When my daughters were little I remember feeling slightly sick to my stomach when we would visit large, outdoor playgrounds.
Wiltshire Park in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania
Their chubby legs would teeter up the steps of the slide and climb, fall, reach, miss, fall, reach again, fall again, etc. while they gained their footing. I realized that they had to learn how to navigate around other kids that were pushing, shoving, running, teetering and just as uncoordinated as they were. Tripping and falling was part of the package and like it or not, I had to allow that to happen if I wanted them to grow physically, psychologically as well as socially.
So I did what any conscientious parent would do in this situation. To keep myself from freaking out, I frequently turned my back on them. I would get lost in a conversation with a friend and let my kids play instead of shrieking, reaching, grabbing and otherwise choreographing their every move. I tried to alternate between being close with a helping hand and giving them the freedom to create a muscle memory and explore.
When we moved to an urban area they were forced to spend all of their play time on even more complex equipment involving higher slides and older kids that would teach them cool tricks like how to sway through the monkey bars or worst yet, climb on top of them. Again, my stomach was in knots. My kids that used to play with a few children on a backyard play set were now one of 50 kids of various ages trying to stake their claim on a metal jungle gym. It was chaotic, frankly but instead of nervously anticipating that my kids would fall, I tried my damnedest to anticipate success. I decided to assume the best and keep the entire experience in perspective because although my kids appeared to be seconds away from a head injury, in actuality, every kid there was moments away from serious injury. And yet in all my years of public park visiting, never once has an ambulance been summoned.
This chaos continued when I returned to my apartment. From my 10th floor window I would watch cars commuting north on 1st Avenue as they barely missed side swiping, clipping and crashing into each other.
Photo by Beggs
I wondered how the traffic below would change if the pedestrians realized how close they were to harm or if drivers knew that they were mere inches away from paying towards their $1000 deductible?
This memory is helping me now as my husband and I teach our daughter to drive. I keep reminding myself that like the playground and 1st Avenue, although danger is lurking – closely – it somehow keeps it’s distance.
And even though chaos theory, (the butterfly effect) tells me otherwise…that initial conditions are so sensitive that small changes in a nonlinear system can and may result in vastly different outcomes, i.e., the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings could lead to creation or absence of a hurricane…I’m surprisingly calm. Not because I’m trying to control the chaos. That would be futile because as controlled chaos theory tells us, even if you can successfully stabilize a system, the change you insert must be small, as in extremely small, so as to only affect one outcome and not derail the entire system all together.
In other words, calmly telling my daughter to “slow down a little” will help her avoid a crash. But if I scream “SLOW THE FUCK DOWN!” while stomping on her foot to slam on the brakes – sure we’ll avoid crashing, but I risk derailing the entire system, i.e., scarring her for life, making all driving situations stressful rather than exciting, fracturing her foot, and putting us both at risk to be rear-ended by the car behind us.
Thus my only option is to follow my own theory which I like to call, trusting chaos while remembering that like all of the combined worst case scenarios involving kids from the playground and cars from the city – in the end, everything worked out fine. I simply remind myself that we’re in a non-linear system which means that even though the idiot next to us is texting, a lot of things have to happen before he’ll actually wreck into us.
Likewise, I’m finding that this new found calmness, is carrying over into other areas of my psyche. For example:
- Even though I enjoyed a deliciously, fattening salted caramel cupcake from Angelcakes last Tuesday (and a Snickerdoodle flavored one, last Saturday), my entire metabolic system will not be derailed overnight and force me out of every pair of pants that I own. Quite a few things must happen before I need to go up a size, so I’m not going to sweat celebrating my birthday with baked goods.
- Although the economy is in the shitter, a very specific sequence of events must happen in order for me to find myself living under a bridge. Considering that I’ve always had enough and have never been homeless, I highly doubt that will change any time soon.
Suddenly, and maybe for the first time ever, I’m finding comfort in the chaos and wondering if my lack of acceptance and complete avoidance of pandemonium has been the problem all along? Has my inner control freak been secretly wanting to chaotically wave her freak flag all this time? Could it be that, flying by the seat of my pants and embracing the commotion around me, has been the answer all along. I’m not 100% convinced of this – but for whatever reason, all the signs are pointing in this direction right now so it’s certainly worth exploring.
Yesterday, during the big East Coast Earthquake, I was outside with my youngest and therefore didn’t feel a thing. Apparently you had to be inside your 4 walls here in Frederick to experience it. So when I returned home, I asked my daughter, the new driver of the family, what the Earthquake felt like.
“I didn’t notice it,” she replied.
“How could you miss it? Our neighbors on each side of us and across the street felt the rumbling and heard/saw things shaking in their houses,” I said.
“Well, honestly, I blast the music when you’re not here. I had the volume up to 10 on the stereo. The house had been shaking pretty much since you left, so I didn’t feel a thing,” she admitted.
So basically her self-created chaos, camouflaged the natural disaster chaos which allowed her to avoid any internal, fear-based feelings of chaos…Interesting.