There’s a lot to say about being a modern day parent, of this I have become increasingly certain.
I find that I am discovering new maternal battlefields on an almost daily basis. Battlegrounds that involve the heart and soul of not only myself and my quest to be a decent human being/successful mother, but also those of my children.
To say that the constant onslaught of moral challenges stresses me out — not to mention invites a spirit of fear to tip toe into my life — is an understatement. Did I ever think I would have to stop mid-breakfast to discuss the very point of offering kindness and tolerance to others with my three year old, because of an early morning plastering of grotesque social media responses to something or other, that happened to catch his attention on the background news? Nope. Not really.
I can’t speak to parenting 50, 20, or even five years ago, so I don’t know first-hand what really represents newfangled stressors, versus what has always been a latent parental fear focus through the years, but I do know that as a mother today I find a new concern morphing into the mainstream, whether through regular media or the blessing/curse that is social media, almost every single day.
And frankly, I can hardly take it any more.
Like many out there, I keep my little ones off of the internet without direct supervision and I limit myself too, in an attempt to retain some morsel of sanity on an everyday basis. But when I caught myself actually crying, physically shedding tears, three times in one afternoon due to either a human interest story or the shocking public responses to them, I knew something was up.
Last week for example, I panicked about the fact that I have neglected to set up a local farm CSA for my family, something that I currently perceive to guarantee health and wellness for my family over the use of conventional fruit and vegetables from the grocery store (which apparently will lead my offspring, myself, and my partner down a slow painful road of chronic disease, suffering, and finally an untimely, preventable death).
I took my kids to a playgroup the other day where we all had a blast (yay for adult conversation!), only to be confronted with statistics via the radio on the drive home, all but ensuring me that our whole family was going to perish from the norovirus since we’ve been exposed to human contact outside of our four sterile (ha) walls.
I fear getting my children vaccinated, lest they wake up the next day as brand new people, with altered personalities and capabilities. I fear not getting them vaccinated in case they catch wicked diseases and I have to live with the fact that I could have prevented whatever miserable outcome may befall them. I fear what others think about my fear and questioning about vaccines at all.
I worry my children crave television too much. Should I sit with them when they watch a show, so as to still be an interactive parent, discussing and processing the low-key social issues presented through the context of a mildly annoying, singing tiger? Or should I be working in that time, protecting my sense of self, my mental health, and demonstrating a strong work ethic to my kids? Shoot, should I even own a TV at all? Should I even work at all? Help.
Should I discourage my oldest from waving manically out of the car window at anyone driving a van or truck, for fear of him not fully grasping the stranger danger aspect of interacting with strange people of whom we’ve seen hide nor hair of a character reference or a background check? Or will I kill a piece of god-given approachability and equality-mindedness in him by telling him to innately fear anyone he does not know? Will I create someone who seeks the bad before the good, and judges from a stance of suspicion rather than of compassion? Or will I ultimately save him from the lure of a predator?
Will anything I do actually make a difference in the end?
Can I rescue my boys early on from the insidious assault of pornography and hyper-sexualization that our kids are surrounded by today, raising them with a discernment and perspective that will ultimately allow them to rescue themselves. Will they grow to be men who restore hearts or break them?
Don’t even get me started on modern politics.
At the end of the day, the age-old fear-stemmed question for most parents will always be much the same: Am I doing enough and am I doing it right?
The problem is that everything seems to be so black and white nowadays, so fully on our unsteady parental shoulders, that it feels a bit like a cruel game. If you don’t get the answer right, and more fool you to try to find a resource that is truly unbiased from which to draw your conclusions, then terrible, horrible repercussions will stalk you the rest of your family’s days.
Honestly, my kids are still so very little that they don’t even have a true sense of freedom of choice yet, so Lord help me when the teen years hit. The truth is, I’ll likely be graying or bald by then if I don’t find a way to just trust myself and resolve to travel this bumpy road with faith and peace. Thank God for the reminder that it isn’t all riding on me and my abilities, and that actually my role isn’t half as huge as I make it out to be while habitually hyperventilating into a brown paper lunch bag. God’s got it.