She was born in the winter. At less than six pounds she was tiny and mighty. I marveled at her completeness, her "person-ness". Immediately after hearing that she was a girl, my heart was filled with visions of dolls, and Mother/Daughter outfits, and moments spent reading "Anne of Green Gables" together. I thought "We are going to have so much fun together." Because this was my first mommy rodeo, I listened intently to the instructions given by nurses and doctors on how to take care of my baby girl. Before we left the hospital, I carefully read through every pamphlet, fearful that I would miss something important. We arrived home 4 days later, tired and emotional but so excited for our future together.
I showed up to her one-month check up, early in December, cold and flu season swirling around us. I trekked through the slushy parking lot, car seat in hand, baby girl covered with hand-knitted blankets and a cute, cuddly outfit. She was gaining weight slowly, but still so small. The pediatrician told me that because of her size, age and the time of year it was, she was vulnerable. That didn't change that she was growing, it just meant that the doctor was telling me to exercise caution with how much she was out and about, who she was around, and how many germs she was exposed to. As this kind medical authority talked to me, first time mother, I soaked up every instruction to my very marrow. I left the office with one item on my To-Do list... Keep Her Safe. Other items on the list moved out of the way to create space for this, my now main priority. Keep my sweet little baby girl safe. She was vulnerable. Not weak, just susceptible to unwanted things considering the season of the year that we were in. With marching orders in hand, and narry another parent (step or otherwise) in sight, I took my baby girl home. I remember that for close to 2 months, other than the occasional visit to the grandparents, we just stuck around the house, where it was safe.
Over the 16 years that sweet daughter and I have been a team, other folks and situations have arrived on the scene. Siblings and step-parents, teachers and boyfriends, coaches and BFFs. Her world has expanded into dance teams and school and dual homes and youth group and all sorts of extra curricular activities. She is amazing and capable and still growing, but still so small. Small, not in her maturity, but small in years; Her youth causing her to be vulnerable to life's harsh, unfair conditions. She is still tiny and mighty, and her mom's to-do list hasn't changed. 4 kids and nearly 17 years later, the primary responsibility given to me during that December visit to the pediatrician has remained the same. Protect them, keep them safe. Motherhood has taught me that both of these things look differently at different stages of the kids' life and depending on the kid. Crawlers need protected from stairs and electrical outlets, toddlers from streets and hot stoves. School aged kids need protected from the bullies and teens need protected from the pressures of the world.
If you step foot in a cell phone retailer, one of the things they will try to sell you is a case. Quite possibly they will tell you how much you need a case that is the end-all-be-all protector to your phone. Protects it from water, spills, drops, accidents. When you check out a library book there will be cellaphane wrapper covering the cover of the book, protecting the book from your careless actions. Air bags surround every nook and cranny of your car, and the first instructions given when you board an airplane is how to properly stow your belongings for their safest arrrival. Safety and protection is a big thing for all of the"big things" in life. How much more precious are our kids then our things? Why do we invest $$ and time protecting things that can easily be replaced and yet we minimize and ridicule the protectiveness of a mother, labeling her "over-protective", " controlling" and "out to ruin their child's life". I understand that of course there needs to be a balance - neither all or nothing is good - but when did it become popular and accepted to let kids raise themselves? Hands-off parenting allows our kids to watch things and experience things that their innocent eyes and hearts aren't ready for. It hurries them along to a maturity that their vulnerable selves aren't prepared for. "Letting go" has become so trendy, there's even a song to support this parenting philosophy.
I have always loved this story, told by the late Corrie ten Boom, holocaust survivor, imprisoned for her actions of helping hide Jews in WWII. She writes "
“And so seated next to my father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"
turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but
to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his
traveling case off the floor and set it on the floor.
Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It's too heavy," I said.
he said, "and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little
girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge.
Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and
stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for
― Corrie ten Boom,