By Rebecca Godlove, Pediatric Alliance — Chartiers/McMurray
My kindergarten teacher prepared for Open House by writing down her students’ favorite things and goals in life. Then, each student’s answers were covered and a parent was asked to guess his or her child’s responses. I can still recall that my favorite color was purple, my favorite drink was milk (I tripped my dad up on that one; he guessed “pop” was my reply… and, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I answered, “A Mommy”.
Unlike my determined stepsister, who knew at five that she wanted to be a large animal vet (and will be graduating in a few short weeks as Dr. Vanderford — congrats, Jules!), my life goals changed a lot as I grew up. I wanted to be an opera singer, an actor, an artist, a paralegal, a teacher, a writer, an archaeologist, a marine biologist — it varied day by day. But when I was a teenager, my parents got divorced. I hated what I was going through and I was alternately furious with my parents for putting me through it and convinced I was a cause of it. I vowed that the one thing I would NEVER be was a mother, because I would never risk putting a child through the same misery I endured. That staunch vow faltered a bit when I got to college; I began to work with my church’s Vacation Bible School program during the summer, and I found that not only was I pretty good at connecting with the children, but I liked spending time with them, too. Finally, I met a sweet guy who seemed like not only good quality husband-material, but also a potentially great father. I snagged him and the rest is history.
No — wait, it’s not. While we agreed that we wanted kids, our first pregnancy was a surprise that sadly ended in miscarriage. Two additional losses seemed to solidify my future. It looked as though my rash teenage vow was actually coming to pass, despite my change of heart. Then, after a change in OB, some specialist visits, lots of prayers and cautious hope, Ronen came along, and we were excited to share our journey with the PediaBlog and the whole world!
But even as I cradled our little preemie in our arms, I felt worry creep into my heart. The challenges weren’t over. The world had changed so much since I was an innocent kindergartner, so much even since I was that sulking adolescent. What kind of life was my newborn going to face? If I listed every new-mom-fear that attacked me, I’d fill volumes: Zika virus, cyber-bullying, amber alerts, pollution and global warming, religious intolerance, terrorism, and yes, even the less dangerous but still damaging “Mommy Wars” I would soon endure.
We can only protect them in so many ways.
I’m learning that the hardest part about being a parent isn’t necessarily in making decisions that keep our kids healthy and safe. We reserve the right to withhold cupcakes and offer fruits and veggies instead. We can decline to send them to a birthday party where we suspect parents won’t be present. We can insist that they wear helmets when they’re on their bikes. We can lock up firearms or medications or household cleaners or keep them out of the home completely.
No, our biggest challenge is helping them learn to make their OWN decisions to stay healthy and safe in a world that seems to want them to grow up too soon and live too fast. That, my friends, is why I’m convinced that parenting is still the toughest job in the world.
***Read more wonderful essays by Rebecca Godlove on The PediaBlog here.