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When Does It Stop?

Recently one of my girlfriends went to put her 15-month-old down in his crib for the night. As he hit the mattress, he grabbed for a small object nearby. After she pried the object out of his fingers, my girlfriend realized it was a small plastic vial full of medicine used to fill her son’s nebulizer. He’d somehow gotten hold of one and hidden it in his crib. And if he hadn’t brought it to her attention, he’d have found it in the middle of the night and shoved it in his mouth.

These heart-stopping moments seem be par for the course as a parent; we spend our whole lives with our kids trying to anticipate danger but doing an incomplete job at best. We simply can’t anticipate every possible scenario and protect our children all the time. And for every near-miss that happens like the one in my girlfriend’s house, there are several more that happen that you never know about: the drunk driver who decides to turn one street before yours right before you enter the crosswalk, the spoiled chicken at a restaurant that you decide at the last moment not to order, the cabinet full of cleaning supplies accidentally left open that your toddler decides is not worth investigating.

If you think too much about it, you’ll go crazy. But it’s our job to think about it, at least some, so we can act as that advance guard whenever possible.

I remember when Maddie was born, I thought, “Ok, if I can just make it through the prime SIDS age, I can stop worrying.” Then I went to the pediatrician and found out that the soft spot on top of her head doesn’t close for 1-2 years! “Ok, if we can just get to the point at which her soft spot closes, I can stop worrying.” Which of course, becomes “Ok, if we can just get to age 3 so she can try nuts and I know she’s not allergic, I can stop worrying.”

The more self-sufficient and autonomous Maddie becomes, the more I naively thought the worries would trickle off. Instead, there are simply a whole new slew of fears and dangers lurking to take the old ones’ places. When does it end?

Some family friends of ours had a 24-year-old son spend several months last year backpacking through India and Nepal. He ended up at the foot of Mount Everest and took a solitary walk from Everest base camp (16,000 feet elevation) to snap some exciting glacier pictures before heading home the next day. That was the last anyone saw of him.

Seeing his parents deal with their frantic fear, a fully mounted rescue operation, and finally resignation that he was dead, truly brought home to me that as a parent you never stop worrying. You simply lose some of your ability to protect your children so immediately. I know, now that I’m a parent, that his mother and father didn’t start worrying when their son set foot on Everest; their worries began months earlier, when their son packed his travel bag and headed out.

So what do you do? Of course, the older your children get, the more your grasp loosens; it has to. But the fears don’t lessen. I’m fortunate in that I have Christ to comfort me – turning my burdens and fears over to Him is the only way I stay sane, and I know He loves Maddie even more than I do. But it’s a double-edged sword: I daily have to turn Maddie over to Him, knowing she is His, and I’ve just got her for safekeeping for a few decades. That I am entrusting Him with her life is at once the scariest and most comforting thought I have.

I trust God with Maddie’s life, since after all, He created her; she was His before she was mine. But it doesn’t mean I don’t continue to worry, continue to stand vigilant guard over her. My girlfriend is also a Christian and I know she feels the same way about her son.

But it doesn’t mean she’s not going to check the crib every time she puts her son down now.


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