If ever there was a moment for a Mom to crawl back into a fear-based parenting shell, it was today. Today. When a routine walk to school almost ended tragically.
Here is an open letter to the Mom whose son gave us all a scare.
I stood on the sidewalk, holding my son’s hand waiting for the light to turn. I saw your boy on a bike approaching us quite quickly. He was grinning widely, enjoying the freedom of biking ahead of you.
It was an innocent scene not much different than other days. But too late, I realized he was not going to stop.
With that same proud look he flew past us into the intersection. My instincts only managed a scream of, “W-w-watch – watch out!” Miraculously, in a busy intersection, cars slowed and swerved. Without a word, he managed to take his proper place back on the sidewalk with us, innocently looking straight ahead.
It was only then that I recognized your son. Your son with a twin at my son’s school. One of two boys who both have special needs. Challenges that can be seen by their after school twirling on the front yard in a way that seems carefree and young for their preteen size.
My palpitating heart insists I share a few thoughts to help me process this scare. I don’t know if these words will ever find you, but they are sincere.
I am not judging you
Mothering moments where we loosen our grip are terrifying. How much more so for you? I would imagine the unpredictability of your boys would make it easy to try to firmly control everything. To over-protect even in small ways.
I overheard the crossing guards panicking, telling you not to let your son ride his bike again. I understand. They are kind-hearted and fiercely protective of all of our children. They have hearts of mothers and want what is best.
But I wonder how long it took you to get the courage to let the boys ride their bikes. Maybe you have been working hard on this skill for a while. Perhaps you started in a contained area and gradually gave them increasing freedom as they earned your trust. I do not know. And I won’t pretend to understand how hard these mothering decisions must be for you.
I feel your fear
When our first son was born, images of my husband falling down the stairs while carrying the baby would flash into my mind’s screen. Uninvited. Every time it made me shudder.
Your fear is based on tangible danger. How much harder is it for you? You witnessed a terrifying scene today that you could not control while pushing the stroller of a younger sibling with the other twin by your side. This could easily make you want to put away the bikes forever. Or reign in all freedom you have worked so hard to give your boys.
Fear can easily become our default. Making decisions based on worst case scenarios and stumbling towards paralysis. For us. For them.
In his insightful book Grace Based Parenting, Tim Kimmel reminds us we do not want this:
No one sets out to hover or to be over-protective. So we muddle through. Looking for balance. Aiming for wisdom that will keep the fear at bay. Trying not to lean too far. Hoping to offer our children freedom to allow them to flourish while keeping them safe.
I see you
You are not invisible.
You have high-energy, growing boys that must challenge you at every turn. You smile when you pick them up and sometimes I see them smile back. You do all the unseen work to get them out the door. You prompt, negotiate and coax. You manage, gather and lead. You are seen.
This journey of parenting ones who are part of us, but increasingly separate, can be exhausting. We can all feel weary and alone, placing our children’s needs above our own. How much more so for you?
I will be on your team
I will be watching more alertly. I will be part of your mothering team. I will be a presence at that intersection to stop your wandering son if the distance between you is too great. I will protect either of your boys given any opportunity again. I will be more ready.
A nearby friend
There have been times I have been too quick to judge another Mom. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we need to remember. I needed this pause today to process this scare.