Saturday, May 2, 2009

Noisy Brain Syndrome

Do other mothers have this crazy, overactive imagination that can devise every possible scenario in every conceivable situation that could render their children unsafe? Really, when my kids are out of the house, I look normal, I speak normally, I function, but underneath I am trying to beat back all the intrusive thoughts of what could go wrong, what harm could befall my beloved children, what lapse in judgment could overtake them. Sometimes if feels as if I don't start breathing again until they are safe and sound inside our front door.

Then I hear stories like this one: Two friends of my daughter, both 15-year-old boys, have formed a band with another boy and a girl, both also 15. The four of them took the MetroNorth train two hours upstate on Friday night, to be picked up by Jim, the father on one of the boys who is friends with my daughter. The plan was for the four kids in the band to stay with Jim overnight and then perform at a bar (that place where they serve alcohol to folks over 21 in New York State) the next afternoon.

I know Jim well. Our kids have been in school together since they were four. We have become friends over the years, both of us always willing to wade into all manner of conspiracy theories. He is probably fierce looking to some people, with his multiple eff-you type tattoos and tee shirts with eff-you type slogans over biker muscled arms.

Once, driving through a town upstate, my husband and I stopped at an eating place and I wondered about going in, because at the front door stood a burly man with tattoos snaking out from under the sleeves of his tee-shirt, clearly designed to intimidate the faint of heart. My husband and I were the only two Black people we had seen for miles, and this man looked like every movie stereotype of a racist with a gun-rack in his pickup truck. And then I thought, No, wait, he looks like Jim, who can be iconoclastic and provocative, but is as non-racist as they come. Looks can be deceiving.

Still, I couldn't help wondering, What were the parents of the lone girl in the band thinking? Almost enviously, I marveled that they could get through the night, not knowing where, or in whose home their teenaged daughter was sleeping. They had never met Jim, and if they had, his appearance would probably not have been reassuring, though a conversation might have set their minds at ease. Yet they let their 15-year-old girl travel to a strange town with three hormonal teenaged boys and more guitars and amps and drums and gear than four scrawny kids could carry, to stay overnight in a strange man's house and play a gig in a bar the next afternoon.

And she was fine. She returned home in one piece, exhilarated to have played a real live gig. Which just goes to show, all those crazy scenarios in my head, they're mostly just straw ghosts, keeping me from fully enjoying my children's enjoyment of their lives.

I once ran across a condition called "Noisy Brain Syndrome" in a psych book. I couldn't believe there was such a descriptive name for the brain I live with every day. But this trait, while it might have been protective in an age when humans could get eaten in the wild, is no longer useful. So how do I quiet this incessantly chattering brain?


  1. How could I take offense at this?
    You do worry too much, but thanks for checking.
    Another lovely, honest piece of writing.

  2. Leslie, thanks for the comment! Just wanted to be sure.

  3. o.k., thanks for providing me with a label for this syndrome, because I swear, I, too, suffer from the same issue. I'm happy to hear the young lady returned home safe, but believe me, I never would have allowed Olivia to go.

  4. Mango Mama, ditto! But there was a lesson in there for me anyway.