A long, long time ago, I had a little cherub of a girl who was 2 1/2, and a little baby who was 2 weeks old. My husband had gone back to work after Katie’s birth, and I decided that it was time for me to see if I could manage two children and still have a normal life.
So I decided that no matter what, I was going to have a shower. I stuck the baby in the baby swing, and set up Rebecca’s easel with some paints. She had lots to do for the five minutes it was going to take me in the shower, and Katie was safe in her swing. So I was all set.
As I was shampooing my hair, though, all of a sudden I heard Becca scream, “Mommy!” And not in a good way.
I leapt out, shampoo stinging my eyes, to find Katie hanging upside down from her swing. I can still picture it exactly in my mind, though it’s been seventeen years now, and it still scares me silly. And I have no idea how she got in this position. But her little legs were sticking up through the leg holes, and she was hanging down. The only thing preventing her from falling the 2 1/2 feet to the floor was that she went rigid with fear and her legs crossed against each other, forming an X. So there she was, hanging upside down, with just her anger and fear keeping her from falling.
I grabbed her in one swooping motion, and she calmed down quite quickly, as babies tend to. Once everyone stopped crying, I turned to Rebecca and asked, “Did you touch the baby?” She vehemently denied touching Katie.
But there, all over Katie’s little sleeper, were handprints in green and black paint.
I felt like the worst mother in the world. I had let my baby almost get seriously injured, and I had put my toddler in the position of having to care for her sister when Rebecca was not at all capable of it. I thought I didn’t deserve these kids. Such things can happen in an instant, and in that instant I wasn’t there.
I decided that I couldn’t leave Katie with Rebecca while I showered again, and so from then on she came into the shower with me, stopping only when she was 4 and I finally put my foot down. At first she just sat in her seat in the bathroom, but once she could sit up she wanted in with me, and so we’d shower together. It was actually kind of fun, and I loved holding her little chubby body in the warm water. It was a bonding time for us, though I still appreciated having the shower back to myself a few years later.
I share that just to let you know that sometimes things just happen.
My story could have had a very different ending. Had Katie fallen head first like that, she could have done some serious injury to her neck. Now despite what I felt, am I a bad mother? I don’t think so. I think sometimes life just happens, and the truth is that as much as we may try to keep everything safe, we can’t. We can reduce risks, but we can’t eliminate them. Things can happen.
So where does that leave us as anxious moms? We have two possible routes ahead of us. We can become completely paranoid and over-protective, or we can give ourselves a break, realize that we’re doing the best we can, and then learn as a mom to rest in God. Nothing will happen that He can’t see you through, and to try to deal with all possible contingencies in life is to drive yourself crazy. When you become a mother, your heart begins permanently to reside outside your body. The world has now become a terribly scary place.
But God is not smaller; it’s just that our love is bigger, and when love is big, fear can be big, too.
What we need to do, I believe, is not just to grow our love for our kids, but to grow also our love for God. Perfect love casts out fear, but only love that is focused on God. When we love everybody else and God fades, then our worries multiply. When we fall in love with God, then we know that no matter what happens on this earth, we will be okay and our children will be okay. And when we know that, we can focus on being a good mom instead of fretting!
You probably can point to several times in your parenting when you most definitely made a mistake. We all do. Don’t let those mistakes turn you into an overprotective mom, or a mom who constantly berates herself for not being good enough. Let those mistakes push you into God’s arms, realizing that you will never be perfect, but that He is there to carry you all anyway!
Have you ever really messed up as a parent? How did you deal with it?