Another interactive task from our museum trip this week:
How's this for concentration?
The idea is that if you are completely relaxed, the sensors in the headband pick up the "calm signals" and relay the message to the magnetic ball, which will roll away from you toward your opponent.
The trick is to see who can roll the little ball into the circle opposite.
The most chilled-out player wins.
It's hard work being that relaxed.
For the record, Gabey won this round, though Anna gave him a run for the money. I played against Theresa a little later and was pretty confident I could beat her. After years and years of actively practicing Lamaze relaxation techniques, I'm actually pretty good at going limp, but, though I came within an inch of winning, I ended up giving it to Theresa.
Having left Michelle to watch over the other children while I played, I had no problem being calm... and relaxed... and focused.... Eyes open (because I can't relax if I can't see what I'm doing), I serenely concentrated on the little silver ball... But then the children started showing up next to the game table, one by one: there's Cathy, there's Anna, there's Gabe, there's our friend Philomena, then Joe... and, though I was a little distracted, I was still winning. Even with all the spectators, the ball kept rolling toward Theresa's circle.
Until Michelle walked up.
I could see her out of the corner of my eye. Michelle was there -- but not William. Even though I wasn't aware I was counting, the alarm bell went off. Where was William? Who was watching him? After five minutes of working the little ball all the way over the track, within two seconds, I lost control over it and it had rolled almost all the way back to me. Calm gone.
"Where's your brother?" I asked Michelle.
"He's right there," she said. "Don't worry; I'm watching him."
And I tried to believe her; I tried to regain my stress-free, game-winning composure. But I couldn't do it. I rallied for about thirty seconds, keeping it near the middle of the track... But I had to quit and let Theresa roll it on in and win. There was no way I was going to relax until I could see William with my own eyes.
Defeated by mother-worry.
It's stronger than the tides, this instinct to guard and protect our children. God hard-wires it into mothers, and, though there are sad cases of women who seem to be missing the nurturing gene, I believe they are the ill-effect of a Godless society, or a mother's own deprived childhood, an aberration from nature, not God's plan at all. We mothers take some grief for it, but our worry is a good thing, a gift. Really it is.
Let's break worry down into its vital components and separate it from the bad connotations. Webster says to worry is to "feel or experience concern or anxiety," but this is the third definition. The first definition is: "to choke or strangle." And that's what it does, doesn't it? Concern run amok chokes and strangles -- us and those around us. Many of us fall into this occasionally, by losing track of God's providence. But what our husbands and children usually tease and rail about isn't that choking and strangling worry, it's really concern. Here's the definition of concern: "a marked interest or regard usually arising through a personal tie or relationship." That is the God-given gift. It's the tie that binds.
There is an image in Jane Eyre, that Mr. Rochester uses to describe his love for Jane. He says "...it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame..." I've always loved this analogy because I can identify with it. All mothers have invisible strings knotted from that same location to all the little hearts that they have borne and/or nurtured. That's what love is. It's what love does to us. More than just a "marked interest or tie," it's a deep responsiblity, a charge from our Heavenly Father to guide and guard our children. It's why we worry; God has tied invisible tethers from our hearts to all of theirs.
Mothers treasure the babyhoods of their children when the bond is so close and warm and sweet. There is barely a separation between us; the string is blue and pink ribbon, tied in a bow. But, then our little ones grow up and start to separate from us, and we struggle to get used to the tugging. That first day of school just about kills us. But we live through it, and become accustomed to the change, as bit by bit, our children stretch our connecting string out into the world and away from our sides, gradually farther and farther, sometimes in fits and starts. The bow pulls out, but the link remains. The children don't know it, but the string is always there. In their search for independence, they test it, and yank on it, and stretch it thin, but it can't be broken. We won't let it be. Because that's what mothers do. We love.
And because we love, we worry. Which is a good thing. It's a gift from God.
And those on the receiving end of a mother's worry are highly blessed, indeed.