Your Slip Is Showing
“Your slip is showing.”
I’m dating myself with this phrase, I know, but bear with me; I think the metaphor works. In the days when people dressed up for air travel, college football games, and especially church services, most women wore slips under their dresses. It was important, my mother taught me, that the straps of the slip be adjusted so that the edge of the slip never peeked out below the hemline of my dress. To hear “Your slip is showing” was to say you weren’t presenting your best.
Dresses come lined now and our standards of clothing are so low that I haven’t thought of that phrase in years; yet it popped into my head this morning. Reflecting on the events of the weekend and my (sometimes poor) reactions to them, I realize ‘my slip showing’ is necessary to knowing myself and experiencing God's love for me.
My daughter, a junior in college, texted me late Friday afternoon to tell me she woke up from a nap with swollen glands. She had a severe headache and was sore from the part of her hair to her collar bone. It seemed oddly sudden, and I advised her to go to Student Health at her university. I went on with my evening. As my husband and I were entering a restaurant to meet friends for dinner, I got a text from her: “Don’t panic, Mom; but the nurse at Student Health is sending me to the ER.”
Of course I didn’t panic; I pride myself on not panicking. ( Pride: first mistake!) I expected it to take some time; after all she was in the ER on a Friday night in a college town, but I finally heard from her. “Blood work done, a CT scan…pain medicine through an IV,” the message read. A CT scan, headache severe enough for IV pain meds? As the night went on, I became more and more anxious about what was going on and convinced I should be there. It’s important to know she attends a college 8 hours away. I finally got a text around 3:00 a.m. that she was back on campus, having been released from the hospital with pain medicine but no apparent diagnosis.
I managed some sleep that night but as morning came I became nervous waiting for her to awaken and call us:, my mind was full of questions. I googled (the second mistake) every possible thing I could find about swollen glands and headaches. I called my mom, called my friend, talked to a doctor friend. I texted friends in her college town for the name of a good doctor up there to follow up. I tried to pray, but that didn’t feel like forward momentum the way driving to NC would have or talking to a doctor does. About all I could muster in prayer was from the daily office:
O God, come to our assistance. O Lord, make haste to help us.
I can’t really say I prayed with much faith; or if I did, that I felt it. Maybe that doesn’t matter. My friend on the phone prayed. My North Carolina friends sent me prayers by text.
I was useless at getting any Saturday chores done because all I could think of was how to solve the problem. My husband called it “mother guilt”. Apparently dads don’t have this. Somehow I thought that staying awake, researching, talking to anyone and everyone and finding the answers was going to heal her immediately or at least make me a good mother.
By Sunday evening she was feeling somewhat better and Student Health was following up on her case, and my driving from Alabama to North Carolina didn’t seem necessary. I then had time to mentally play the tape of my actions and reactions over the weekend. I didn’t like what I saw. Anxiety had a grip on me. I wanted answers and control. I wanted to be there in spite of the fact that she is 21 years old, has lived abroad, and had a good friend with her through the entire ordeal. When I shared this on Monday with a group of older, wiser mothers, they all said, “You were acting like any mother would.” That’s when it hit me. The anxiety was the lesser of the two evils. Pride was my biggest. I thought I was different, stronger, less anxious, not fragile, more trusting. I’d convinced myself I wasn’t one of ‘those mothers’ who worried and wanted to control and felt guilty when she couldn’t be there for everything in her child’s life.
Those who love us most help us with grace to see the truth about ourselves. God loves me even more than the friends and family who graciously bore with me through the weekend. He showed up in my mom’s encouragement, my daughter’s friend who stayed with her at the hospital, in my friend’s prayer over the phone, in my hometown doctor friend who walked me though everything the NC doctor had done and why it was correct, in the texts from my North Carolina friends who offered to take food and medicine to my child, in the wiser women who reminded me that I was a human being, just an ordinary mother like the rest of them, prone to all the same ‘mother sins and guilts’ that they are. My slip was showing and they all stepped in to help me. It’s a little embarrassing, or a lot humiliating, but you find out you are loved and you get the help you need when your slip is showing.