I close my eyes and scrub my hands over my face. It’s the second “well-meant-warning” post I’ve seen in the last two hours: someone has posted another article/interview/parenting critique to parents everywhere on the danger children are perpetually in. The title is something like, His Daughter Is Abducted Right Under His Nose, and it’s a set-up scenario with real people and fake “abductors” filming the events. Some poor Dad, (who took his kid to the park and pulled his phone out of his pocket to text his wife back and say Yes, he will get milk on the way home, is pictured as the ‘negligent parent,’ while two filmmakers ‘abduct’ his little girl and send my blood pressure through the roof.
I remove the video and its heavy-handed message about parental negligence from my feed. A hour later someone else shares an article originally published in some social-media-web-magazine about the dangers of dry-drowning, or alligator attacks, the toxicity of houseplants, or how I should probably check the temperature on my water heater lest my kid accidentally scalds herself to death while washing her hands so she doesn’t contract E.coli from the grapes I didn’t properly soak in vinegar, or slice small enough (so, also choking). . .
You guys. If I were to list all of the innumerable ways I know that my children can possibly perish, it would cover the earth in pieces of paper three feet thick. I kid you not. And, believe it or not, for ALL of my awareness and obsessive watchfulness— (yes, I actually DO climb out of my car and walk around it, sometimes more than once, before I leave the driveway because I have this reoccurring nightmare that one of my children perishes under the wheels of my own car in front of my own house) —accidents will still happen. I’ve shed real tears over accidents that I ‘should’ have been able to prevent. And so has every parent I know. I have kissed bandaged knees, and soothed feverish brows, and watched my own children in hospital beds suffering from things which could possibly have been prevented. (Did they contract that from something I didn’t wash properly? . . . Should I have said ‘No’ to that tree-climbing adventure? . . . Maybe he’s not ready for a bike with no training wheels? . . .) And here’s the truth: I’m a Good Mom. But I check my phone at the park because I don’t have the mental capacity to be plugged into every single second of my children’s activity over the course of their lives. I’m a Responsible Parent. But I let my children play in the yard while I make lunch inside and I don’t check on them every five minutes. I adore my children, but I leave them with babysitters I trust because I recognize that if I try and be their everything, they will never understand that I also belong to myself, just as they belong to themselves, and therefore must learn independence, responsibility, and natural consequences.
I appreciate knowing about the world and its dangers. It creates a sense of preparedness. However. It also generates the illusion that the unpreventable can be prevented if only we are wary and watchful and prepared enough—and when the unthinkable happens, it happens only because we failed to be what we should have been to begin with: infallible and ever-ready for that which only Sovereign Control could prevent. It also gives the world somewhere to put their pain when the unthinkable happens in their own lives. That accident you read about? That video you watched? You were thinking, “I could have . . . I would have . . . and they should have . . .” I know this because those are my thoughts too. I am equally guilty because anything other than an ability to control every and any situation places me in the path of unavoidable pain, and so too, my children. And what do I do with that as a Good Mom? As a Responsible Parent? As Someone Who Loves Her Kids? It’s hard. It’s one more reason we need one another’s support. Not one another’s critiques and subtle warnings.
So here’s a thought: Next time you are tempted to click “share” on one more sensational warning about the dangers of sprinklers, the toxicity of organic fruit snacks, or the mold lurking in sippy cups . . . please don’t. (Hey, this is a note-to-self too, so . . .) Instead, take a minute to look around and notice those of us who are trying, with every fiber of our being, to love well, to parent effectively and responsibly, and to change the world one tiny human at a time. And then, consider offering a word of encouragement. Because chances are, we’re feeling a little frantic about the expiration date on the milk we texted to ask our husbands to pick up on their way home from the park.
A Mom Who’s Trying