Thursday, 02 June 2011
People say a lot of things that are meant to make other people feel better. And most of the time it does.But it can also be really insensitive, whether intentionally or not. Sometimes those thoughtless phrases that we throw around can slice like a knife through the soul of an unsuspecting listener. And all of a sudden, she’s right back there, in that moment, where the biggest regret of her life happened, and the conversation continues on, but she sits there...stunned and wounded...again! I’m sure you’ve heard this one place or another, whether in reading you’ve done or conversations you’ve had.Moms are talking among themselves and discussing mothering issues and problems and struggles and somebody says “Well, our main job is to keep our kids alive till they’re 18. If you’ve done that, then you’re doing pretty good.”And the Moms heave a collective sigh of relief and say “Yeah, you’re right. That’s the main thing.” And yay for me! I’ve done that!As if we alone have the potential to protect our child from every possible danger.What if you are a Mom who DIDN’T “keep” your child alive?What if they fell out of the bed of a pick up when you were hauling firewood and got run over and died, as happened to my cousin’s 8 year old son?What if you had a miscarriage and you’ve always blamed yourself because you shouldn’t have lifted that heavy piece of furniture or you should have eaten differently or taken those folic acid vitamins?What if you yourself buried your child alive when you were backfilling dirt at your new house, as happened with someone in our community?What if, God forbid, despite all of your best efforts, your 20 year old child committed suicide, as happened to some dear parents in our community a few weeks ago?What if your child died, silently, in their crib when they were a few months old, as has happened to countless mothers of babies who died of SIDS?Could you ever forgive yourself? Could you go on?We can live our whole lives in fear or what could or might happen to our precious children.But bottom line...we are not able to protect them from everything.We can turn our children into fearful people and we can control them to the point of inhibiting their spirit of learning and adventure and independence...all because of our own fears.
It is terrifying to think that something awful should happen to your child.I certainly understand a mother’s desire to protect her children from death or anything bad that could happen to them.But we are not all powerful. We are not able to protect as we would desire. We HAVE to learn to let go and trust and give them breathing space. I don’t pretend to understand the awful, terrible pain that would be losing a child.The way that it must take your breath away for what feels like forever and shred your heart to bits in such a way that you will never go back to being fully alive and fully yourself as you once were. (Even writing about this subject makes me feel like I am treading where angels fear to tread, because I do not EVER want to bring pain to a reader of my blog, if I can help it.)Yes, I want to be wise and I want to be careful with my children but I refuse to live a life of fear. I refuse to make decisions based out of fear. Wisdom, yes, but fear, no! Do those two look the same sometimes? Definitely. But the motivation makes all of the difference.So just think a little more next time you say something glibly like “Well, as long as we manage to keep them alive, we’re doing good.”Those words can cut like a double edged sword through some grieving Mother’s soul. We’re all human. We’re fallible. We make mistakes. We might not see the danger. We might see it but not get there quickly enough.We cannot live our lives taking the weight of the world on our shoulders and think that we can single-handedly protect our children. Its not possible.We do our best, yes, but things happen. Choices are made. Accidents occur. Diseases ravage. And that doesn’t make someone any less of a loving and caring and protective mother. It just makes her a mother who has a deep scar that will never, ever (completely) heal!
Have you known someone who lost a child? How does that affect your interaction with your own children and your protective instincts? Do you find it difficult to know what to say to someone who has experienced this?
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