I often find myself thinking back to when my child was a newborn. How could such a tiny human being 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 think back to driving 45 vs. 60 mph as I would look in the rearview mirror at him in his car seat. 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 remember 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 safely carry him 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 went by and with the arrival of college came the reality that my ability to protect him had just about slipped away. Only thing was, my worries had not. If anything, they were greater.
Incidents on college campuses, not knowing his whereabouts, being unable to reach him via text. Yes, of course I know it's part of the transition to young adulthood and no, I wasn't sitting by the door biting my nails, but my worries were palpable. And some for good reason. I really thought it would get easier when he got older, but I was 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 that do worry us. 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 in 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 is positioned right beneath them at just the right place and moment should something happen. But often it's not. And then, another tragedy occurs and if you're anything like me, all your strategies of parenting a young adult fly right out the window and you want your child home. In footy pajamas. In their bed. Safe. No matter their age.
It's easy for some to say, "They're adults now" or "Your job is done," yet the truth is, for most parents, the worrying never ends. Whether they're a mile away or 10 states away. If only I could figure out how to replace the safety net with that protective bubble I used to think about so many years ago...