“Boys, watch out for your brother, alright?”
“Stay away from the edge of the deck. And especially don’t hang over the side.”
“I don’t think you’re ready to ride your bike to the park. You never know what kind of people are up there.”
“Honey, did you put the laundry basket at the top of the stairs—just in case the boys wake up in the middle of the night and lose their balance? And before you come back to bed, will you see if I locked the front door?”
Fear. I’m so afraid that I’m going to lose one of my sons. So afraid that something bad might happen. We have a half-acre wooded lot that backs up to our neighbors. Between both houses, we have five boys between the ages of three and ten. I’m terrified every time I hear a blood-curdling scream. I’m certain there must be bones protruding from some body part.
This fear is crippling. It paralyzes me in the middle of a romantic date with my husband. I worry that the sitter might have accidentally left the front door open. I envision my youngest wandering out into the busy street we used to live on. We took a trip to the Florida Keys last summer, and all I could think of was the open banisters at the house our children were staying. The scene of them falling from the second to the first floor below haunted me in our villa each night.
Because of my fear, I exhibit large amounts of control over my children. Granted, some of it is necessary for good parenting. For example, I have a fear that when the boys are at a friend’s house whose rules vary from ours regarding internet and television, that they might stumble upon websites or channels that market sex. I fear that if they are exposed at such a young age, the struggle men face regarding pornography will take a foothold in their minds when they aren’t yet equipped for the battle. I think this is a healthy fear, and I have no intention of letting go of that one.
But the others … I want to let my children wander in our woods without fear of a brown recluse, or a poisonous snake. I want to let them build mountains of sticks to climb, twice as tall as they are, and not worry about them impaling themselves.
I often joke that parenting three young boys is kind of like being on suicide watch—I just have to make sure they don’t kill themselves. And while it is a little funny that my imagination unleashes such bizarre worries, I’m not so sure that it’s going to raise healthy teenagers. Another fear I have: rebellious teenagers.
Fear always cripples someone. In the case of parenting, I believe that it paralyzes both myself, and places unhealthy restrictions on my children. If I don’t stop my worrying, it is likely they might rebel from under my control when they are old enough to realize what I am doing.
It has only been in the last three months that I have been able to recognize and name this fear as it is happening. And I think it boils down to one larger issue—trust. My fear essentially says to God that I can care for my children better than He can.
The psalmist catches my mother’s heart in Psalm 56:8:
You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
This I know: God is on my side.
O God, I praise your Word.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
As I sit here writing on my deck the morning sun shines His mercies for today upon me. My children are playing in the mud and dirt below. I just heard someone going too fast around the road that wraps in front of our house. I turn my head, making a quick count of all three boys. Where are they? Are they away from the street? The work van whizzes by just as I count my last child. And I have to laugh. Fear has overtaken me for one breathless second.
Will I ever completely surrender the fear I have of losing a child? No, probably not. I am a mother and those children are my world. But I do believe that I can relinquish my fear to the Lord, so that I can truly enjoy other areas of my life. So that as the time progresses and my children take steps further away from under my wings, they will have peace and confidence in themselves. Where will they get that confidence from? They will have seen in me and hear it in my words of encouragement.
“You can do it, baby,” I say, as my toddler takes his first step.
“I didn’t know you could do that. It looks fantastic,” I tell my oldest, admiring his handiwork as he builds his first fire.
“Look at you!” I cry with delight as my five year old hangs precariously from a rock wall, 40 feet in the air. Thank God for harnesses and a father who knows what he’s doing.
And thank God for the whispered prayers of a mother as she stands back and watches, harnessing in her own fears.