“I finally figured out that not every crisis can be managed. As much as we want to keep ourselves safe, we can’t protect ourselves from everything. If we want to embrace life, we also have to embrace chaos.” ~Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Yesterday the boys and I went to the park. It’s a favorite place for all of us, and what’s not to love? It’s filled with buoyant laughter and valiant freedom.
I watch the boys play, and I play with them; and for those few hours, that’s all that matters in the world. There’s no clutter and chaos, no stress, no to-do list, no walls closing us in. There is only light, love and happiness.
As they play, there are some obstacles that require help for which they reach out their tiny hands and say, “Mommy, hold me.” My hand then gives them the strength and bravery to climb any monkey bar, stand firm on the shaky bridge, and climb up the slide backwards without fear. If they fall, they ask me to kiss their boo boo and like magic, they’re healed and ready to play again.
Today I couldn’t help but silently acknowledge this won’t always be the case. As I watched them play, both holding my hand and running freely, I had brief moments of fear. Fear watching the bigger kids come zooming past my little guys with their buckets of water, slipping and sliding through the play area, not realizing or caring how close they got to knocking them off the edge. Fear remembering one harrowing incident we had a few months ago at a playground resulting in an ER visit and a massive amount of mouth trauma for Ethan. Fear of all the possibilities and things out of my control, not only on this playground but in life.
Now I know that seems kind of heavy for a happy day at the park; but as a mom, while you delight in the fun moments playing with your kids, you also have worries about all the other scenarios floating around you. You see that though they are care-free and enjoying their play time, other people don’t have such innocent intentions. You know things they don’t and you realize how dangerous some things can be. You remember every detail of that awful day when you held your child’s bloody teeth in your hand and wrapped your arms around his scared body in the ER. You replay those moments like a record trying to make sure they never happen again.
Having one set of eyeballs on 3 children can get hairy, and it can provoke thoughts of worst case scenarios and visions of the reality that not everything in life is a peaceful day at the park.
There will be times in their lives that my hand won’t be there and the wound will be too deep for my kiss to heal it. This thought breaks me. As a mom, I want my boys to be protected from all the bad things of the world. I want to be able to keep them safe, kiss their boo boos, and protect their little hearts from pain.
No matter how much I want to though, I can’t. In many ways, I’m really not even supposed to.
I can’t wrap them in bubble wrap and keep them safe from physical wounds any more than I can wrap them in my arms and protect them from emotional wounds. Sooner or later, they will come. Some already have come. Some are here but the boys are too young to understand them. Some are inevitable parts of life that will come in their own time. Some will come unannounced, while others, though not welcomed, have almost been invited. There will be pain from their own choices, and there will be pain from the choices of others. Unfortunately, these are all unavoidable parts of life. As much as I want to rescue my boys from all pain, no matter how severe, I am powerless over certain things.
When I think about the inexorable pain they will endure as a result of some of my past choices which lead to my current situation, it fills me with rage. My mama bear instincts kick in and I go into fight mode. While I can’t shield them from everything, there are some things that it is my job to protect them from. Life isn’t fair and the good guy doesn’t always win; but that won’t stop me from trying.
Parenting is like playing catch and release up on a tight rope. A never-ending balancing act of finding the line between over protecting and not protecting enough, teaching them about the world and letting them figure it out for themselves, fighting for them and allowing them to fight their own battles.
There’s a heartbreaking dichotomy in that I can’t protect them without holding a sword, but I can’t fully embrace them while holding a sword either.
At a certain point in life, we realize the shelter of a parent’s arms cannot protect us anymore. The world is real and we are really in it. Sometimes there may be no waking up from the nightmare to a comforting hug from mom promising everything is going to be okay. The wounds are real, the cuts are deep, and moms kiss can’t take that pain away.
Right now, I can save them from almost everything, within human limits. I have control over many aspects of their well being and therefore, they are relatively safe and free from harm. But in the horizon lies a great unknown. A territory where the only known, trustworthy thing is lies and deceit, betrayal and pain. Unfortunately I don’t get to shield the boys from entering into that territory with me, and it guts me. Innocence always calls mutely for protection. That’s why we work so hard to protect our children from everything we possibly can. They are young, blameless and undeserving of the consequences that stem from our own poor choices and behaviors, or that of others in our lives connected to them. Children aren’t supposed to be victims of the choices we make for them, but often, that’s exactly what happens.
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I have no intentions of crippling my children by smothering them with my own desire to keep then innocent and sheltering them from life; but I also am not here to throw them to the wolves and see what happens. This parenting thing is tough, particularly in the areas I have absolutely no control over, and there are many. All I have is the knowledge that I am giving them the best of me every single day, and the prayer that that is enough. While I pray it’s enough and trust God will forever stand in the gap for my boys, I can’t help but have undeniable fear about what is to come.
I feel helpless. Suffocated. Held under water by an evil hand that has nothing buts it’s own selfish desires in mind, using my sons as a decoy. As disposable toys through which to manipulate the world. I am sickened to my core by the reality of my situation and how it will inevitably affect my children. They didn’t choose this, and neither did I, yet here we are, at the mercy of a broken system and a broken individual using his edges to wound the innocent.
I can’t protect my boys from the world. I can’t even protect them from their own father. The only peace is in knowing we are all held by a heavenly father. A father who isn’t surprised or thrown off by anything that is happening. Who has always had a plan and who is fighting for us. Who is able to hold the sword to fight while also embracing us in His arms fully. There are some pains I have no choice but to endure, but I know God is in control and has the final word, and that is my comfort.
When the playgrounds of life morph from an open, warm, loving, happy place into a closed, cold, hateful, injurious place, I know that is when I have to look up, reach out my hand and say, “God, hold me.” While I hold my son’s hands, God is holding mine, and it is in that that I can be brave. Though my kiss can’t heal the penetrating wounds to come, God’s love and grace will always be there to attenuate the blow.
I don’t know the depth of the dangers that lie ahead, but I know God has gone before me and He will go after me. He is in control and although it often appears that evil wins in the short term, good ultimately prevails.
Until then, I am going to focus on the good things. I’m going to play freely on the playground, dance in the open grass, and throw myself into the joy that surrounds me because of my children. They deserve to live in the light, and so do I. Though darkness taunts us and looms in the distance, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5