new adult feels like 99% of the time.
That feeling when you put your first baby in the car seat and carry it to the car and you’re shaking because they are incredibly fragile, and you’re so scared of doing something wrong. That moment when something in your house breaks and you freeze because you don’t know what to do or who to call.
But the thing that links all of these tiny moments of utter terror and unpreparedness is that in all instances, there is nothing else to do but do.
You can be the bystander only for a moment because water is spraying out from beneath the sink and you can’t just stand there.
Or the baby is crying and you seem to be the only parent in sight, and so you sing the itsy bitsy spider 54 times.
You get through these moments awkwardly, incorrectly, and painfully because the only direction to go in is forward.
I can help.
“I’ve been Googling and….I know the doctors said he has a good chance of getting better but the internet says….is he going to die?”
I looked at her tiny frame, shaking with pent-up anxiety, clothed in worn, baggy sweatpants. Her fake eyelashes were batting quickly, trying to fend off the impending tears. She was so young, maybe my age, with six kids, no husband beside her, and her middle child diagnosed with a mother’s nightmare.
I mentally looked over my shoulder. No adult to be found.
I knelt down next to her chair, put my hand on her knee, and started talking quietly about the doctors, leukemia, the long weeks ahead, and hope.
I probably stumbled on my words, and perhaps said the wrong thing, but there was no one else but me, and so I was there for her.
As I closed the heavy, glass hospital door behind me, I could hear her blowing her nose and calling her dad, and I noticed that her voice had a hint of strength to it. And in a time when nothing was certain and her whole world was in an uproar, she took a step forward and just kept going.