It doesn’t matter how much you try to protect your children from things that could hurt them, or make them sad. Life still happens. Reality can’t be denied forever. And so, even your children experience lessons that will make them cry, see things that will make them ache, and become a part of things that will hurt them. It doesn’t matter how much you try to shield them from this thing called life.
A few hours after Milin went to bed last night he cried out in his sleep. Both Tony and I rushed in – not because we are over-protective parents, but because Milin almost without exception sleeps soundly through the night. Last night though, in a mostly-asleep daze, he turned down the corners of his mouth and cried. His sighs were full of sadness, his tears fat and heavy.
He fell back into his deep sleep not long after. The dream, perhaps, was over.
I sat by the side of his bed for a while and watched as his chest rose. I watched as he reached for his favourite bunny in his sleep. I watched as he entered another dream world.
Before me was a little boy whose imagination I had no hold over. It didn’t matter how much I wanted to protect him or keep him safe, the fire-breathing dragons and galloping dinosaurs would still be in his dreams.
It made me a little sad, knowing that Milin would feel fear while alone in his sleep and there was nothing, in those very moments that he did, that I could do. My little boy who is three, would experience them on his own.
Of course, I know this is normal, that we all must grow up. But there’s still a part of me that just wants to hold my children to me while the scariest dreams swirl around them. It’s the same part of me that wants them never to feel grief or heartache or terror. It’s the same part that knows, however, that they must.
Because the rest of me, the more rational part, wants to nurture that young imagination that made my child cry out. It wants to help that creative mind grow and give it freedom to explore. But oh finding that balance between between wrapping them up safely against the world and letting them find their adventures in it is hard. It’s another of the internal struggles that makes me question whether I do, in fact, know anything about how to get motherhood ‘right’.
What I do know though is that I believe their young imaginations are a gift to be nurtured, a gift that will take them far. They are also the start of a journey and the start of their freedom. As they find that path that their creative minds want to take them on, they will venture a little further from me with each step. They will walk further out of their mothers’ arms, the barrier between them and the real world of real life as it is will be gone.
I can’t stretch a safety net beneath their feet forever. Instead, I will feel the pang in my heart as they feel fear or learn about an unkind world. I will break to see them sad. But I will also know joy when they set off on new adventures in a new world. It is theirs to discover.