The other night our oldest fell off his bike. It wasn’t the usual fall that just requires giant knee bandages and some Neosporin. It was the kind of fall that had me rushing to his side in the car where found him covered in blood, toothless, and in shock at the bottom of a hill in his dad’s arms. You can’t quite shake that image from your memory. Our boy got hurt and I wasn’t there to protect him.
The first nights after his fall I’d snuggle up to the part of his cheek that wasn’t hurt and feel sadness over the fact that I wasn’t there to protect his face as it hit the concrete, eternally grateful that his dad was close by to help him in his first moments of recovery.
In the days following I’ve needed to remind myself that this is childhood. As babies, you know every slight scratch and dot of baby acne that shows up on their soft newborn baby skin. Then, as they get older, little by little you have less control over the impact the world has on them. And as you learn to release the power of constant protection, the day will come when they get hurt…
And you aren’t there to catch them,
or protect them,
or save them.
I almost can’t write those last words, they hurt me so much. It’s the reality that makes me wonder if I’m cut out to be a mom. But it’s also the reality that makes me realize I feel that because I am a mom. There’s nothing to take that feeling away from us, it comes with the territory. As long as I’m their mama I will want to keep them safe with every fiber of my body.
I want to protect them from falls, protect them from hurtful words, protect them from failure, protect them from pain. My motherly instinct is to stay by their side and sweep them up in moments of need.
But I’m also the type of mom who wants her children to experience the world. The type of mom that knows in her head that falls and hurtful words and failures shape the best of us. I want my kids to grow and learn and explore – even with the inevitable bumps and bruises that come with great adventure. I know this world (more than I ever realized before being a mom) involves hurts and hard things, much like cement at the bottom of a hill. I would do anything to not have that be true, and yet I love the world too much to hold them back from its vast experiences. So instead, I must teach them to navigate their way through. And, if bumps and bruises and toothless accidents happen, their father and I will be there in a heartbeat to hold them if that’s what they need.
We still never found the fragments of our son’s teeth, which means a tiny piece of our boy is sitting at the bottom of that hill. Either that, or he swallowed those teeth in the impact of his fall, which is much less sentimental to think about.
Either way, our boy got hurt and we weren’t able to stop the impact that sidewalk had on his face. We don’t like this one bit, but we celebrate the fact that within a day he was already out looking at new bike helmets. His new helmet may have a bit more face protection, but new teeth are expensive and our boy learned a lesson about safety!
And this is the kind of kid we want to raise. One who knows the world can hurt, but knows better than to shy away from facing its full impact (pun completely intended). Motherhood is the ultimate practice in releasing control, which is probably okay because we never really had control, did we? These truths have never been so hard to hold as when I see my children in pain, but if I hold them back from all the hurts, then I guess they’ll miss out on all the good as well. That’s a chance I think we’ll have to take.