I think parenting can be summed up in three basic emotions. Love, fear and guilt. I mean, obviously there is a pinch of anger and sometimes a heaping serving of humiliation, but for the most part, at least in my world, I’m consumed on a daily basis with love, fear and guilt.
I am swamped with love when my kids wake up in the morning and roll into our bed, all snuggly and warm and wanting nothing but to be near us. I love their hugs, their smiles, their fingers, toes and eyelashes. I love when they laugh. I love their discussions with me and with each other and with the dog. I love reading them stories. And wrestling and tickling and even the moments when they get in trouble and they come to me with sad eyes and tell me they are sorry. So much love.
And, because of that amazing love, I am also swamped by fear on a daily basis. I see danger everywhere. All strangers are potential abductors. That ladder on the playground is a broken arm waiting to happen. The neighbor’s dog is a menace. The rake in the yard, the couch in the living room, the neighborhood pool, all electrical outlets, lightening, hot dogs and grapes, butter knives, anything with wheels, plastic golf clubs, PENCILS, you name it, I bet I can explain how it could seriously and irrevocably injure my children. It is all out there. Just waiting to inflict pain on the two most important people in my world. But, since I can’t let my kids live in a bubble, I have to just sit back, swallow the fear and let them go on coloring and eating with utensils and PLAYING (dang it). But the fear. It is always there.
And then we come to guilt. Ahhh, my sweet friend guilt. I am SWAMPED with it. I feel guilt about the amount of time I breast fed. About not ALWAYS buying organic. About losing my temper. I feel guilt about not always wanting to play whatever pretend game Kate wants me to. I feel guilt about needing me time. I feel guilt about serving my kids junk food because it is the only thing they will eat. I let them watch too much TV. I forget to give them vitamins daily. I can go an entire week without doing ANYTHING educational with them. I lie to them sometimes because it is easier than dealing with the truth. I’m not always happy. I don’t always teach by example. I yell at them for yelling at each other. I tell them gentle hands but swat them when I lose my temper. Guilt. I lay in bed each night and think over the day and chew on those moments of failure, rolling them around and around until I cry sometimes because the enormity of raising children that you LOVE so much feels like an impossible task. And I constantly fall short.
Today Kate started her second year of preschool. And I spent my entire morning feeling guilty. When our family moved to our current home almost two years ago, we enrolled Kate in a great preschool that she loved. She fit right in, had friends and really blossomed. I, however, felt it was lacking. Class days were only 2.5 hours and it was completely secular (no holidays could be discussed, let alone any kind of beliefs).
After much thought, we decided to send Kate to preschool at our church this year. We want Kate to have a strong foundation of faith. To that end, we want her to feel like her church is a second home. Make friends with kids she will grow up with in youth group and be comfortable with the ministers and other church family.
I know all the reasons I chose to make the move are important. But when I took my wild and fearless child to her “Meet the Teacher” and she didn’t speak but one or two words, I felt guilt. When I took her to school this morning and I dropped her off, I felt guilt. When I peeked back in the room and saw her standing next to one of the walls instead of sitting at one of the activity tables with all the other kids, I felt guilt.
And when I got a call 30 minutes later that she had gone to the bathroom and thrown up, I felt guilt. Like, punch in the stomach, kick in the balls, guilt.
I know that it is only preschool. I know that ultimately, she will be fine. She will probably be more than fine. One she settles in at school, she will be a rock star. Because she is my Kate and she is amazing.
But that doesn’t stop the guilt. It doesn’t make it better. Kate has never thrown up due to nerves, yet I wonder if that is what happened. She doesn’t have a fever and bounced back to being her old self as soon as I arrived to pick her up. And so, because I can’t know exactly what caused it, the guilt of making a decision that possibly stressed my daughter out SO MUCH that she became physically ill, is making me ill. And afraid. That I did not make the best choice for my daughter. Because I love her, so very, very much. And I want it to all be okay.
Love. Fear. Guilt. Ain’t parenting beautiful?