The Paradox of Parenthood–Parental Fears
Driving home today, listening to music, I was reminded again how tenuous are our holds on the people we love. The life force feels so strong and so sure when they are right next to us, and we forget how suddenly things can change. As a mom to five young children, I am terrified at least once daily about something that could separate my children from me forever; some small act, some wrong turn, a missed stop sign, a tragedy. These things terrify me and make life seem dark, uncertain, paralyzing. To calm myself, I remember that quite literally the only thing we have is the here and now, this second of this day, right now when my 20 month old is sitting on my lap, waiting for my attention, her tiny pigtail sticking straight up and tickling my chin.
Maybe this weak hold on the strings of life is part of what makes it so beautiful, so rare, so worthy of adoration. The beauty exists because we are here, we are here together, right now. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, next week, next year and that uncertainty is what stops us in our tracks, what makes the tears come when we hear a certain song or a certain story. But then, mercifully, we are thrown right back into the beauty of here, the beauty of a dirty diaper to change, a busy schedule, the beauty of the strings that hold us to each other, that recognition of an unseen bond. And, really, in the end, the fact that the bond is unseen is what makes it so beautiful. That bond doesn’t exist in this physical world but in the realm of the ethereal, that which we cannot see but know with a certainty is there. The terror comes from not being able to see it, not being able to feel it and hold it to you. When a moment comes to stop and think, it is so crystal clear that love goes on, despite broken strings, despite distance, despite the end of life.
My sister-in-law, who held her beautiful infant son as he passed away, sent me an article about a pediatric oncologist who is touching kids’ lives in more ways than one. He was talking about dealing with the death of a child and how to prepare for it. One of his patients was nearing the end of his life, after years of treatments and medicines, and his mom was in his hospital room. The boy asked her what death would be like and she stood up, closed the curtain and talked to him from behind it. “It will be like this, you won’t be able to see me, but you can still hear my voice and feel that I love you. I am still here.” What a gift to be able to give your child when you are in the throes of the greatest terror a mom has. I’m sure she went home and cried; I’m sure at some point she had railed against the unfairness, the fragility of life. But in that moment, she saw those strings of life and how the thing that holds us here is not physicality but love.
At the end of my teary solo car rides, I get out and am greeted by smiling faces, a thousand questions, and sticky hands. Life comes clearly through in full force, and I am surrounded by its richness, its texture, the glory of it all around me. Mostly, I am thankful that for now, our paths run together, I can see my loved ones on it all around me, and it is beautiful. Love in all its terror and its glory is beautiful, and I am eternally grateful for this moment.
Katie Murray is a 36-year-old stay at home mom to five children, ages 3-10. When she’s not driving to soccer, ballet, or baseball, she enjoys running, hiking with her family, dancing in the living room and writing. She is grateful to her husband and children for giving her so much good material and looks forward to more every day.