Fighting the fear…
When I became a mother sixteen years ago and held my son for the first time, I was filled with a love and happiness I cannot put into words. Never in my life did I know I could love someone so very much. However, along with that love and happiness came a fear unlike any I’ve ever known. It overwhelmed me. I remember being terrified, and for no real reason, as irrational thoughts of “what if something happened to him” filled my head. Overtime, with more children and more experience, those fears seemed to subside and were replaced with normal worries about their health, safety and well-being.
Nevertheless, every once in a while, a little irrational thought pops into my head and keeps me awake at night. I find consolation in my worries by telling myself that any parent would tell you their greatest fear is something terrible happening to their child- “terrible” being any range of emotional upset, to actual physical harm. And even though some would say I’m prone to a more dramatic or imaginative mindset, it seems this week- at least- my fears have been a little extra overwhelming.
I’m blaming the weather for the odd mood that has settled around my small community. March has given in to a rather lugubrious start to spring, and people seem to have had enough. This week has been a reminder to me that the world in which I am raising my children, is not exclusive to the outside of my small-town front door. I tried to remain calm this morning when I dropped my children off at school and left them in the hands of others to protect, trying desperately to quell those irrational thoughts popping up. “What if” and “What happens when…”
I drove away thinking about how we start out holding these beautiful little humans in our arms, thinking about all the wonderful things we want for them in this world, determined to protect them from as much as we possibly can… and all the things we can’t. Throughout the bumps and bruises of their childhood, we kiss scrapes, teach them to wear helmets, play nicely with others, be respectful, look both ways before crossing the road, don’t talk to strangers, don’t take big bites and chew, chew, chew. Don’t run with sticks, don’t play with fire, be aware of your surroundings. I mean, let’s face it, in the beginning we’re just trying to keep them fed and in a clean diaper.
Then at some point, the worries and fears get worse. I’m not really sure when it all changes, but it does. All of a sudden, things get really serious and you’re talking about driving, sex, drugs and drinking. Talks about keeping yourself safe against a school shooter, social media and how pictures and words sent out to the world never truly go away, how lives can be ruined with a simple click. You talk about making good choices and thinking about their future- hoping they understand how stupid decisions can affect their entire life.
You talk and lecture and preach and holler, because you’re terrified of what could happen to them when they walk away from you. Their safety and well-being, regardless of whether they’re innocently sitting in school or walking out the door with their friends, is always in the back of your mind. None of us set out to be the parent of the child whose life lessons are learned the hard way- it is everything we’ve tried to prevent from the moment our children are born.
We fight the fear of “what if” and “what happens when” every day as a parent. Because as much as we try to keep them from making mistakes, we can’t keep them from life- and sometimes, for me, that’s terrifying.
This morning, all those fears sort of clogged in my throat as I drove to work. I can’t be with my children every second and I know my sixteen-year-old doesn’t ever want me around. This realization had tears streaming down my cheeks- now maybe I’m tired, not feeling well… who knows. Maybe it’s just because I’m a mom. One thing I do know is, there are points in raising children where there is nothing more you can do, but hope all you’ve done, has been enough.
I wanted to share this with all my parents and send you a hug, because I feel like it’s been a really long week and you might just need it. Know that you aren’t alone and you’re doing a great job. Keep loving them, keep lecturing them, keep praying and hoping. Keep fighting the fear.