My morning started with a bang, literally, as the garage door hit the front of my car on its way down.
My son was in the driver’s seat, and all I could muster out of my sleepy mouth was, “Careful!”
In his defense, careful of what? The poor guy probably felt helpless trying to assess the dangerous situation we were in, as his crazy, groggy mother in her mix matched pj’s and winter boots was yelling, as if the sky were falling.
If only I had a dollar for every “be careful” that has been whispered, spoken, cried, or yelled out of my mouth and into my children’s ears…Learning to walk. Be careful. Cutting with scissors. Be careful. Riding a bike. Be careful. Playing sports. Be careful. Driving. Be Careful. New job, new college, new place, new relationships. Be careful. Be careful. Please be careful.
They have always giggled at that phrase. I say it constantly. What they don’t know is, be careful means so much more than that.
I love you and I never want you to be hurt. I love you more than anything in this world. Your life is more important to me than my own. I feel your joy and your pain. I am only as happy as my unhappiest child. You mean everything to me, and I want your life to be beautiful. Now stop running with scissors.
As mothers, we know our children will never understand the worry and deep concern we have for them (unless you have a grown daughter with a child—she gets it!). They giggle and roll their eyes, “Yes, mom. I’ll be careful. I love you too, mom.” If they only knew the sometimes deep ache in our hearts, as we have to watch them stumble, get hurt, have broken hearts, and sometimes fail.
Even watching them succeed can be gut-wrenching. After about 20 years of having a child under your roof, and under your care, you are suddenly expected to ship them out the door. “Okay. Looks like your time is up here. Time to go face the unloving, cold world.” Sure, no problem.
Mothers have great strength. We are freaking warriors. Behind closed doors, we silently pray, cry, and scream. The love for a child is so intense it hurts, yet we do it again. We do it again, because we know we have brought something beautiful into the world. We have a chance to raise good humans who will be a kind, loving addition to this sometimes harsh place.
Letting go often feels like a sacrifice. I have given all of my adult life to my children. I have poured into them with purpose. I didn’t just throw them some food and clothes and say, “Good luck with all of this life stuff.” No. It takes a ton of effort to bring them up well.
My sacrifice is when I give them to the world. I have to hand them over. It’s like an offering:
Here you go, world. I did all I could, and I am pretty sure this person will improve the human race, with his kind and gentle soul. You are welcome. Oh and, by the way, if you hurt him, I will hurt you worse.
As one son is learning to properly judge the distance between minivan and garage door, another is miles away from me, learning to drive a semitruck. And here I am, trying desperately to not age over all the stress. The thing about children is they don’t plan their lives according to your need for low stress and beauty sleep. And we wouldn’t want them to. It’s theirs—not ours. I know, I know, it isn’t very fair.
It will continue as long as the world is here. Women will continue to bear children with great physical pain and watch them as they sleep to make sure they are breathing.
They will hold sticky hands and kiss boo boos. They will cry after the first school drop off—but not in front of the child. They will agonize when the first heartbreak comes and cry tears of joy when the child starts smiling again.
It will continue—the worry, love, and care. But in the end, if it is done right, the world will have more love and kindness because of your tremendous love and effort.
Raise them with a purpose. Raise them in a way that causes the world to take notice that they aren’t like “the world.”
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. That is a powerful privilege.