In a recent conversation with the 7-year-old, one of the things he said when thinking about happiness is that Mummies and Daddies keep children safe.
With seven trips to casualty shared pretty equally between three boys, I can only wonder if I’m failing in my role.
Every tear, grazed knee, bloody lip, is a knock to my parenting success. Each time they get injured I think if I were a better parent, they would not have got hurt.
I desperately want to keep my kid safe. Safe from cars, from strangers, from pain, from drugs, from money worries, from broken hearts, from broken arms.
I guess the best way to achieve this would be to keep them close to me at all times, watch them 24/7, dress them in protective clothing, vet all potential future contacts.
As a mother I have a tendency to link their safety, their not getting hurt, their being pain free with their happiness. But if I think about it, my happiest times, those times of pure joy, have come after the most arduous, painful ordeals of my life.
I can still taste that cream egg I ate at the top of the mountain I climbed after my legs burned, my lungs screamed and my heart throbbed, I can still smell that air, see the mist below me, and that freedom of running down as fast as I could. That was happiness.
I can still see that notice board with my exam grades on, after working hard, worrying lots, stomach knotted with anxiety and fear of failure. That glowing grade and pride in my work was happiness.
I can still feel that tiny baby, smell the warm sweet tea, hear the soft buzz of the dimmed lights after the harrowing ordeal of giving birth. That was happiness.
That huge, sweeping, rush of euphoria that follows blood, sweat, tears, and taking sometimes ridiculous risks come less as I get older. Sometimes I miss it. Sometimes I want to go crazy, but I can’t let go like I used to. Perhaps that’s because of the kids. Perhaps it’s something to do with age.
I can’t, however, deny, that I am utterly content with my life, at peace with it. I doubt I could have reached this contentment without those painful lows and taking some stupid chances.
To keep my children safe, long term, from ill health and apathy and wasted youth and wasted life, I need to teach them to be fearless now and then. Not dumb, not stupid, not reckless but brave.
We all misjudge those risks sometimes but I remain sure that the safer we keep them, the more we risk isolating them, denting their self-belief, making them disproportionately fearful of the outside world and their ability to influence it. That, to me, sounds very dangerous indeed.
I am not advocating 7 trips to casualty. But perhaps a little fearlessness here and there, now and then, could make the world a safer place. Safer for our children and safer for us too.