If there is one thing that motherhood brings, it is fear. Of course, it goes without saying that motherhood brings tremendous joy, fulfillment, and happiness that I can feel in every bone of my body. I truly get excited to see my sweet daughter at the end of the day and I am overjoyed by each smile and coo from my precious baby boy. Amidst all of that happiness and joy, I am still awakened at night with the white-hot panic of fear.
What I want, more than anything in this wold is to keep my children safe and free from harm. My brain swirls with sometimes unanswerable questions. How do I teach my children that the boogie man isn’t always the creep in the trench coat that we can all spot from miles away? How do I prepare them that harm can come in a well-mannered, well-dressed package? How do I make sure they are confident enough to say ‘no’ even under pressure?
Caveat: I admit completely that while at home on maternity leave right now I am watching too much daytime television. I am also currently mothering a tiny baby boy for whom much of my focus is keeping him safe. Well, fed, clean, loved, and safe. With that said, or admitted, I recently watched a frightening show about child safety and how easily children can be lured into danger. At a playground, a study was done on child abduction. Basically, the very nice looking, well dressed man approached three five-year-old girls and asked them to help him find his lost dog. It took 39 seconds for these girls to be led out of the park. Thirty-nine seconds!! I watched, amazed as these three girls followed him out of the park yelling, “Truman! Truman!” trying to help him find his missing, albeit non-existent dog. Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder where were the girls’ mothers and why they hadn’t had their eyes on them but still, who doesn’t look away for 39 seconds?? We talk, of course, about these things. But so did the mothers of these girls. How? How can I keep them safe?
How do I teach my daughter that being a good person doesn’t mean being nice? Help her realize that being nice is a choice and not a defining quality. How can I teach her that asking for what you want isn’t a bad thing? How can I make sure she is confident enough to be happy with or without a man in her life? How can I teach her that being assertive and confident aren’t bad things and doesn’t mean you are a bitch? How can I make sure she listens to and trusts her own voice?
How do I teach my son that being male doesn’t inoculate him from harm? How can I make sure that he knows that it is okay not to trust some people? How do I raise a boy who knows it is okay to tell your mom? Not only that it is okay to tell his mother anything but that I will listen and he will not be judged. How can I make sure he listens to and trusts his own voice?
I was recently talking with someone about my children and what an enormous responsibility it is to be a parent. I was reminded that whenever we feel these visceral, almost primal reactions about the safety of our children it is simply an indication of the deep, unending love we have for them. It is also what gives mothers the ability to run through burning buildings or lift up cars with one arm.
I am currently in an interesting place in my life as I’m experiencing a dual role of motherhood. On one side, I am nurturing the new life of my son and on the other I am nurturing my daughter who is growing each day into a little girl who is emotionally available, opinionated, has a great sense of humor, and a fierce sense of personal style. Yet despite their very different needs, I still feel the same sense of protection for both.
One thing I know for sure is that all of us, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and so forth all experience the same set of emotions. Our feelings are not dictated by our occupation, social status, or gender. There is a finite set of emotions that we all feel and experience at one time or another. Knowing this gives me a sense of calm as I know I am in good company. My fears as a mother are shared with many, many other mothers as well. So when I question myself from time to time wondering why I am feeling this way I can confidently remind myself that I feel this way because, like so many others, I am a mother.