Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mama Hen

I wish my children would stay young and innocent forever. I want to protect them from every emotional and physical harm that would try to come their way. And the more of life's injustices and crap I experience myself, the more I want to draw them in under my mama wings and keep them safe and happy there forever. I guess it's just an instinct - a {strong} instinct.

I've had a few conversations recently about this yearning to protect them. It plays itself out in decisions not to allow them to go almost anywhere without myself or my husband (granted, they are only one and two right now, but I don't plan on changing this policy for a LONG time). We are picky about who is allowed to babysit and I've decided my kids will not be allowed in a public restroom without me or my husband until middle school or longer. They will have a very, very short list of pre-approved places that they are allowed to go play without us and I will be hard-pressed to find anywhere I really want them spending the night on a regular basis.

But look around. Can you really blame me? There are molesters, flashers and drunkards all around. There are neglectful parents, harsh dads or emotionally vacant moms in many homes. I've experienced it myself and I want to protect my children from it all. (I realize I'm fully embracing my "glass-half-empty" side right now)

Wait, yeah, I've experienced it all myself. 

It clicked to me for the first time the other night that I cannot protect my children from everything. That there are wise rules I can put in place to protect their innocence while they are young, but that at some point, life will just happen. I guess that seems obvious enough, but honestly, the mother hen in me has a hard time accepting it and only recently even considered the reality of it. I hate the thought of someone doing them wrong, hurting their feelings, betraying their trust, breaching their innocence. It makes me sick and angry and ready to fight.

But if there's one thing I've learned over the past 3-4 years, it's that life just sucks sometimes. People can be immensely cruel, life can be completely unfair, and often we have absolutely no control over any of it. Friends will betray us and leave us when we're most vulnerable, people will get sick and die - many long, long before their time - corruption will infest people's minds and cause them to do awful things; and we will all cry and weep and break at some point in life, probably several points. The control-freak in me hates the truth of this. But it is true.

There's so much we cannot control.

So as I thought about the extreme opposites of my young, precious children that I'm desperate to protect and this often nasty, unfair world, I was struck by a second task I have as a  mama. Not only do I need to preserve their innocence and keep them from experiencing things that are not age-appropriate, but when the time is right, I need to teach them how to deal with the injustices and pains and realities of the broken world they live in.  And of course, the best teacher is one that teaches with action, not just words.

So it's got me to thinking about my own life and the ways I've handled the various trials, big and small, that have come my way. Do I run away and hide or bottle up the emotion? Do I play the victim and romanticize the pain? Do I become embittered or revengeful? What do I do with pain? How do I respond to injustice and the uncontrollable craziness of life? Am I authentic? Am I honest? Am I strong?

It's sobering and it's challenging. If I'm to prepare my children to deal graciously and bravely with the hardships they will face in life, I need to figure out  how to do that myself. I need to wrestle with my own fears, stare down injustice rather than back down from it, be honest about the cards I've been dealt. I'm not totally sure how to do that and I don't think I can do it alone, but at least my response to life is one thing I can control.

It's amazing at one and two that my children are challenging me so much already!

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