I recently found myself thinking back to when my child was a newborn, back to when the world felt far too big for someone so small. Wondering how such a tiny human being could possibly be kept safe and how could I make sure of it. Such an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability, mine and his. And the worrying began.
I thought back to driving 40 mph when the speed limit was much faster, looking in the rearview mirror and hoping the other cars didn't see us. Cradling his head when the wind was blowing after he would leap into my arms to get out of the cold. Watching him on his bike without training wheels and hoping for no broken bones. Advocating for him in school when other kids thought bullying was fun.
I thought about those late-nights - even when he was a teen - as I would check on him sleeping, feeling that all was right in the world because he was home, in his bed, and safe. I wondered how I could prepare him to move through a world that seemed poised to challenge his gentle nature and innocence. I was intent on keeping him safe. No matter what.
But the world was bigger than I was and life took hold. The school years moved into college and it became clear that my ability to protect him had slipped away. Only thing was, my worries had not. If anything, they were greater.
Incidents on college campuses, students struggling with all kinds of issues and pressures, being unable to reach him via text. Yes, of course I knew it was part of the transition to young adulthood and no, I wasn't sitting by my phone, but my worries were palpable. And some for good reason. When he was little, I really thought it would get easier when he got older. Was I ever wrong.
The worries change as our children do. First, it's school, friends, and camp that may worry us. Then it's social media, dating risks, and mental health issues. And then it becomes the unknown and those things we hope never happen that most definitely worry us. Truth is, the worrying never ends. We may not wear it on our face every day, but it's there, right behind the smile.
We send our children out into the world to do what we've encouraged them to do...learn, explore, and experience. We urge them to be smart, safe, and aware. We give them roots, as the saying goes, and also wings, hoping our safety net doesn't impede on their independence, yet needing it there nevertheless.
Things happen in the world that can rattle us to our core. And if you're anything like me (and being honest), you sometimes wish for the days when your child was in footy pajamas. In their bed. Safe.
Many people may say, when they turn 18 or 21, they're adults now and that your job is done. But for parents like me, the worrying really never ends. I can only hope that it shows itself in new ways.