have you ever been afraid?

and I don't mean afraid of the boogey man or of some scary movie on television, but something that stopped you dead in your tracks... Something so deep and all-consuming that nothing else seemed to matter or exist?

I've been afraid a couple of times. When Christopher was 3 we were at the beach in Maine and he disappeared. There were at least 14 adults to watch our then 8 children. Our beach chairs were formed in a large semi-circle so that we could all monitor the vast area of play the children called their own.

But sometimes you get to talking and looking at the person next to you and sometimes your eyes come off your child. And when you realize that your baby is not with his cousins and no where near to be found you panic like you have never panicked before. And you fear the worst of all possible thoughts. That your little cherubic towhead that calls you Momma and says "I lot you" 24 times a day is missing. Lost. Lost among the miles and miles of shore and sand. Lost among the miles and miles of ocean, deep, blue and powerful. And you do what you can to prevent from breaking down and cracking up. And sobbing deep uncontrollable sobs. You need to stay focused and together as impossible as it sounds. You make a note of what your child was wearing so that you can tell the police. Suddenly you hate this place that you've considered Heaven on Earth. You have no idea what you would do if you had to return home one less child. How you will function the rest of your life. You know you will never survive. It is amazing how quickly thoughts can form and implode within and take over your your entire being. And then your husband grabs his binoculars and finds your son, playing happily on the sand about a half a mile down the beach. Your baby has no idea that he is lost or missing. He is happily going about his way. You are so happy that you burts in to tears and want to throw up.

Until recently that was the most terrifying moment of my life.

Children change everything.

And this is how I felt these past two weeks. Try with all your heart and soul to banish the bad thoughts and to concentrate on happy, positive thoughts... you just can't. You worry for yourself and others around you. It's natural. You worry for your children. Granted, you're always worrying about your children. But this time it is different.

You worry about who will take care of them the way you do and who will hug them and kiss them and be tender to them... you worry about how they will feel and act and be ... you worry about their sadness. It cannot be helped. If you have children you worry. End of story.

And you worry about them without you. Because their lives will be so very different. Because you know that no one in this world can do what you do. In the way that you do. Because even the best of fathers lose patience. Because even the best of fathers cannot do what mothers do. No one can. And I think about this a lot over the course of two weeks. And how I pretty much do it all.

I am up with them in the middle of the night. At least once a week. And in the morning I am the one that gets them up, dressed, ready for school, make sure they have all their books, papers that have been signed, sports uniforms, prepared for their tests and off to school. The I come home and tidy up the kitchen and tidy the house and do the laundry. And when I am not working on the wrapping paper drive or the wine tasting for the school, then I might meet up with a friend for a short bit. I have to get the groceries, plan and make the meals, buy their clothes, buy their Birthday party presents. Take them to their Birthday parties. And their after school activities and their sporting events. Then I come home and make dinner and help them with their homework and prep them for their tests, and play with the little one and serve dinner and clean up after dinner. And talk to them about their day and get them settled and ready for bed after the end of the day.

I am the one who has the patience when one misbehaves. Or if a fight ensues. Or something accidentally gets broken. I can forgive the minor things. I feed them properly and make sure that they are dressed properly. I am with them when they are not in school or at friend's houses. I play with them when the husband is working on the house, around the house, at the office or paying bills or watching TV.

I worry about my oldest who is starting to turn in to a young woman. My oldest who needs me right now. I worry about my middle one. My big boy who is still very much a Momma's boy. Who still cuddles me and kisses me and tells me he loves me for no reason. He still sometimes says "I lot you Momma!" He is a good boy. He is the angel of the family and the peacemaker. He is the one, like his Mommy, who tends to keep things bottled up inside. He is the super sensitive one. He is the one I think would be most effected and affected should something happen to me. He is my brilliant child who will one day to aspire to and reach greatness. He is pure joy. He is pure love. And then there is the baby of the family. At four Alexander is much more dependant on me than the other two ever were. He cries himself to sleep at night because he will miss me. And he crawls in to bed at some point in the wee hours of the morning and places his cold little feet on my back and tells me that he missed me in his sleep. He loves school and is thriving there with his friends. He has a crush on his teacher. But sometimes, at the end of the day, he'll greet me with a sad face and I will ask him what's the matter and he'll say "I was sad because I missed you today." And I tell him that I will always be there to pick him up from school and I will always give him a hug and a kiss when I do.

And I think about these things and think to myself that I must have done something right!

And then for two very long and agonizing weeks I wonder if this is really the case. I wonder if I am lying because this is not something I would ever want to lie about.

And I know that their father simply could not do all that I do. And I know that the kids would forever be altered.

And then I think of all the things that I would miss... Birthdays and Christmases and sports wins and academic achievements and first boyfriends and first girlfriends... and it amazes me at how quickly the thoughts invade my brain and how this fear and unknown are all consuming.

And I know that while my kids drive me positively batty and absoulely insane, they are the world to me. And to be without them would be positively unbearable.

I've been short, curt and distracted and unable to explain to them why. They've been shafted of my attention. And when they were talking to me I wasn't really there. I was elsewhere, in another zone, lost in my thoughts and fears.

And so often they want to talk about something, sometimes trivial sometimes not... and so often I'll tell them "later" or "in a minute" or "not right now" because it is the end of the day and I am burnt, worn out and frazzled. And I can't do that anymore. I need to find the time to sit and talk with them, let them express their thoughts and emotions and fears. I need to find the time to be with them individually. It's so important. Because we never really do know what fate has in store for us, do we?

I knew this was going to happen. I knew it was going to be a day or two before I could digest all that I had been feeling and going through. I've been sick for nearly 24 hours now. At first I thought it was a stomach bug. I am pretty sure, now, that it's just the result from all the jumbled up nerves and stress I have been feeling and bottling up inside.

I couldn't jump up and shout hooray yesterday... but today I can and tomorrow I will celebrate!