“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. “Mark Twain
Sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is trying to figure out when to tell them that the world isn’t always so nice. You look at their innocent faces juxtaposed against accounts of horrific events and wonder at what point do you burst their bubble. Do you wait for them to ask you to explain what a gas chamber is or wait just a little bit longer and hope that they don’t read or hear news stories about murderous rampages at museums.
Your plan to help them retain their innocence doesn’t always work out. You can’t prevent other children from telling your child stories about things that happened. You may not have lied about the events of that day or time but you didn’t always include all of the details because you don’t always see a need to share all of the details. Children don’t need to know how to build a watch, just what time it is.
There is no road map or guidebook for raising children. Some people claim otherwise but in this case you know better. Every child is different and their needs are different. So you parent by touch and by feel. You wouldn’t say that you are wandering blindly through a garden but at times it feels a bit like that. These children never stop growing. They never stop reaching, stretching their arms out to try and pull themselves up one more step. They never stop pushing forwards because they see you standing on top of a hill that they want to reach.
It doesn’t occur to them that you don’t know everything. They can’t imagine that you don’t have the answers to their questions and at times it is hard not to revel in the trust that they place in you. It is hard not to be amazed and humbled by it. It is hard not to try and reach for that higher step yourself because they push you to push yourself.
And sometimes you worry because you feel your grip slipping and you wonder if you are going to be knocked from your own perch. You take a deep breath and dig deep but you know from experience that things happen. You know that the demons are out there and that there are things that are inexplicable. You know that the bad people, the crazy people are out there. Because even though you teach your children to judge people based upon their actions you read stories like this and wonder if your children are going to face the demons that your great -grandparents faced in the old country.
You wonder if the anger that roams the countryside will find an old scapegoat and if perhaps that will be a challenge that you have to face too.
But you don’t really worry so much about that because the incidents truly are few and far between. Because you realize that what makes you sad is the realization that their innocence cannot last forever. You can’t encase them in a bubble or secure them inside a tower. You can’t protect them from life and you don’t really want to. Because for them to live the kind of lives you want them to they have to be able to roam the world free and unencumbered.
It fills your heart with joy and some dread. You have already been working hard to impart some street sense to go along with what they call common. You talk to them about making sure that they receive proper change, how to look both ways in a parking lot and more. You tell them that they have to be extra careful around drivers who are talking on cell phones and that they must promise you to never stop learning.
In between these thoughts of hope and fear you engage in all sorts of mundane activities. Out in the community you hit one of the large warehouse stores and you hear your oldest tell his sister to pick her head up, they are in a parking lot. He sounds like a smaller version of you. And when he is met with attitude and a don’t tell me what to do look you smile because she is you too.
The goal is the same as it has always been. Raise good children, smart children. Raise children who are self sufficient and productive members of society. You don’t like living in a fearful society so you try to do what you can not to contribute to it. Most of the time you feel like you are succeeding and you smile. Later on you’ll talk to your son about that Mark Twain quote because it resonates with you. It is real and it is practical.
We are not trying to eliminate fear but to master it. But that is a topic for a different time.