Walking into town last night I was wondering what it is that keeps me going as a responsible parent. Caffeine? Intuition? Wine gums? Looking up parenting stuff on the internet? What is it that keeps me on track? Am I actually a responsible parent? I think I am. My kids seem to be growing nicely, developing talents and skills. They seem happy and bright. They seem intelligent and thoughtful and loving.
I don’t always feel like this. I’m not always such a smug bastard but I am allowed to pat myself on the back every now and then. Often, very often in fact, I think I’m NOT a good enough parent, but I know we all feel like this from time to time. We ALL have moments of doubt. Moments where we question everything we do, chastise ourselves a bit too harshly and want to run away and hide from it all. But yesterday was a good day. No. A great day. Soft play in the morning, a picnic lunch in the park in the sunshine. The kids were beautifully behaved and played well with each other. No alarms, no surprises. There were a couple of tantrums but all was managed and everyone went to bed happy. Including me. Seeing my kids playing and enjoying themselves is the best antidepressant known to me.
So how did this happen? What is it that keeps me doing the right things by my children?
And I came to a conclusion. I found an answer.
Fear. It’s fear that keeps me going.
Fear that I’m doing the wrong thing. Fear that I’ll turn into my mother. Or father. Fear that my children aren’t getting the stimulation they need. Fear that they’re not getting enough exercise. Fear they’re not eating the right sort of food. Or enough food. Fear that someone, somewhere is judging me as a parent every time I take them out. Fear that the trials and tribulations of life will come and have some detrimental effect on their well-being. Fear that they’re too hot. Or too cold. Or ill. Or bored. Or fear that they will grow up and hate me. Fear that they’ll grow up needing something that was missing. Fear that they have too much. Fear that they have too little. Fear. Fear that they’ll fall. Fear that they’ll strive for something unobtainable. Fear of swallowing something and choking on it. Fear. The white fear. The one that makes your blood run cold and keeps you awake at night. Big, scary, faceless, nameless but immediately identifiable, terrifying fear.
And then I had a rethink.
All these things I’m afraid of aren’t the reason why my kids went to bed happy last night. It’s not fear that keeps me going. It’s not terror that keeps me on track. It’s not that at all.
First published March 23rd, 2012.