When I first daydreamed about having children I couldn’t wait to start a family. To cuddle my infant, to be the one to sooth their cries and to kiss any hurts better. I imaged a baby or small child who would need my help. I didn’t think past this point, or that maybe it wasn’t just them that would need me, but I would feel a need to always protect and care for them.
I knew one day they would be grown and fly the nest and it wouldn’t be the same anymore, but can it be the case that when our children are grown, the instinct to care, protect or shelter them from harm becomes less?
My children are little and my first instinct is to protect and help them whenever I can. If that’s help emotionally, then I will do that. If they need me physically, then I will do what they need. If they break something I attempt to fix it. It’s what we all do for our children. I just hadn’t realised that it’s what you will always do as a parent.
Recently watching my parents’ reactions to what happens in their children’s lives, I realise that it never does lessen. To give an example; this week we had a run of bad luck, nothing major, just those things you don’t expect to happen and suddenly you must re-juggle everything. Firstly, our car broke down on the way home from a funeral, we were towed home only to find squirrels have taken up residency under our bath. Literally, remove the bath panel and you will see a full-blown squirrels nest. Our toaster then blew up, my hair straighteners broke (and believe me this is a disaster, I now resemble a mushroom) and my change bag zip gave up.
Now like I say, nothing major, just things that life throws at you (all at the same time). My husband and I set about fixing what we could and finding a solution to what we couldn’t. Yet, what was so apparent was that we were not alone. Both of our parents helped too. They called, made suggestions, wondered how ‘we’ would fix things. I realised then that when something happens to your children, small or big, it’s your problem too.
As an adult, it’s nice to feel that your parents are there and still care enough to be involved, and lovely to think that however old my children are, I of course, will do the same.
The role of parenting never ends, and that’s no bad thing. It is evolving and changing, but the instinct to care for our young will never leave us.
We will always want to kiss the hurts and sooth their cries; it just may be a bit harder to get a 25 year old, 6 ft 2 man on your lap to do it.
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* I first wrote this for my etc magazine column, April edition