“Mom, can I take this shortcut?”
“Mom, can I bike to the park?”
“Mom, can we run ahead?”
Small decisions that parents make 20 times a day. They are almost the white noise of parenting. Part of becoming a better parent is learning more about what you and your kid can handle. You build up your gut. Learn to trust them and learn to trust yourself. They grow up and so do you.
I won’t get into the details but I had a recent situation where one of those decisions ended in my 3-year-old getting lost at Gas Works Park in Seattle. He was gone for about 15 minutes, I think. It was hard to tell how long exactly because I was so terrified. I’ll spare you the details and let you know right away that it all ended up all right. Thank God. We were very lucky. We found him and we were all shaken but everything was fine. As we left the park together, my brain was pounding with the thought that the night could have been so different. We might have been talking with police instead of driving home together and laughing.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I could not quiet the voices in my head. As I lay on my couch, I was plagued by doubts. How could I live with myself if one of those tiny decisions went wrong again? How could I ever trust my gut again? Was my gut even worth trusting in the first place? I was punishing myself because I felt that I had screwed up. Then, I became obsessed with an even scarier thought. What if it wasn’t a mistake or a bad decision? What if it was a fine decision and the odds just went against me instead of with me? What if that’s just what sometimes happens when you make a call? Sometimes, a decision just doesn’t end in your favor and that’s how life works.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past few weeks and I’m still not sure that I’m comfortable with the answers. It’s scary. As my kids get older I will be required to give up more control over their lives and their environments. What’s odd is that I feel I used to be pretty good at it. I felt very strongly that kids need some room and they need to be able to constantly and safely build their independence. This is a skill I am working to relearn now. I have to readjust my compass and regain my trust in the universe. Mostly, I’ll be working to regain trust in myself.