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A Letter to My Children: A Mother’s Fear

Steve Corey / Foter / CC BY-NC

(Note: this is not entirely written of my personal experience but a culmination of the hopes, dreams, and fears that have been shared with me by mothers I’ve known professionally and personally. I hope it speaks, at least in part, about a mother’s humanness and intention.)

Perhaps earlier, but at least from the first moment that I felt you moving I wanted to protect you. You see, that’s the crux of most all my behavior toward you; I want to protect you from hurt, from pain of any kind. The problem is that I haven’t communicated my intention to you very well at times. It has been MY fear of not being able to keep you out of harm’s way that directed so much of my actions. It doesn’t really matter how old you have been or are; it doesn’t matter how careful or responsible you are; it doesn’t matter how rational or irrational it is – I don’t want you to hurt.

It started the moment you were born and as a toddler, I would yell loudly and abruptly when I saw you playing close to the stairs – I was afraid you would fall.  When I insisted that you hold my hand or onto the grocery cart it was because I was afraid that you would wander off and be lost to me forever. When you left for kindergarten I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to keep track of you or that you might be scared.  I weighed the cost and benefits of those ugly bike helmets with the safety they provided and was stubborn about making sure you wore one. I wouldn’t let you rough house in the car because I was afraid that I would lose my concentration and drive unsafely. I was afraid you might be embarrassed if you made mistakes at your piano recital or didn’t’ catch that fly ball so I made you practice over and over. I was afraid that if I didn’t try and protect you, you might think that I didn’t care at all.

You see, I had a vision of the life I wanted for you – a life filled with joy and happiness, success and pride, love and health. I believed that in order to have all of those things you needed to be respectful, honest, and confident. I attempted to demonstrate those attributes but know that I wasn’t perfect.  I was afraid that “I” might do something that could prevent those things from being your life if I wasn’t careful enough, strict enough, or watchful enough. I was afraid of failing you. I may have tried to run from the fear by acting out, running away, hiding – it was me – not you.

Even though I was filled with all that fear, I knew intellectually that I could not protect you from all of life’s hurts and it broke my heart. Most of the time, I was good at rationalizing that – others not so much. I remember thinking that you needed to fall in order to learn how to get up and that the best thing to do was to just stand there ready to support your efforts – but it was hard; especially when I saw you walking toward the same cliff that I had stepped off of years ago.

I didn’t want you to see my faults. I want to be perfect in your eyes but the truth is – I’m not. There are times that I didn’t know what to do and doing nothing seemed like the best answer. It was never my intention for you to feel as though I didn’t care – I care so much that sometimes my heart aches with love for you. There are times when I’ve helped you too much – I wanted it to be easy for you. There are times when I allowed you to fall too hard or too far because I was too caught up in my own ‘stuff’ to see where you were. There were times that I felt helpless to control your safety (physically and/or emotionally) and couldn’t cope with that insecurity.

All of this, I say because I want you to know that I am sorry. I believe that I did the best I could but my desire for you to have a perfect life and the fear that you may not – got in the way of my judgment from time to time. I do, have, and will always – Love you!

2 comments on “A Letter to My Children: A Mother’s Fear

  1. Harlan
    August 7, 2013

    Fear is a very powerful emotion…

  2. Jennifer
    September 10, 2013

    This is such a true description of how we as Mother’s feel on a daily basis. Never wanting our “babies” to get hurt or be hurt. Trying to prevent them from making the same mistakes we did at their age, trying to make sure that they stay safe. Some may call me an overprotective Mom but I feel like it is my job to keep them safe. I have started to let go a bit now that a few of my children are older but I will always be worried. I have realized that worrying and fear is a part of life and eventually they have to make their own decisions, but if they fall I will always be there to help them pick up the pieces and move on. With my younger children I am still working on it. I have always told them “I do this because I love you and don’t want you to get hurt, not because I want to ruin your fun or because I want to be mean, I am your Mom and it is my job to protect you….. that’s what Mom’s do”. After reading this article I am going to print off a copy of it for each of my children because this letter is a perfect description of my fear for my children, the reason’s I do what I do and I hope they see that not only is this the way I feel but the way most Mother’s feel. THANKS for a great post!

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