They say that having a child is like
having your heart walk around outside your chest.
It sounds ridiculous….and, well painful.
The moment you hold your child in your arms for the very first time and make that intimate heart connection you realize the weight of those words. All of a sudden you have more than just yourself to protect. This little person depends on you to do that for them.. they are quite literally helpless without you.
As they become toddlers and are trying to become more independent you are mentally and physically putting bumper guards out, constant trying to protect this “little heart outside your own.” They grow a little more and every little thing that happens against them you feel the need to literally go to battle for them. (Unfortunately it is frowned upon to beat up a snotty 4th grader who thinks they can touch or say something against your kid without consequences) If you have a girl you know Allllllll the drama of it. If you have a son then you know the torture of trying to teach him to be tough, yet gentle, to be loving but hold his ground. This parenting gig is hard. What most people don’t want to tell you while you are holding that innocent little thing for the first time is that you have never experienced joy and pain like what is coming.
Those more experienced parents don’t want to scare you by telling you that the frustrations of raising a toddler pale in comparison to raising a teenager. ( I know there are a few – probably very few, reading this who are saying..”my teen was/is a breeze, we are the best of friends.” If that’s the case you are probably in serious denial.) I wasn’t prepared for my child to momentarily be disgusted with me for enforcing rules to protect them. Don’t they know I LOVE them? Don’t they know all I want to do is give them the best opportunity at life? Of course we know nothing. We are idiots from a frozen Paleoindian period that can’t possibly understand the pressures of school, societal norms, friends, and a part time job. —– Maybe to some degree they are right. I do realize my every teenage action wasn’t recorded for the whole world to see every minute of the day. (THANK YOU JESUS!) Even so it hurts the first time you hear whispered under their breath confessions that they can’t stand us. What?!?!? My child can’t stand me? It is in that moment that you feel simultaneously heart broken and furious. It is in that moment you want to pull that full sized human into your lap to cuddle them and tell them…..”but I’m doing this because I love you and want to protect you”, all the while envisioning smacking them across the head for being so selfish.
(Please don’t send me a private e-mail questioning my parenting – if you don’t understand the above paragraph, someone else helped raise your child.) 😉
Today is my oldest child’s birthday. Was she more special than any of my other four children? No. I truly love all my kids the same. However; as it goes with your first child, somehow they set a precedent for the rest of your children as far as how things will go. She talked a little sooner, walked a little later than the rest, potty trained super early. -My second oldest daughter, the poor thing. We expected her to speak nearly right out of the womb, but she started walking really early it seemed. Looking back at those early days and the memories of their soft little hands pressed on either side of my head demanding my full attention to hear what they were saying, fill my heart with joy. The sprinkling of the places in between where there was great, unimaginable pain at their growing up, their choices, their need to forge their own way without regard to parental wisdom, and the reality that life would have to go on without one of them seems to pale in comparison to the memories of the laughter, giggling, cuddling, movies and popcorn nights, the relentless mocking until someone was frustrated or laughing to tears, and the nights around the dinner table….. sharing our day, supporting each other, and even times correcting ideas of revenge.
It doesn’t matter how old they get. The inherent need to protect and love is the same. The pain and joy of “that heart walking around outside our chest” does not wane. If anything, as our children have children, that need to love and protect expands and grows. So today I want to honor my oldest daughters birthday, and all my children for that matter by choosing to soak in the memories of joy and let those of pain, be left to wither away where only wisdom and in-measurable love is left.