There's a Buddhist loving kindness (metta) prayer, a line of which is: "May all beings be happy." My mom modification for that -- my fervent prayer, my deepest wish -- is "May all children be happy, healthy, and safe. May all parents be free from fear."
Fear... that four-letter word. What scares you most as a parent? When my three sons were young, I lived in a constant state of anxiety. And for good reason: at any moment, things could run amok. Midnight trips to the emergency room weren't uncommon in those days: my youngest fell out of his bunk bed and broke his leg while fooling round. Another sliced his finger open with a knife while working on a college portfolio. Popcorn once mysteriously slipped down an ear canal. A candy got (temporarily) stuck in the throat of my then-4-year-old.
One evening, my middle son, just having learned to walk, disappeared out the front door unnoticed; I spent a frantic 10 minutes racing up and down the block screaming his name until my husband found him in the backyard pushing his plastic toy bubble lawn mower in his diaper. Once one baby nearly gobbled up a poisonous flower blossom. An iron fell off a shelf onto another's head... the list goes on and on. I watched my kids like a mother hawk, but it didn't seem to matter (in fact, perhaps that's the very reason why they got into so much mischief).
Parents worry, and who can blame us? Yes, we know that worry doesn't change anything, and yet how can we not do it? Being a parent is the greatest gift and joy, but it comes at a high price.
I love being a parent, and I've treasured watching my boys grow up into compassionate young men. Perhaps, I worry a tiny bit less now, because now that they're older, some of the personal responsibility for their safety has lifted. I can't be there 24/7 to monitor them (nor would that be healthy). I have to trust and pray that they will all be okay.
Sometimes, when my older boys hit a rough spot -- a serious illness, or an emotional upset -- I revert to the days when they were young, when I was responsible for their wellbeing. In those instances, the worry and fear return. But then I remind myself that I've done everything I can, and that I don't rule the universe.
Life is scary, difficult, and dangerous. But it is also beautiful, miraculous, rewarding, and joyful. I choose to embrace the latter view, even though I could easily slip to the other side. It is a constant, never-ending challenge to stay present, positive, and to trust. Yet, I've discovered, it is the only way I can make it through the day as a mother.
Besides, I've tried the other approach and have learned that in my wildest dreams I could not make up the stuff that can happen on an average day of child rearing. I would never have predicted, for instance, that my kid would lock himself out of his room (after installing an unauthorized-by-me lock), climb up a tree and onto the roof, sneak in through his window, accidentally cut his arm on broken glass, and come into my bedroom at 3:00 a.m. dripping with blood. (Yet another trip to the emergency room that thankfully ended well.) I certainly couldn't have predicted that on the exact same day and hour that I was going through breast cancer surgery, one son would be clunked on the head with a hockey stick at school and end up at the same hospital (yes... yet another trip to the ER, but this time my friend had to take him since I was otherwise occupied).
The experiences I've shared are inconsequential compared to those of the parents and children who are facing life-threatening struggles daily. But as parents, we're all in this together, knowing full well that so many things can and will go wrong -- just as so many things can and will go right.
And so, I repeat my mantra: May all children be happy, healthy and safe; may all parents be free from fear. Imagine the peace that would engulf the planet if only this wish could come true.