One of the challenges I’m facing as a new mother (he’s 9 months old: can I still claim to be “new” at this?) is figuring out how to respond faithfully and responsibly to the What Ifs that Sam has introduced to my life. While he’s much more hardy and capable than he was last spring, Sam is still so physically vulnerable, and it seems like the world is a maze of dangerous situations and hazardous materials. And I know that children grow, and that some day he’ll have the walking thing down and the reason necessary to avoid most obvious perils. But what if someone bullies him? Or a girl breaks his heart? Or, God forbid, he starts driving?! It never ends.
Most days, I can keep the fear under control. But every now and then we’ll have a close call (none serious–yet) or a troubling incident (which was probably nothing) that shatters my illusions of control over his small, precious life. And then I wonder: Does this anxiety grow exponentially with each additional child? How do parents with large families handle the stress? How does Michelle Duggar set foot outside the house, not to mention deal with attention from the national media and its potential effects on her children?
As a teacher, I’ve seen the kind of damage caused by “helicopter parents”, the ones who hover in the background and swoop in to save their child from any difficult situations or negative consequences. Their children become habitual complainers who cannot handle criticism or deal effectively with disappointment or setbacks. Generally, they’re unpleasant and unhappy.
I don’t want that kind of life for my son: I want to teach my children to handle difficulties with wisdom instead of fear. I want to take the Love and Logic route. But I can’t do that as long as my own choices are based on the worried what-ifs. And, truthfully, I AM free from a lot of the worries that plague other mothers I know: I don’t sanitize Sam’s pacifier every time he drops it, and I don’t require people to wash their hands before touching him. Germ risks don’t bother me. (Much.) It’s the things you can’t calculate, random things like falls and SIDS and car accidents that make me catch my breath.
So, experienced parents out there, how do you handle the risks inherent in raising a child? How do you know when to follow the caution of our Just-In-Case culture and when to (responsibly) let go? More importantly, how do you handle the fear when you have so much to lose?