Panic: The Sixth Parental Sense

Human beings are (usually) born with five senses: smell, touch, sight, taste and hearing. (Had to list them out, in case any geniuses out there didn’t know what they were.) But the on the day that your first child is born- the very day you become a parent – you develop a sixth sense, and as the title of today’s blog aptly tells you, that sense is PANIC.

Panic, and its elder brother Fear, are what keep your child safe from danger and harm. It is panic and the anticipation of the absurd and inevitable that ensures that your little lovelies are tucked in their own beds night after night. Panic is the strongest sense, in that in imbues parents with previously unknown strength and courage in the face of danger.

For instance, just the other night Marshall and I went to a send-off dinner for a friend who is shipping off to Iraq in just a few weeks. A group of us were sitting outside the restaurant after an explosive episode with one of the dinner patrons (that story I’ll have to tell another day), when the toddler son of one of the dinner guests suddenly let go of my friend’s brothers hand and started skipping into the street as fast as his little legs could carry him. Patrick, my friends brother, is unmarried and childless. He stood by and watched the boy run into the street – and almost into the grill of a Dodge Durango. On the other hand for the other 4 of us, who were all parents, Panic rose up and had us dashing into the street to rescue the toddler from certain harm. His father gave him a swift pop on the butt and the rest of us turned our ire to Patrick.

“Patrick! Dude! C’mon man…”

“He let go of my hand!”

“You’re not supposed to let go of his hand!”

“Yeah man, you shoulda had a better grip on him.”

“What do I know? I ain’t nobody’s daddy.”

“That’s exactly the point. When you become somebody’s daddy, this is the type of sh*t you learn to anticipate!” (This was his brother talking.)

Panic goes by many names (i.e. ‘Oh my GOD’; ‘What the Hell??’; ‘What the Hell where you thinking?’ and ‘Seriously??’) and sometimes manifests as insanity.

Antonio, one of my new co-workers walked into his kitchen one afternoon to find his two giggling sons wielding butcher’s knives and swinging them at each other.

‘En guard!’   ‘Hi YAH!!’ they chortled, laughing and mocking Death and Dismemberment in the face with every swing of the hefty blades.

AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!’ Antonio howled. He took off his belt, closed his eyes and started swinging wildly. Panic had set in. Children went one way and their knives went another. Finally, when the only sound left in the kitchen was Antonio’s labored breathing, he finally put his belt down and sat in a chair to steady himself.

It is Panic that saved my two eldest girls from falling off the roof on Mother’s Day in 2009. (Y’all remember that?) Panic roused me from my sleep that afternoon. It’s Panic that keeps a mother up at night to make sure her newborn infant is still breathing. Panic is the reason every mom knows that something is horribly wrong when the room goes suddenly quiet. You turn the corner out of the kitchen to discover that your 2 year old is eating food from the dog bowl and has then gone to play in the toilet. Panic’s younger brother, Protection, is what gives an otherwise very fashion forward man the fortitude to sit outside on his porch with a white wife beater, nylon socks and dingy shorts the night of his daughter’s first date. Panic is what puts him in the driver’s seat of the car, tailing his little princess and her snotty wannabe bad boy date to the movies or wherever it is he presumes to take Daddy’s little girl.

Fellow parents: Have you panicked today? Don’t worry…it’s coming. It always does.