The World Feels Much Bigger When You Have Kids In ItPosted May 3, 2018
by Amy Lemieux
Cliché as it is to say, having a child changes the world for a parent. Raising children is not for sissies. The leap from “competent adult” to “hovering freak show who follows a tiny person around” is not that giant when you consider you’re responsible for the very survival of another human being. The gravity of this responsibility can be misinterpreted. In hindsight, I inflated my job of “keep him alive” to “make every aspect of his life perfect and don’t ever let him suffer a moment of discomfort.” This distortion made letting go more difficult than it should have been and did a disservice to my son.
Maybe it started at ten weeks gestation when my husband suddenly started cooking vegetables for me every night. Maybe it was when I began running through the neighborhood seven months pregnant thinking it might make me strong enough to deliver a baby with a perfectly round head. It could have been me riding in the backseat with our infant son while my husband chauffeured us around, not just on the ride home from the hospital but for a solid six months. When my sister-in-law asked, “Has Nick ever even cried for anything?” we should have heard her intended message, but we proudly said, “No. Never.”
I remember the visceral reaction I had the first time my oldest was invited to play at a friend’s house. I think the mother’s actual words were something like, “Eddie really likes Nick and talks about him all the time. We would love to have him over for a play date.” The words I heard were, “I’m going to rip your heart from your chest and take it to my house. You might never see it again.” My reaction was so strong and unexpected that seventeen years later I haven’t forgotten it. Nick never did play with Eddie, even though I liked and trusted the family. What I could not articulate at that time was how frightened I was to send my son into an unfamiliar setting even though I liked and trusted the family. Eddie’s parents’ job was to keep Nick safe for two hours while he played, not to make his afternoon perfect. But I felt like the universe was going to swallow my son if he wasn’t with me.
Obviously, his range grew as he got older, but I wish I understood in his early years that my job was never to make his life seamless, but to let him grow and venture away from me with the confidence of knowing I’d be his home base even if everything wasn’t perfect. I wish I had let him tell me his needs (a necessary part of growing up) rather than anticipate them. I wish I hadn’t taken my role as protector to such an extreme. I wish I had let him play with Eddie.
The world really does feel bigger once you have kids in it, but it would not have felt so overwhelming if I hadn’t misunderstood my responsibilities when he was young.