Ruled by Angst

Even as a young girl, I lived by the rules. And in my work as a teacher, rules guided how I ran my classroom. However, as a single parent of a son and a daughter, I was never clear on the rules. Instead, I wandered through the maze of parenting, often losing my way and believing that no path would lead me to a safe exit.
This feeling of helplessness defined one of the worst days of my parenting life. My sixteen-year-old son was practicing with his basketball team when one of his teammates landed on my son’s foot, resulting in a frantic call from the school to get my son and take him ASAP to the emergency room. As I prepared to leave the house, another call from the same high school informed me that a classmate had inadvertently slammed a van door on my fourteen-year-old daughter’s hand; a trip to the emergency room was required.
I remember sitting against a wall that separated two examination rooms; my son, wailing from the pain of a broken foot, lay in one room, while my daughter, sobbing from the pain of a broken hand, sat in the other. I lost it. My years of mothering without support–emotional or financial–from a spouse, of taking two steps forward and four steps backward, of seeing my loving children transform into hostile teenagers now came together in one heinous moment of despair. I screamed with anguish.
I did not know how to handle what was happening. I did not know how to communicate with the Social Service representative who questioned me about having two children with broken bones. I did not know how to react to the implication that I was a physically abusive mother who had caused this situation.
With time, the broken bones healed, but my sense of inadequacy as a mother remained. I became depressed, convinced that my mothering had been given a failing grade, compared to the parenting of my peers. I became overly anxious, worried that something bad would happen every time my son or daughter drove the car, went to the mall with a friend, or just walked from our townhouse to the nearby yogurt store where they worked. Today my children are adults–but I still experience angst about my inability to protect them and do the right thing.
And I still seek a parenting rule book to guide me.
Ronna Edelstein
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Comments

1 thought on “Ruled by Angst”

  1. artie solomon

    The maze of parenting—what an apt description. You are never sure how kids will turn out until you are almost too tired or too old to care. I also would have felt at wit’s end if both my kids had accidents at the same exact moment. You were brave to carry on. congrats on a fine piece that drew me in.

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