Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The hidden definition of parenthood

Before having a baby I heard all sorts of things about what parenthood is like: "It's a miracle!" "It's exhausting!" "Your life will never be the same!" "It's not about you anymore!" "It's full of joy!", you know, blah blah blah. And it's true, I've felt all of those things and more. However, there was one overwhelming definition of parenthood that seemed to have been overlooked, and that is that parenthood is synonymous with the term "paralyzing fear".

Obviously there's a lot of fear surrounding becoming a mom or dad. What if I drop the baby? What if she poops on me? What do I do if she cries? What if she doesn't like me? But I'm talking, like, big fears. Monumental fears that you have no control over. Such as the fear that eventually my sweet, lovely, innocent little girl is going to grow up to be an 18 year old that one day comes to tell me she's running away. With her 52 year old boyfriend named Howard. Who happens to owe $24,000 to the IRS so he's trying to hide but it's ok mom because they love each other and they'll get through it together. Oh, and he's so brave because he's getting over a cocaine habit and he says she's his inspiration. How lovely!

But even though there are all those absurd, monumental fears, there are plenty of other daily ones that cripple me if I think about them too much. Kidnapping. Creepy men. A giant earthquake in the night that causes a slab of drywall to land on her crib. Rotten formula that will make her sick. All the grubby strangers that insist on touching her hands or face when they see her. THERE'S SWINE FLU OUT THERE YOU IGNORAMUSES! Cancer. SIDS. Mean dogs with big teeth. Need I go on? I'm sure any mother or father out there could list their own fears without missing a beat.

It's just the fact that I can't control it. I can clean out her bottles and wash my hands and make sure there are no blankets near her face when she sleeps. But I can't detect cancer growing in her body. I can't stop the swine flu from claiming her. I would do anything to protect her if I only knew how.

But the thing is, even though there are lots of awful diseases and people and natural disasters, for the most part we all grow up relatively happy and healthy with little trauma. I just have to remind myself that if I can do it and everyone else out there can do it, then my little girl will be able to survive in the big bad world too.

Well, that is, if her mother doesn't confine her to a plastic bubble for the rest of her life.

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