I ran into an acquaintance at the toy store the other day. She has three boys around my children’s ages. She asked me which school I am sending my kids to, and we had a great conversation about public vs. private vs. home schools, and how the decisions we face as parents become so consuming that they keep us up at night, when really … we turned out just fine. I noted how after my son was born, I could spend hours at the grocery store reading labels to ensure there were no artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup in the foods I was feeding my baby. After hours of agonizing over the organic vs. budget conscious debate in my mind, I would emerge with one small bag of groceries and have to return to the store the next day to fight the battle again. I still stress over making the best choices for my family and providing my children with all of the healthiest options and opportunities. But at the end of the day, I simply *have* to sleep at night. So, I try to keep my motherhood mania in check.
Meanwhile, I also try to be mindful of the real, devastating issues facing the rest of the world. Like the 9.0 earthquake, followed by 30+ foot tsunami waves, and now nuclear meltdown that are threatening our neighbors in Japan. My heart goes out to all of them who are now struggling to survive, searching for loved ones, and trying to protect their children. In the days of my youth, my college friends and I would have been on the first aid ship leaving port to go search through the rubble and support the clean-up efforts. After I got married and had financial responsibilities, I would have immediately donated to the Red Cross and hoped that my money could be put to good use in the rescue efforts. Today, I have to admit … my mother-mind went directly to–how is this potential nuclear fall-out going to affect my children? I don’t say that to sound self-centered. I will still contribute financially. I will still explain to my children what is going on in Japan, and try to find ways that we can help. But my instinct was to protect my children. I think that is natural, so I’m not here to apologize for it. But, what followed was maybe a little bit crazy. I’m not sure.
My husband and I spent the day following news reports on the nuclear emergency. Trying to understand the status. Blogs were popping up all over the web about how the jet streams could carry radioactive debris across the Pacific Ocean to dump on our families as acid rain. Keeping in mind that we are not Nuclear Physicists. Nor were we old enough to remember Chernobyl happening, or its devastating effects on the entire world. Nor did we fully understand the new designs of nuclear reactors and all of their fail-safe measures. Our instinct was … how do we get out-of-the-way of the jet stream for long enough that if the toxic rains do come, our children are not splashing around in them? (And if you saw my post yesterday, you know we’re looking at a good 10+ days of rain here in paradise.)
We were not panicking. But trying to realistically assess the potential dangers and consequences of staying put vs. trying to get out of the jet stream. After exhausting our Internet sleuthing prowess, we determined that the only way to avoid the next ten days of jet stream coming from Japan and across the Pacific was to head to Northern Canada, or Los Cabos. (I think you know which one garnered my vote.) Then, we started to discover informative blogs by people who actually know a thing or two about nuclear meltdowns. And finally, we decided not to head for the hills, but instead to relax at home and see how many days of straight rain it will take for our house to float.
Part of me thinks I’m crazy. The younger me would have scoffed at the conspiracy theories and thought–panic and paranoia are not going to get us anywhere. But the Mom side of my brain thought–if we have the means and the methods to protect our children–even from the slightest threat–it’s better to be safe than sorry. Either way, this conflict in my mind did not stop me from making a mental list of the items I would pack in case of an emergency … sleeping bags, pillows, one suitcase for the whole family, bottled water, canned food … who knew where we’d end up, or if a nuclear explosion actually did cause concern for the west coast … what would traffic be like? And then, I finally fell asleep.
I’m not here to propagate any fears. The truth is that today’s nuclear meltdowns are completely different from the devastating meltdown 25 years ago. The radioactive waste is not likely to take to the air, and even if it did, it would be significantly diluted by the time it traveled across 5,000 miles of ocean. I get that. But it takes a while for a mother’s gut instinct to sync with her more rational, fact-informed mind. Perhaps that’s our own human fail-safe for keeping our children alive.
Whatever it is, I think it’s safe to minimize that stream of consciousness and go back to playing trains with my kids this afternoon. Since I’m not headed to Cabo anymore.