Every night I check on my sleeping daughters before I go to bed. My eyes carefully watch their chests so I am reassured that they’re breathing. I stare at their closed eyes for a few moments to be sure they’re in a deep sleep.
And then as I look at their peaceful bodies slumbering, each night I silently utter the same words over their little heads. I’m not sure if it’s a prayer, a hope, or a desperate plea. But whatever it is, I ask whoever is listening to please, please, please keep my babies safe and happy and healthy. To never let anything horrible or terrible happen to them. To help them live long lives filled with joy and peace.
I watch my sleeping girls and I swear to them that I’ll never let anything truly awful ever happen to them, even though I know in my heart that I can’t really promise this. I know that I can’t protect them every second of every day and keep them safe, always and forever.
But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to.
I feel like my nightly ritual has become more fervent as my girls grow older and the world seems to grow colder. Each news story of tragedy befalling children or young girls scars my heart. And every time I hear of something awful, my nightly words for my girls get a little more desperate.
Please don’t let something like Sandy Hook happen in their school. Please don’t let anything like Stubenville happen to them. Please don’t let them get in a car accident, or a swimming accident, or a lured away by a stranger. Please, please, please don’t let them experience horrors that I can’t even voice inside my head.
I harbor these fears, but at the same time I am a level-headed person. I know I can’t allow the evils of the world weigh my heart with so much fear that I can’t let my girls experience life. I know I have to teach my daughters to be careful, raise them well, and let them go forth into the big wide world.
I know these things. I am reasonable. But I’m also the mother of two little beings whom I love fiercely and unconditionally. And even if it doesn’t make logical sense, I’m always going to worry about bad things happening to my good little people.
My challenge – perhaps all parents’ challenge – is to find that space between emotion and reason. I need to have a healthy awareness of the things that could happen, but not be paralyzed by fear of the possibilities.
So I will keep praying in the face of terrible news headlines that nothing horrible happens to my girls.
And at the same time I will keep educating them so they are smart and prepared and armed with knowledge that will help them make good decisions and protect themselves as they grow.
I will make it clear to my girls that they can talk with me and their dad about anything and will keep those communication lines open, even when they are teenagers and obviously know everything about everything already.
Eventually I will need to let my daughters go and make their ways through the world as young adults. But all the while, I’ll be praying over their heads while they’re sleeping, no matter how old they grow or how far away from me they sleep. Because I’ll always be their mommy who yearns to keep them safe and happy and healthy. Forever.