In my ongoing series of things I have noticed or been changed by because of being the at-home caregiver, this week's offering is a bit different. It has to do with being an at-home caregiver, yes, but it has more to do with just being a parent. My topic today is the concern that never leaves you as a parent for your kids.
It's been said that no matter how old your kids are they are still your kids. True. That fact is underscored in Robert Munsch's best-selling brilliant book entitled Love You Forever. Few know, however, that Robert thought up the main rhyme in that book after he and his wife suffered through the experience of having two stillborn children.
As he comments, "The song was my song to my dead babies. For a long time I had it in my head and I couldn’t even sing it because every time I tried to sing it I cried."
He didn't realize at the time of its creation that his book would become a phenomenal success. We may ask, 'Why is it that parents buy it for grandparents and grandparents buy it for parents and kids buy it for everybody and everybody buys it for kids?'
The reason is simple: everyone who has ever been a parent can identify with the timeless truth the book conveys which is that your kids are always your kids.
Further and more importantly, because your kids are always your kids, your concern over their welfare never totally leaves. Who can say which years are more difficult? Do the trials of pre-teens surpass those of the teenage years? Does the first exposure to teasing and peer pressure and academic expectations feel different to a parent than drug and alcohol and sexual pressures, concern over their future academic road, or who they choose as friends? Do college concerns feel different when it becomes career concerns? Does a cancer diagnosis in your child feel different when they're eight versus when they're thirty?
As my dad once shared, "You begin as a parent protecting your children from themselves. You keep them out of the street or you keep them from burning themselves. They just don't know better. Then it becomes protecting them from each other through the pre-teen and teen years. Finally, you try and protect them from the dangers occurring in the world. The trouble for the parent is at the beginning you have a whole lot of control and, at the end, you have very little control."
Adding to the external difficulties are the internal struggles that complicate any stage and are often long lasting like depression, anxiety, or addictions. Things that as a parent you would take from your child if you could. Things that you want to apologize for since, most likely, your genes contributed. Things that keep you up late praying or raising early to pre-empt. Things that have to be managed, but which won't go away. This is parenthood.
We put them to bed and we love them. We tell them to be careful and we love them. We see them suffer and we love them. Our hearts rejoice together and break together. They are our kids…and we'll love them forever.