Anxious Parenting – UPDATED

I love this piece by David Mills:

Once at a cookout, our youngest son and another boy, both seven or eight, were bouncing from opposite sides of the trampoline and bumping into each other in the middle, laughing hysterically as they fell down. Neither was a physically adventurous child, and they collided very gently. They loved the game, and would have played it for hours.

The other boy’s father and I were talking while we watched them, when the boy’s mother came over, drew her husband aside, and dressed him down in one of those hissed conversations that carry farther than intended. She was shocked at his carelessness in letting their son do something so dangerous. He came back and broke up the game.

If our older son had played the same game at the same age with his friends, they would have been bruised and possibly bloody, and the bruises and the blood would have been part of the pleasure. (This would have been true of me as well.) I can hear him telling the story later, in an excited, slightly boastful voice, explaining how we were knocking each other down and then we ran into each other really hard and we both got bloody noses and, mom, there was blood all over the place! And he would have been a happier boy for it.

Sometimes I feel we are the only parents left who would enjoy hearing our son say that there was blood all over the place. I am tempted to believe that I, only I am left, but of course there are others. But in certain areas and in certain social circles, not many. And in certain family sizes, like those with one or two children, almost none.

Perhaps it’s because I only have two children, (that’s Elder Son, barefoot near brick in the picture!) but there is something about parenthood, and the insane love you feel for your children, that allows one’s imagination to take turns into the gruesome and the macabre like nothing else. I sympathized with Mills in this column, but I also identified with the yuppie parents. I never knew what sort of fearsome darkness lurked within my own psyche, until I had kids.

Which is why, the older I get, the more wise and instructive seem to be John Paul II’s constant reminder: “Do not be afraid.” I thought about that at Adoration, today, and once more was reminded:

“Everything” is about nothing
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.

Sometimes, when it’s late at night, and your child is driving on a road full of black ice, or thrashing about in a raging fever, remembering this is the only way to keep your own fears from driving you into a ditch.

UPDATE: I’ve posted it before, but if you have not read Tim Dalrymple’s Why we have children, don’t miss it.


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