I hurriedly scurry into my bedroom as if a monster is in the hallway.
Shut the door. Lay down. Check the clock.
I hear crying.
Pillow over head.
Babe. I can’t do this. The book said it shouldn’t take this long.
Is this what it is supposed to sound like? This is inhumane.
Just relax, honey. He’ll fall asleep soon.
I don’t think so. The average baby would stop by now. These cries are killing me.
But he’ll never learn to sleep if you always get him.
But he’ll think we don’t care about him if I let him cry forever.
5 more minutes pass.
I open the door and get my baby.
He can sleep with us just tonight.
(He slept with us until he was 2.)
Prior to having children, there are a lot of things people don’t share with you about parenthood. (Praise God.)
And even if they did try. They’re too hard to grasp until you’re already in the thick of it.
Like the warning of the extreme sense of responsibility and desire for protection that you will have over your children.
On their day of birth, whether you realize it or not, it’s almost like we unknowingly take a vow to love, nurture and protect them.
But there’s no words in the English language that can accurately represent the depth of what those words really mean in regard to our children…until their birth.
I cannot do this.
Then the doctor hands me my baby.
I look at his face.
I feel his skin.
I see him.
My heart knows what is being asked of me.
And I wholeheartedly concede.
From this day forward.
I will love you.
I will nurture you.
I will protect you.
For your whole life long.
Yes. Yes. And Yes. And more.
A vow so inherent and innately strong that we mine as well have it inked on our body because it runs so deep. There is no pen and paper or legal document that could do it justice because a vow on paper is too vulnerable to destruction.
And this type of vow is lifelong. In our daily breath. A part of us when we’re conscious of it or not.
And though I had no idea how deep my love would run, I was prepared to love them. But what I was not prepared for was my immense desire to protect them.
On my own, I would never volunteer to be the selfless leader in a desperate scene. I mean honestly. I would run. And I would run fast.
Think plane crash. Think only food in a jungle full of snakes. Think only way to food. Grab machete and start hacking.
Think me making boat and trying to sail away. Or possibly choosing to starve.
But if you add my boys in the scenario. And tell me they’re hungry.
The whole thing changes in an instant.
What is that fear I’m so used to feeling?
It’s gone. It’s a faint memory.
And in one instant.
I go from, “That’s so insanely scary. I cannot tolerate it.”
“Give me the freaking machete.
My boys are hungry.
And momma is going on a hunt.
Or try this.
Scary scene in a movie.
It’s dark. Raining. There’s a psycho killer on the loose.
And there just so happens to be a winning lottery ticket for the biggest jackpot ever in an abandoned house a half mile where he was last spotted. And that same house happens to have the cure for the flu, the fountain of youth and endless supply of cake that has no calories.
That’s okay. I can handle a fever, wrinkles, and a few extra pounds.
But tell me my son wandered into that same house without knowing about the killer.
Say no more.
In I go. No fear.
What’s so scary about a psycho killer anyway?
These examples are extreme and exaggerated. But my honesty about my desire to protect my sons is not. I would walk a thousand miles for them. And then a thousand more.
Recently though, I’ve been reflecting on my vow to them and how the concept of pain fits into the equation. And how my desire to protect them sometimes gets blurred with my feeling that it is also my (impossible) responsibility as their mother to protect them from pain. And how the sheer thought of me failing in that endeavor drives my anxiety through the roof.
I want to shelter them and keep them from “bad” guys. So they will ultimately be better stronger men.
But is protection from pain the formula for developing strength? Or happiness?
As I write it, the clear answer is NO. Which seems easy enough.
When I feel it, the answer is YES. I feel that I want them to be protected from pain. Because the thought of them hurting, well frankly, is just too much for ME.
IT pains ME.
But here’s what I’ve been reflecting on lately.
Me hurting has nothing to do with their success.
In fact, their very births exemplify this concept.
I hurt like I’ve never hurt before to get them into this world. But they came out healthy and unscathed.
My pain had a purpose. It gave me them.
And then sometimes my pain CAN hurt them like the sleep story from above.
By always getting my babies, I teach them to need me for comfort.
Which in the long run may cause them pain. (By not sleeping well.)
In that case, my anxiety over their pain only causes them pain.
Moral of the story. My pain has no specific outcome on them.
The only guarantee about my pain is that it’s mine.
A Balance of Pain
If you’re like me, and you can struggle in finding the balance of protecting your children from hurt/smothering them. Here are some thing I’ve been thinking about.
FACT: Your babies are going to hurt in life. Whether you’re doing the hurting or someone else is, it is going to happen. Pain is a part of life. And that’s that.
And if I’m honest, they probably should hurt.
What kind of person would you or I or our children be without it? Sometimes pain puts us in our place. Knocks us down off our high horse and into a puddle of newfound compassion.
And as much as I HATE hurting, when I evaluate my most painful times in life, I can give you a list from each circumstance of valuable and necessary things I learned.
Which leads me to believe, sometimes the best teacher in life is pain.
It’s like the stern teacher no one likes. That doesn’t smile. Assigns endless amounts of homework. But helps you to get your first A in geometry. Or calculus.
And then you like them for it. Once you graduate. (And no longer have to see their grumpy face.)
When my kids fall, they like others, come to me for the post-pain, customary kiss and snuggle.
And I love to hold them and love them.
The other day, I watched one of my sons fake an injury then call for me. Funny thing was, the fake fall he created for attention ended up hurting him.
As I was holding him, I had to laugh at the realization of the scenario.
He himself was not bothered by the pain. He was just interested in the love he knew was coming as a result.
Then the stark realization hit.
He already understands my role as his mom is not preventing his pain.
Then the even bigger realization.
And doesn’t expect me to or ask that of me.
He just asks for me.
And in that moment, I rewrote my vow.
I vow to
And hold you.
A favorite Hallmark card of mine captures the analogy beautifully…
“Here, you hold the umbrella.
And I’ll hold you.”