There is nothing in my life that has brought me more heart-wrenching fear than motherhood.
Suddenly, everything feels scary. Stairs. Small objects. Pools. Cars. Children can choke on food, shut tiny fingers in car doors, trip and knock their front teeth out. There is no end to the things I have to be aware of at any given moment during the day.
And those are just the little things.
Because we are raising tiny humans in a world where they fall into gorilla enclosures, where they are shot while signing autographs or dancing in clubs, where they are attacked by alligators. At Disney World.
I can’t help but wonder, HOW DO WE HAVE ANY SANITY LEFT?
Seriously. How on earth can we stay sane while raising little people in this crazy world?
I think that’s exactly what we are all trying to figure out. And because we are human, sometimes we get it wrong.
I’m not proud to admit this, but when the story about the child falling into the gorilla enclosure hit the news, my first response was to judge the parents. I didn’t bash them on the Internet, but I let myself think that, if they had just been watching a little more closely, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.
I watched the online uproar about all the judgmental responses to the incident and I knew that I didn’t want to be on the “judging” side of the argument.
And yet, when the story broke last week about the toddler and the alligator, a small voice in the back of my head said, “I would never let my toddler do that.”
I couldn’t explain it. Even though I knew in my heart that judging someone else, especially someone experiencing an unimaginable tragedy, was in no way the person I wanted to be, it didn’t stop the voice in my head from issuing a verdict. How does that happen?
I know, as a parent, that there are always going to be things I can’t control. No matter how careful or watchful or protective I am, accidents happen and there is no way I can prevent them all. How could I judge another parent when that could have just as easily been me?
The truth is, I think that’s exactly why we judge each other. We see the unthinkable happen and we know in our hearts that it could have been us. It could have been our babies. And we literally can’t make room in our bodies for that kind of fear, that kind of pain.
So instead we look for all the reasons why it happened to them and not to us. Because then we can fool ourselves into believing we can prevent it.
We judge because it’s our shield against the terrifying reality that we are raising our children in a scary world and we can’t protect them from it, no matter what we do.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of using judgment as a shield. I won’t judge you if you did the same.
But there has to be a better way. Even if it is hard and scary and painful, maybe we would all be better off if we set down our shields and lifted up each other instead.
When I think about the world I want to send my babies out into, it isn’t a world full of people hiding behind shields and wielding judgments. It is a world of people standing together in the storm. A world where, when one of us feels pain, we all feel it. When one of us is given an unimaginable burden to bear, we all come together to share the load.
Because parenting is heavy work. We are all facing the same reality, the same fear. We are all trying to control the uncontrollable. We are all trying to keep our tiny humans safe and keep some shred of sanity in the process. We are all doing the best we can.
There is no denying it: in times like this, love is heavy. But so is judgment. It’s up to us to decide which one we will choose to will carry.