Parents can’t ward off all danger
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org January 16, 2013 6:22PM
Updated: February 19, 2013 1:58PM
When things go bump in the night, I arise.
Usually, it is the settling sounds and creaking of the house that make me climb out of bed to investigate.
On the way, I look in on the kids — my teenage daughter and pre-teen son. Sometimes I pull the blanket up around their necks tightly, kiss them on the forehead, whisper a prayer.
I have always done this, ever since they were babies.
I don’t think this makes me a “good” father necessarily, and I certainly am not writing about it for any kudos. It just is.
And it is the ritual that gives a father a certain measure of solace simply for having your children within arm’s reach and feeling that, at least for now, you can protect them from the world.
The world can be cruel.
Oh, that it were only a world of imaginary lions and tigers and bears, a world where all the shadows might be dispelled with a glowing 99-cent nightlight. Or that we might always as fathers be able to fix the ailments, fears and troubles of our children with a little ice, or a Band-Aid, an aspirin, a teaspoon of cough syrup, a dab of peroxide and a kiss.
In their early years, I closed closet doors or flicked on the hallway light to soothe their fears. Or I have comforted them when they rushed suddenly into my bedroom late at night after a bad dream — sometimes, carrying them back to their room and tucking them in, sometimes lingering until they drifted off, back to sleep.
From bassinets to cribs, I have watched them grow, though the length of the figures that nowadays lay sleeping in adult-sized beds is evidence that soon enough it will be time for them to go — time for me, in some ways, to let go.
With friends I joke about that inevitable time, about dreams of selling the house and buying a downtown condo after the kids have left home and gone away to school, about finally being done with child rearing, with the stress, work and worries of parenthood.
But truth is, I enjoy this parenting thing — this business of being provider for my children, protector.
And I suspect that in some ways, when the time comes — when they move beyond the parameter of my immediate protective reach, as they move farther and farther away from home in pursuit of their dreams and onto their own life’s journeys — I suspect I will wish for these times, even as I celebrate life’s natural progression.
But truth is, I sometimes wonder whether the “safety” I think I provide to my children is really an illusion in a world where the unthinkable sometimes lurks just outside a classroom, a world where tragedies transpire in a moment’s notice, where some little boys bring guns to school in their backpacks, where even young girls can be so cruel, a world where life can be as unpredictable as the wind.
I educate my children about life’s potential perils and pitfalls, preparing them as best I can for what lies beyond daddy’s doors.
I also reassure them of the promise and prospects that await them in a world that is also filled with so much beauty, with opportunity and possibility, even as I ingest the reality that there is only so much even a loving father can do.
On house patrol the other night, I discovered my daughter wasn’t feeling well. It was a problem I could easily remedy.
No heavy lifting. Just one, loving, hot cup of tea and a little honey.