By nature, I am a worrier. Add nature with motherhood and I am a disaster.
When I was pregnant with my son, I remember thinking, “ Once I’m through the first trimester, then I won’t worry so much. Wait, no, once I’m through the second trimester I can be worry-free. Ok, after the third…well, after he’s born then I can stop worrying. Wait, then I’ll have a KID. A real, live human being that I will be responsible for.”
That was the moment I realized that as long as I am a mother, my fears will never calm.
This kid was going to do something to my heart and I feared I wouldn’t have any control over it. The storm of worry inside me struggled to adjust from the comfortable me-focused past to the new child-centered, uncertain future that lie ahead.
Like all moms, I was overcome with love.
I’ve always been a worrier. Ignorance was bliss when I was younger. Oh, those days were so good. I was so adventurous and fearless. Life was fun back then. Now I am more educated, more informed, and have access to Google and WebMD.
And I have a child.
It’s a very bad combination for someone coming from my anxious gene pool.
Now I’m the official fun-ruiner.
I know every potential danger that lurks around every corner. Even the crazy situations that really never happen even though they happened once on Dateline- those seem like real possibilities to me. It makes for a pretty terrifying life at times, although I pride myself at pretty much looking like I have it together. But inside my heart is filled with a raging storm of love and fear.
And while I don’t voice these worries aloud to my son, I worry that this fear will get in the way of raising him in the way that he deserves.
You see, I want to raise a child that is willing to stand up and take a chance at something hard. I want to raise a child that isn’t afraid. Like I am. A child that loves and risks and attempts difficult feats because he knows that it is worth is. I want to equip him for the challenges, not keep him from them.
But can he do that if his mother is so afraid? How do I push him and allow him to take risks when I am constantly checking smoke alarms and deadbolts and sticking my finger under his nose to see if he is breathing while he sleeps?
And now I’m expected to send him into the world? And go to places like school?
I struggled to let my son work through an encounter with a bullying child at a friend’s house the other week, how can I possibly trust the world with him? How can I send him to school each day and trust that my little one that snuggles up to me and asks mommy to hold him in her arms will be able to stand up to the world we live in? If I’m so afraid for him, how can I teach him to be brave?
When we were at the pool the other day I prepped my son as we arrived (this is a single mom survival mechanism- establishing very clear boundaries because I haven’t been able to rely on another set of eyes), “ Don’t go in the water ever without mommy. Always stay by me. Actually, why don’t you just stay by this little slide right here.”
Seemed like a safe way to spend our morning together as we waded in a gigantic pool of danger.
And that he did. My little rule follower made mommy happy. He didn’t leave the slide at all. He was so safe.
He didn’t leave the slide at all.
As his friends ran around and explored the pool with their vigilant moms awkwardly wading and swimming behind them with toddlers in their arms, my sweet boy stayed right where I told him.
He took no risks that day. My fear of losing a child in the water prevented my sweet child from taking risks beyond that little slide that day. Sure, he had fun and he was safe, but I soon realized my own fears crept in and he didn’t even ask to venture beyond the safe space I created for him.
Sure, he’s young, I realize that. I do need to keep him safe. But I am afraid, and I’m realizing it’s not my fear that will keep him safe.
So, how do I raise my son to take risks in life, to love so deeply that he steps outside of the safe zone one day? How can I possibly do that if all I want is for my sweet boy to stay snuggled up in my arms like he’s done from the moment he was born? It’s so safe there.
I realize I can’t keep him there forever. So, the real question is why am I setting up so many boundaries for him at the pool instead of enrolling him in swimming lessons as I always talk of so he can actually push himself and try new things?
I pride myself in being adventurous with my son, but of course, it’s always the safest possible adventure because this mama knows what terrible encounter could be behind every…single…step…we…take.
I want my son to step out into the world as a capable, equipped young man willing to face difficult challenges, not timid and ill-equipped for the inevitable challenges that you and I both know our children will face.
But how do I do that if I am so afraid?
I need to confess, I let this post sit for about a month up until this point because I realized I don’t quite have the answer to that question. At least not as eloquent of an answer as I’d like.
But I can tell you this, for me it comes down to a combination of my faith and leaning on friends and family to share my concerns. It falls on my desire to push my son to be big as big and brave as the namesake given to him when I first found myself pregnant and afraid. That kid gave me more courage than I could have imagined having and he wasn’t even born yet. Now it’s my turn to make sure he is like that brave lion I know he’s always had in him. And to never compromise on my desire to give him that gift.
Eleanor Roosevelt said that you should, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Well, I’m a mom and that scares me. Being brave also scares me. Teaching my son to be brave scares me even more.
I also know that I am not alone in this. That my fears are that of a fierce mama who really just loves deeply. I don’t need to push my son to be a journalist in a war zone or to sky dive if he doesn’t want to or do anything outrageous if he doesn’t feel called to it. But I do want him to be ready to swim out into that deep end when he’s ready because really, I know he’ll love it out there, even if scares his mama.
I have a feeling that this is where the good stuff happens in life.
While I’m not condoning putting our children in danger, I am wanting to help my son push beyond my own fears. Can you relate?
It’s obvious you love your son very much. Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s good that you recognize that your fearfulness may have an impact on your son.