When the kids were little, it was so easy to know when to say “Good girl!” or when to say “Stop that!” Their actions were clear and easily defined. Good boy for sharing your toys! Bad boy for smacking your brother!
Back then, in those bygone days, I knew how to react when my children took action. Back then life was simple. Back then I could support the actions that were “right” and censure those that were “wrong”.
Back then, when my kids were small, I generally knew how to keep them away from activities that were too risky. Sometimes I had to bite my tongue and push down my fears in order to let them grow, but mostly, the line between “safe” and “unsafe” was relatively clear. Swings? Safe! Riding on the handlebars down a hill? Unsafe! Swimming in the lake? Safe…. Diving off the pier? Unsafe, you idiot, get down from there!!
But as they have grown up, and left the circle or my arms and the shelter of my roof, I have found that the lines are becoming increasingly blurry, and my reactions increasingly mixed. I cheer my daughter for her sense of adventure and love of life when she heads off the jungle of Central America to hike for a week. Then I stay up half the night all week, picturing every potential jungle disease, disaster and poisonous predator in full color detail.
This coming weekend, all three of my children are heading to New York City (Unsafe!) to participate in the protests that are happening on Wall Street (Very unsafe! Get down from there!). I am so incredibly excited for them as they join in this young and energetic movement to effect change. I’m so proud of their activism, their knowledge of the world and the country in which we live, and their willingness to put themselves out there to fight for a cause in which they believe. I trust them to use good judgement, and to follow the positive power of such a group movement. I believe in what they are doing, and I support their desire to bring reform to what we see as a very dysfunctional and profoundly corrupt political and economic system.
As I lie here in bed tonight, I can see every potential threat, disaster, accident and attack in full color detail. I imagine crowds of angry people (Unsafe!) facing crowds of angry police (Very unsafe!). I picture tear gas (Run!), batons (Run, run, run!) and mass arrests (Come home, right now!) And I have to admit to myself, in a very selfish thought, that even thought I think that their cause is a good one, I value the lives of my three children more than any cause on earth.
I guess that’s what parents mean when we tell our children, “I love you more than all the world.”