Before Big Girl was born I questioned my parenting potential. I spent months, actually, discussing this very topic with a therapist. Would I be a good parent? Would I screw up any child I had because I was, well, a little screwed up? I agonized over it. And yet when she was born, I wondered what I was so worried about. Parenting was cake!
Big Girl was a good baby. Angelic, even. She slept through the night almost from day one. She did almost everything very early. She was — and is — a simple, quiet child who was easy to mold. Thirsty for knowledge, she is like a sponge sucking up whatever I teach her. And a great listener! Sit here, I would tell her, and she wouldn’t move a muscle. She’s still a good listener even though now she’ll mouth back if she disagrees. (But she’ll still do what I say.) She has from the moment she could sit up responded to my logical explanations about why she shouldn’t do things with logic. She was always my little adult dressed up in cute pigtails and MaryJane shoes.
Yes, she had her issues. She was and still is shy and cautious. She gets nervous and anxious. She’s emotional. But those are characteristics that I share with her, so I get them, which means I get her. And yes, sometimes those traits drive me bonkers because I want so much for her and don’t want her to repeat my mistakes, but at least they are familiar. Watching my Big Girl grow is like looking at old home movies. She reminds me a lot of myself.
My Little Girl is completely different, as I have mentioned many, many times before. Outgoing, happy, social, physical. The kid came out of me wanting to scale mountains and make new friends. Yes, she’s inquisitive like Big Girl, and smart, too, but a different kind of smart. Great memory just like her sister, but she’s not so much with the sit with Mommy and do flashcards. She’s more touch and learn. She’s a tactile and visual learner where her sister is an auditory and visual learner. Couple that with the fact that she is truly fearless and you see my problem: I can’t control her.
But I was dealing. Until this weekend when we landed not once but twice in the emergency room. You know all about the first trip. The second trip was just as horrifying. I was folding clothes listening to the two girls play. I turned around to get Little Girl and put her to bed when I saw something white on the floor. I bent down and picked it up. Half of a pill capsule. My whole body went cold.
I grabbed my little one and asked her if she had eaten it. “Yes, Mommy. I find it in Nay-nin’s room. I eat it all up. Like candy.” And she giggled. She ate something she shouldn’t have even though she has been told about a million times that we only put food in our mouth, and we only eat things that Mommy and Daddy give us.
And so started an eight hour process that started at the local CVS to see if the pharmacist could identify the pill and ended at a local children’s hospital getting blood tests and being observed. We got home at around 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Sigh. (Turns out she probably didn’t eat it, and for the record we think it was a left over pill from one of the long-gone pets. They all took meds and they all liked to spit them out in corners. Just goes to prove that Little Girl can find the dangerous item in a room full of declawed bunnies and BPA-free bottles of milk.)
Humor aside, these two experiences have left me questioning my skills and capacity as a mother. It’s lead me down some dark hallways in my mind. I am weary. I am scared. This beautiful bundle of energy doesn’t have the same fear and common sense as her sister. So it’s up to me to protect her from everything. But how can I ferret out every danger? How can I always be two steps ahead so we don’t end up in the hospital again?
My husband tells me I have to relax. That we’ve done a good job so far. That kids get hurt. (Even Big Girl had three trips to the ER over the course of her toddlerhood — two that ended in stitches.) The world, according to my husband, is not as dangerous as I think it is. If I try and teach her that it is and hold her back, I will break her spirit, he says. I have to avoid being too draconian or overprotective because trying to keep her down might be more dangerous in the long run than letting her be free and take a few bumps and lumps along the way.
I’m not so sure he’s right. I feel my heart squeezing right now when I think of what we went through this weekend. So please bear with me as I navigate these new, uncharted waters: Being a mom of an explorer who acts first and thinks second. I have a feeling it’s going to be a much bumpier ride than I was expecting…
How do you deal with the fear that comes with being a parent? How do you find a balance between protecting your kids and smothering them? I’d love to know.