I have young kids. As I've heard: little kids equal little problems. Big kids equal bigger problems. And short of illness or other nightmarish scenarios, I know it's true.
When we become new parents, we worry about everything having to do with our babies. After all, they can't speak for themselves so we are left to virtually read their minds. We usually do a pretty good job since their comfort is our comfort (and sleep!). But realistically, their needs are typically simple.
Our children start to grow and they come home with playground stories like the one my 4-year-old told me yesterday. She came home from school and told me that her best friend had pushed her.
"I don't love T. anymore, Mama."
I could have cried from the innocence my daughter emitted, her pure sweetness that made a push (which may or may not have actually happened) one of the worst parts of her life, never mind day. For a minute, I went into serious mama bear mode but after thinking about it for a few minutes and asking her teachers about it (they hadn't heard or seen anything), I knew to drop it since so-called "helicopter parenting" is not my style.
These things will make her stronger.
Point is, we protect and worry and shield and guard our children from any and everything that could potentially hurt them, but the thing is, we can't do it forever. We won't always be on the playground when a best friend turns on them and we won't always be present when another kid offers them something that could hurt them. We just can't put a bubble around our kids and shelter them from all harm.
And it's these thoughts that haunt me when I find myself staring at the four walls in the dark of night. I won't always have control over what happens to my kids. I can do my best to provide them with the tools they need to keep themselves safe, but more than that, a parent cannot do.
I'm thinking about fellow blogger and mother, Katie Granju, and the horrible death of her son earlier this week. I don't know her, but her reality is my worst nightmare and I can't stop thinking about her.
In her own words, Henry "brought joy to his friends and family with his creative jokes and the natural compassion he held for others. Henry felt the world deeply and never stopped showing us the world in a different light through his incredible heart."
Henry was also a drug addict. And died as a result at age 18. And while the details surrounding his death likely involve a third party (he was brutally assaulted), his bad choices are a factor in his death.
And his mother couldn't control the choices. She couldn't control his free will, his right to choose what he did to his own body. Her deep motherly love wasn't enough to stop her son from putting himself in harm's way. Because once she let her child leave her home to go to school, go to the movies, go to the mall, she (reluctantly, no doubt) relinquished her total control over her son and his path.
And it's this, this loss of control over my own kids, who I carefully planned for and who I carried inside my body for nine months, who I have such high hopes for, who I marvel at each day, it's the fact that one day in the not-so-distant-future, I will have to let them go.
I hold my children even tighter with this knowledge.
To read Katie's story, click here.