I recently returned from a long weekend getaway with my husband – just my husband and me. No kids. No diapers. No crying. No routines. No drama. The trip was a much needed respite and was wonderful – something that I think all parents need to plan if they can.
But, being away from the kids did conjure some fears that probably cross the minds of most parents. What if something happens to us on this trip? What if something happens to them while we’re gone? The endless possibilities are enough to keep you awake at night. And this is the very thing that no one can really put into words to those who don’t have children. They may remark, “they’ll change your life forever,” or “they will bring so much joy to your life,” but no one to my knowledge ever says, “Children will bring you much fear and worry.”
Upon returning home, my 2 littlest kids greeted me at the door, excited and probably a little relieved to see that I was still alive and would be their Mom again. When my oldest got home, she just hugged me tightly and said, “I really missed you.” They were fine and we were all fine.
After putting them to bed, I spent some time catching up on the news and it wasn’t good. Aside from the nightly horror show of the 2016 election coverage, there were other real horrors concerning young children. One story, a father who witnessed his 5-year-old getting hit by a car and killed just waiting at the bus stop. The next, a 13-year-old girl who was lured out of her home and murdered by an 18-year-old whom she met online. I catch my breath, my heart skips a beat, and tears roll down my face as I read these stories. Because, not only do the typical thoughts cross my mind like, “those poor kids, those poor parents,” and “what if that was my kid?”, but also, what is wrong with this world? How in the world can I protect my kids? And, am I savoring every moment with them? Do I appreciate them enough? Am I teaching them to be kind and trustful, but am I also teaching them to be street smart and to put their safety and health above all else?
There is so much guilt and regret and fear and worry associated with being a parent. You can’t quite describe it unless you’ve felt it yourself. Kids are an extension of yourself, practically a part of your own body in a sense, and letting them roam free in the world or on the web is something that is necessary to raise independent and functioning human beings, but I am fraught with self-doubt in the process. I suppose the real kicker about being a parent is that you would do anything to protect your children from physical and emotional danger. You WOULD do anything, but you really CAN’T.
You can do everything right, but in the end, their life is theirs to live and as for all of us, chance will inevitably play a role in it. You can’t control every aspect of their little lives – their relationships, their choices. But you can guide them and advise them, show them how to be smart and how to be good to other people. You can teach them to trust and have faith in other people but you also have to teach them to be smart, cautious, and aware of their surroundings at the same time. It’s a balancing act that’s difficult even for adults to manage and that’s what keeps me up at night.
Given the option to go right or go wrong, will my kids make the smart choice, the safe choice? How can I show them how to safeguard their lives without living in fear? I really don’t know.