This Fear Is Parenting

Little-girl-runningI still remember every time the seatbelt tightened across my chest on that ride home from the hospital. On a good day, it takes less than half an hour to get from there to our house.

The day we drove our newborn home, it took closer to an hour. Each time the wind blew, it seemed, my husband stomped on the brakes. The belt tightened across me. My one hand clenched the car seat next to me, the other hovered just above her body in its Winnie the Pooh sleeper, feeling her breathe.

It was after the fourth or fifth sudden slam on those brakes that I began to understand that from now on, we would operate every moment with the fight or flight response dancing at the bases of our skulls.

I have lived this way for 11 years now. I’ve paced nights with a feverish baby and fear whispering in my ears “She’s burning up. What if it doesn’t come down? What if it doesn’t break?” I’ve sat, stomach in my throat at the bus stop on a day when a madman murdered 20 children just her age in a school just two hours away, with fear screaming “It could happen to her. It could happen anywhere.” I’ve held her in my arms in an emergency room in the middle of the night as a surgeon worked on her forehead and fear poked his head in to taunt me “It may never heal you now. This may never go away.”

This fear is parenting.

It’s knowing that we cannot control the world around our children. Scarier still, it’s knowing that we cannot control our children.

With each passing day, they become more curious, more impulsive, more determined, more independent. With each day, we become less important.

We have a tween now, a child walking the tightrope between being a little girl and an adolescent. She is sweet and funny and cuddly and intimidating and fierce.

She is fearless.

I take the fear for her. And I always will.

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