Well this is embarrassing.
I woke up today and read the somewhat unsympathetic mean spirited post I published last night, moments after I learned that Abby Sunderland, after being missing alone at sea, had been located alive and well. It’s just not like me to be so snarky. Especially considering I spent much of yesterday in angst about Abby’s safety.
This felt familiar. I was wishing I could hug Abby and somehow apologize to her for my loss of control….when it hit me:
Uncontrollable Mothering. I’ve described this phenomenon before:
There are times in a mother’s life when the primal mothering instinct can suddenly take over your mind and body. There is no forewarning and no way to stop yourself. You have no conscious knowledge or control over what you do. This can occur whether your child is small enough to burp over your shoulder–or large enough that you don’t even come up to his shoulder. It can happen whether your child is across the room or across the globe. In fact, uncontrollable mothering can even take over when it’s someone else’s child. Beware. This could happen to you.
Right now mothers everywhere are heaving a huge sigh of relief for Abby. Except what follows the relief is anger—for what she put us through. The push and pull of motherhood—a perfect example of uncontrollable mothering.
I flashed back to all the moments I’ve felt that way about my own kids out in the world…. one example just last week. Free Range kids make some fried parents.
I thought: why couldn’t Abby Sunderland just go to her high school prom like all the other 16 year old girls?
Except come to think of it, for a parent it’s comparable on the worry–scale……Would you rather have your teenage daughter at the prom or in the middle of the ocean?
Either way, she’s on her own in the middle of the night. Both are rites of passage. Both involve complicated issues of transportation. Both require an enormous investment in preparation—-time, energy and money. I bet it took less time to shop for a sailboat than it does for a prom dress—and how much more could it possibly cost when you add in all the trimmings? LOL.
The more I thought about this, Abby’s journey took on a new spinnaker spin. There are definitely some benefits to the Indian Ocean as opposed to a high school prom in southern California.
Rather than springing for a spray-on tan, I’m sure Abby has the real thing. Having no other ships or people within hundreds of miles—statistically way safer than being in traffic on the Los Angeles freeways. And for many parents, being completely alone might be preferable to being alone in the company of a hormonal alcohol-addled teenage boy.
Having just read that Abby is one of 7 children, I could think of other benefits to having a teenage girl out of the house for months.
So sail on, Abby…. maybe you had it right all along.