Last week I attended a conversation with seven other mothers that was so enlightening and provoked so much thought and desire to look deeper into my parenting approach. The topic was “parenting in the age of fear” and it really resonated with not only me, but every single mom there. There were concerns about safety, measuring up as a parent, loss, and the overall pressure of raising resilient and kind children. Having a space to discuss these thoughts was so comforting.
As a loss mama, my main fear is for my children’s safety. Will something horrific happen to them? I carry this fear on a daily basis, holding my breath when I leave my daughter at preschool three mornings a week, never leaving my children with a babysitter, hovering over them at the playground. It is a fear that weighs so heavily on me that it often affects my daily living, preventing me from practicing sufficient self-care and even at times projecting itself onto my children.
When my daughter (who is 3.5) says she is too afraid to run downhill, climb up a ladder at the park or jump from the sea wall into the sand, I wonder to myself if it is my fault she is so inhibited. She is a bright child and picks up on everything, so she must carry my fear as well.
Is my constant “be careful” mentality preventing her from taking risks and learning how to get back up and brush herself off should she fall?
I think it is safe to say that we all, as mothers, carry a fear of safety when it comes to our kids. For me, the challenge is stepping back and allowing my children to get a bump or a bruise, to fail and try again, to trust that if I find a caretaker that is qualified and attentive, my children will be alright.
There is always a risk of accidents, but living in that space of constant fear and worry can be so consuming and heavy. I learned from the group of women, at that fireside chat, that it is important to set boundaries not only for your children, but also for yourself.
When will you step in and when can you pull back to allow them to explore? My son has definitely been a great teacher with this concept. He challenges me every day to face my anxiety (he is a climber of course). He has given me more scares than I ever thought I would have to face, between a NICU stay, hospitalization for RSV and severe rare allergies, the flu, many colds and fevers…I think he is my reminder to let go and trust in the parenting journey. I can protect my children from danger, but some things, like colds and scabbed knees are all part of being a kid (and a parent).
Parenting after loss brings so much anxiety and fear along with happiness and joy. You just know the worst that can happen and sometimes living in a world of information overload can be really scary. I feared during both of my pregnancies and haven’t stopped since. It is definitely work for me to suppress my worries. It is work I do every second of every day.
But there does need to come a point when we realize that as long as we are non negotiable on certain things (seat belts, helmets, stair gates, holding hands while crossing the street) the other little bumps and bruises along the way are inevitable and are not the end of the world.
After all, worrying is part of being a parent, but so is teaching your kids how to climb a tree, teaching them to brush dirt off of their pants when they fall, and encouraging them to keep running down that hill.