On My Watch

Accidents happen…but not on my watch.

I see myself trying to uphold this fallacy in every reminder that trails in the dust behind my eight year old’s trotting flip-flops.

“Be careful with those sticks…”
“Be mindful of cars…”
“Did you put sunscreen on your face?”

I am everything in these moments. The responsible parent. The nagging mother. The hapless human in illusion that she can outwit fate through continual precautionary tips.

I get the feedback.

From my son, Jeb: “You’re being too much of a mom.”
From a family friend (his children grown): “You can’t live in fear. He’s having fun.”
From another mother (her children small): “You’re being a good mom. We all need to be more aware.”

I’d like to think I’m far from phobic. In fact, I think I’m a pretty laid back mom. My son kayaks the open ocean, climbs trees, surfs waves. He jumps and dangles, burrows and karate chops. He has even been away from me for days at a time. I swear, I am no smother. But I observe my grasping.

Not grasping for my son. Just grasping for control of all things ‘bad.’ I’ve made it clear, mishaps are not welcome here.

Ever since the recent news of a friend who lost her child in an accident – a swift and sudden turn of events, forever changing that family’s course – I’m finding my alert-meter turned to high.

Fear is watchful, ever-vigilant. But where am I?

Somewhere beneath the tensing muscles in my stomach and the strain of warning words moving from my throat, is a woman who wants no mistakes. A woman who would like to skirt suffering. A woman who loves deeply.

And present, too, distant in the shadows of circumspection, there is another Watcher, observing this whole scene.

This Watcher, she smiles a compassionate smile. To that eight year old child that wants to experience and be free, unwitting in beautiful innocence to all the darkness of the world. She smiles to the mother who wants nothing more than to see her child grow strong and full, safe and sound. This mother, who in sweet foolishness believes, that she can override destiny.

I believe this Watcher is my truest self (shed of all the fear and doubt) and this Watcher knows. Or knows that she does not know. Does not know the way of life and death. Does not know the place where choice and fate divide and collide. Does not even know what is truly ‘best’. But has a hunch it has something to do with surrender.

A friend told me when I gave birth to my son, “As soon as they’re born, give them back to God. They are not yours.”

At the time, I thought I understood what that meant and it seemed sage advice. Now I get to live it.

Yes, Jeb’s still going to wear his helmet. No, he’s not quite yet ready for the pocket knife. Yes, someone has to be watching when he swims in the ocean. And no, despite his pleas, we are not changing his iTouch settings to age 12.

On my watch, I want to know I’ve done my best to stay aware. Done what I could to keep Jeb safe. But who am I to think that I really have the power to keep all ‘bad’ at bay?

I’ll wholeheartedly welcome in the good. Try to remember that things don’t always go as planned. There are greater forces at work.

They hold me. My son. This world.

Keep watching, but let go.

photo courtesy of tee.kay

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