More News from the Empty Nest
I will look at any additional evidence to confirm the opinion to which I have already come.
– Lord Molson, British Politician
“Mum, I’ve got bedbugs!”
“Eeek!” I shriek, as though just bitten myself. “How do you know?”
“Because I woke up at 3 a.m. feeling like my legs were on fire!”
Almost exactly a year before the above noted exchange with my daughter, Maddy, I was experiencing my first taste of empty nester’s syndrome as we sent her off to university in Halifax. Now it seemed I had a different kind of nest to worry about.
This sure was not the kind of update I hoped for when I called in from halfway across the country. As she described her plight my mind was flooded with images of nasty blood sucking creatures attaching to her person as she lay sleeping. I imagine the squalor of her housing arrangement – litter strewn hallways, piles of moldy unwashed dishes in the sink, and dust bunnies the size of small dogs. I felt helpless, but I resolved to do whatever needed to wage war with the little blighters.
So, I quickly do what any mother would do. I google ‘bedbug.com’ and learn that their preferred nutrient is human blood, that they lay eggs by the hundreds in fabric seams, and – wait for this – they congregate in close proximity to where they got their last meal!
Like a commanding general I leapt to action and formulated a plan. “OK. You need a new bed. Put the old one out by the curb. NOW! Then Call Sleep Country and order a new one! Throw out your sheets. Call the health department! Move in with your brother! Call the landlord!” I was in full panic mode.
As a mother I felt helpless and pathetic. “I wish I was there” I said to my husband before settling down to a fitful sleep that featured dreams of oversized arthropods gathered at my daughter’s bedside.
I seemed to forget that my daughter was 19 and plenty motivated to deal with her infestation problem. After all, sleep deprivation and blood loss do tend to focus ones attention. So the next day it was a relief to find she had called the landlord, brought in pest control, and taken control of the matter. Turns out the real culprits were not bedbugs, but fleas left behind by the previous tenant’s cat. “I’m not sure this qualifies as good news” she said, noting that fleas are also blood sucking arthropods. But at least the fix was a lot simpler.
So what did I learn? Well, I learned that pushing the panic button is neither productive nor efficient. First, my fretful response only served to pile my anxiety on to hers, and upset the poor kid even more. Second, rather than getting more information about the situation, I jumped to immediate conclusions. Sure, tossing her bed and bedding to the curb and rushing to buy a new one might make me feel better. But would it have been the best decision to take? Not likely.
It made me realize I needed a strategy to thwart my reptilian brain from overruling more rational thought processes. So I have devised a method to help me better deal with such situations. I call it finding your BATPA – Best Alternative to Panic Attack – and it works its magic in three easy steps.
Meg’s Three Step BATPA Process
- Call a 2 Minute Timeout. That’s right, just like they do in the NFL! I mean if it can help testosterone laden mesomorphs avoid bad calls, it can help you too. Rest your inner reptile by parking the panic!
- Avoid the Bandwagon. Often it is tempting to look only for the evidence that will serve to confirm what you already believe to be true. In my daughter’s situation the logic was like: She was in bed. She woke with scratchy bug bites. Ipso facto: bed bugs! When others are jumping to conclusions keep your feet firmly on the ground and ask ‘What else do I need to know to help make a good decision?’
- Take Three Deep Breaths and say “I Can Handle This.” Then devise a plan. If that doesn’t work refer to Step 1 above.