Few longings run more deeply than the one to guard our young children from harm. Before we even leave the hospital with our tiny bundle, we know our job is to ensure their safety at all times.
We worry about our children. The primal urge to protect causes sleepless nights at the report of a toddler bite at day care, the thought of the first day of kindergarten, or the absence of an invitation to a first grader’s birthday party.
We would gladly suffer the pain ourselves rather than witness our children suffer.
We do our best to protect them. We struggle to strap car seats, vaccinate them on schedule, and insist on bike helmets for a ride around our cul-de-sac. We do whatever it takes to defend from danger.
During divorce, our urge to protect our children shifts into high gear. We want to keep them out of the courtroom, and shelter them from the shortcomings of their other parent, and shield them from the shedding of our tears. We strive to secure their safety in all situations.
Despite our valiant efforts, we can’t.
One day a bully will push our child down on the playground. One day they will tearfully tell us they don’t want to leave us when our parenting time comes to an end. One day they will be hurt in a way that no amount of helicopter parenting could prevent.
This is our worry. We listen to repeated reports of the slaughter of the innocent tiny ones in the sanctuary of their school room on a day that looked like any other. We ask, “If it could happen to that child, could it happen to mine?”
We imagine the possibility.
A vulnerability envelopes us. Danger looms in all directions. We wonder whether we are really up to this job of protecting that precious one for whom we feel wholly, totally, and inescapably responsible.
We worry. We do our best. And we worry our best may not be good enough.
Despite our sometimes desperate efforts at our best, it is impossible to protect our children in all ways. The statistics show it, our brains know it, but our hearts are not consoled.
For those of us who are blessed to have our children to hold dear this holiday, we are reminded that the miracle of them in our lives could end at any moment. For all of the days of this season, I intend to immerse myself in this knowing, protecting the preciousness that is this day of being a parent whose children were spared.