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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Competitive parenting is a lie

Okay.  So I'm not one to respond to internet articles.  In a negative way, at least.  I understand, now more than ever, that an actual person writes these things.  That they sit down and try their best to put their heart into words.  And that it's beautiful and painful and that sometimes it comes out just right, and other times not.

So I'm not going to respond to a particular article here.  More an idea.  Or message.  One that I feel bombarded by lately, though it's certainly not new.

I understand that the writers of these articles are most likely well-intentioned.  That they're hoping to hold out to moms a message of freedom.  A message of you-don't-have-to-try-so-hard.  A message of letting go.

And I'm all about these messages.  For sure.  But here's the thing.  I keep reading these articles telling us moms to wait.  Stop what we're doing.  Put down our homemade bread.  Quit competitive parenting.  Quit comparing ourselves to other moms.  Quit Pinterest and mom blogs and for the love, quit trying so hard.

Because, come close now, I have to whisper here.  It's a secret and you don't know that I know.  But I know.  I know why you do all this.  And it's not for your kids.  It's not for your husband.  It's certainly not for God.  No... it's for the other moms.

As feel-good and freeing as these articles seem, something just doesn't sit right with me.  Because I think Yes!  That's true.  I shouldn't be motivated by guilt.  I shouldn't compare myself so much.  I shouldn't worry about what other moms are doing and how they're judging me.  

But then I stop and think, Wait!  I don't.

I think about my actual, real-life relationships with other moms.  I think about my best friend, who messaged me the other week that she locked herself in the bathroom, just to get a moment of peace from her kids.  I think about my group of mom friends back home, from before the move.  How they care for and cook for and support each other.   I think about the "mom blogs" I've really connected with.  And I think about the moms behind those computers, some who I know and some who I've never met, face to face, but who I love nonetheless.  Who I laugh with and cry with and want good things for.

I think about my crafty mom friend.  How at a girls' brunch last Sunday I mentioned making lava cakes with Finn the day before.  How she was astounded that I would do that for fun.  How I'm astounded at the beautiful, intricate crafts she makes with her girls.  For fun.

How we can both be astounded but neither one of us threatened.

There's something about these articles that, although I'm sure this is not the intention, makes me feel set up.  That makes me feel like I do view other moms as competition.  That I must be jealous of them, and them of me.  Something about these words that makes me feel both better and worse about myself.  Both smug and unsure, at the same time.

And if I didn't step back and look at what I know from real life I might buy right into it.

And no, I'm not immune to jealousy, in case you're wondering.  I feel jealous alright.  I might feel jealous that your toddler sits still and actually listens to you.  I might feel jealous that you're an awesome writer and your words make me laugh and cry and generally just love you.  I might feel jealous that you can gather up your kids and drive to Chipotle ANY TIME YOU WANT!

But if you're working hard to feed your family healthy, whole food or planning an awesome birthday party for your five-year-old or making sensory bins for your toddler or homeschooling your grade-schooler, and whether I do those things or not, I am not, AM NOT, going to undermine your hard work by assuming ulterior motives.  I am going to assume what is probably, likely, almost 100% true.

That you're doing it for your kids.  That you're doing it because you believe in it.  Because you've researched and you've learned and you've thought long and hard, and while you're not telling me what to do, you're doing what you truly believe is best.

The truth is, guilt and shame just aren't great motivators.  In fact, they're hardly motivators at all.  They make us feel stuck, frozen.  Worthless.

So when a mom is working hard to do what she believes are good things for her kids, for her family, for herself... it's highly unlikely she's doing those things from a sense of guilt or competition.

When we first moved to Hungary I struggled to find a soft, whole-wheat sandwich bread like the kinds readily available in the States.  So eventually I bought a bread machine and started making my own.  I still buy bread products from time-to-time, but mostly I make them.  It started as a necessity and morphed somehow into a great joy.

That's right.  I said it.  Making bread is a great joy to me.  A GREAT JOY.  Five-years-ago-me would have thought now-me was completely crazy.  But I love watching my kids eat something I've made from scratch.  Something of which I can name every ingredient.

Now I certainly can't say that about every to a lot of things they eat.  But bread products are mostly in my court.  And that makes me happy.  That makes me feel good.  Even when I don't feel like doing it, I do, because, to me, it's worth it.

If I didn't think it was worth it... I wouldn't do it.

Now I don't homeschool or plan toddler-appropriate learning activities.  But I'm going to guess if you do, you do it because, to you, it's worth it.  Not because you saw it on Pinterest or got guilted in by a mom blog.  That stuff is HARD WORK, and you wouldn't do it if you didn't believe, at least for now, that it is best for your child and your family and you.

I know we've been away from the States for some years now, and perhaps I'm out of touch with that reality, but sometimes I think the whole competitive parenting thing (well, let's be honest, the whole competitive mothering thing) is a lie.  That we're fed these un-truths that moms are our competition.  Even while articles are claiming that we shouldn't compare ourselves to other moms, they're telling us, at the same time, that we do.

But then I step back and look at what I know to be true.  Like, in real life.  I look at what us moms are doing for each other and how we're being so painfully honest with one another and how we're loving each other.

And I don't feel like I need to stop comparing myself to other moms because I feel, for the most part, that I never really started.

And maybe I'm just speaking for me.  But something tells me I'm not.  When I watch my mom friends rally around each other through the good and the hard, somehow I know that I'm not.

Which doesn't mean that we never compare or are never jealous.  Just that it's not the norm.  And that, mostly, we want the best for each other.

But if we're telling ourselves to quit competitive parenting, then we're also admitting that other moms are still engaged in the competition.  And it's such an obvious divide.

I say we scrap it all.  That we call it what it is.  A lie.

And we get back to doing the things that we love and believe in and supporting other moms while they do the things they love and believe in.  That we get back to the real moms in our lives, who love and support us no matter what.

I understand that I'm so lucky.  To know and love the honest and true moms that I do.

But if this doesn't describe your circle of moms.  If you're saying to yourself, there is so such a thing as competitive parenting.  I know because I live it every day.  Then please, find some moms, or just one mom, who you can be completely honest with.  Who you can message with pictures of beautiful, home-made crafts followed by pictures of you literally attempting to pull your hair out.  Or be honest with one of the moms you do know.  Her response might surprise you.

I just don't think it's good for us, you know, as sisters in this mothering thing.  To think that there's a whole world of moms out there, guilting and comparing and disapproving.

When the truth is, there's a whole world of moms out there trying their best.  There's a whole world of moms doing great things for their kids, and rooting for us when we do the same.  Rejoicing and commiserating and generally knowing exactly, if not perfectly, what we're going through.

So instead of engaging or disengaging in competitive parenting, let's just stop believing it.

Let's open our eyes and admit, we're all on the same team anyhow.




Friday, February 20, 2015

It's not about the muffin

This morning Joel took my last muffin.  My LAST MUFFIN!

He should have known better.  Really.

I'm a little sensitive about my food.

And by a little, I mean A LOT.

Seriously.

Joel learned early in our relationship that as good of an idea as it sounds to order two dishes and split them, thus sampling both... it is not.

No.  I would sit forward in my chair, fork poised above my food, staring at him.  I didn't have time to eat my own half because I was spending every second literally counting his bites.  If there were twenty-three french fries, I had better get eleven and a half.  If we split a piece of cake I would all but pull out my ruler, calculating the area of each triangle in my head, guaranteeing their absolute equality.

Joel would just eat.  It drove me crazy.

We don't share food anymore.  It was too much pressure.  For both of us.

But I like to think he knows these things about me now.  That he understand me.  As a person.  As a food lover.

Clearly he does not.

I'm all about the being last thing.  Really.  Unless the being last thing refers to food acquisition.  And then I have to, have to, be first.

So when Joel took my last muffin he was calling into question the natural order of things.  He was turning everything we've worked so hard to build these past ten years UPSIDE DOWN.

So, of course, I called him.  I can understand that you should probably refrain from calling your husband when you're in a hungry, fiery rage.  But in that moment my stomach was louder than my head.  So I called.

When I finally finished there was a short pause.

"I didn't know the muffin was so important to you," came his reply.

Our marriage has survived some things.  But I wasn't so sure it could survive this.

"I still have the muffin," he says, after round two.  "When you drop the boys off I'll bring it out to you."

"Don't bother.  Just keep your muffin.  It's not about the muffin anyhow.  It's about what the muffin means."
---

This afternoon Finn and I made more muffins.  I ate one.  I felt happy.

Turns out, it was about the muffin.


Full Disclosure: There were actually two muffins left, which were meant for the boys' lunches.  Unfortunately Joel has yet to acquire mind-reading capabilities, and didn't realize this fact.  So in the end, I suppose his muffin-taking motives were pure:)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My toddler drives me crazy (and I can't get enough)

So I might have hinted in the past that Benjamin runs me completely ragged and exhausts me in every possible way.

But there's something else I should maybe tell you.

I absolutely love it.

No really.  I do.  Benjamin, for me, is a practice in contradictions, and my feelings towards him go something like this.

I literally feel as if I spend full days following him around the house, pulling cords from his hand as he attempts to fit them in electrical outlets, soaking my socks as I snatch the toilet brush, sending him running from the bathroom in a fit of giggles, sweeping up pretzels and raisins as he dumps them all over the floor.

But I love his curiosity.  I adore his fearlessness, and his willingness to try anything.  I treasure the panic on his face when you catch him in the act, and his wild laughter as he flees the scene.

I long for him to sleep, like normal less-than-two-year-olds.  But he's just not all that interested.  He rarely naps, as he's discovered that life goes on without him when he does.  And, from time to time, he remains the last one awake at night, pushing through the exhaustion while his family slumbers peacefully beside him.

But I love his energy.  I love that he doesn't want to miss a thing.  I love when he does nap and I know if I don't wake him he'll never go to sleep that night.  So I run up the stairs and kiss his fat, little lips, just like Sleeping Beauty, because he's still just a baby and too soon all of that precious baby-ness will be gone.

I nearly lose it when I'm trying to cook dinner and I hear him drag the chair across our tile floor.  I want to shout when he climbs up beside me and sticks his hands right in all of our food, and opens the salt just to watch the small grains sprinkle the counter and floor, as if he hasn't seen it a million times before, and when he climbs on the counter only to slide the large chef's knife from its holder and provide me with a near heart attack.

But I love his audacity.  I love how he simply assumes he's a big boy.  That he's just like his brothers.  That he's actually helping me in the kitchen, and not driving me off-the-wall crazy.

Sometimes I just want to sit down.  For a minute.  But Benjamin pulls on my hand and says, "'Mon, Mama!"and what am I supposed to say to that?  No?

So I chase him around the couch chanting, "Mama's gonna get you!"  And he screams with joy as his feet patter across the floor.

And every time I pass the couch I think, Oh how I long to sit on you.  But then I look at him looking at me, with delight in his eyes, and I realize this, to him, is perfect.

I love how he loves to be with me.  I'm also suffocated by it, and, at times, feel literally chained to him.  But in a few years he'll want to know who can we invite over and when will I see my friends, and a few after that we'll be forcing him to stay home.

But right now, today, this is right where he wants to be.  And even on the days I just want to get away, I really, truly, wouldn't be anywhere else.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

I notice

It's Valentine's day.  And we all know I'm not so good at being sappy.  Which is probably just a way of saying I suck at speaking, out loud, my feelings.

I do better to write them down, where they look a lot more like they do in my heart.  Something happens when my feelings transfer to my mouth and they end up sounding a lot like boy band lyrics.  Like they should be choreographed to a cheesy dance routine in which every move somehow mimics a beating heart.

I remember hearing an interview with Bono shortly after the song "Get On Your Boots" came out.

He said in the interview that, after the album released, someone asked him why he never writes loves songs for his wife.  And he sat there in shock, because he just did.  He thought, in fact, this was the most romantic song he'd ever written.

I totally got that.  When I first heard the song, and when I listened to this interview.  The music was upbeat and the lyrics didn't once mention his heart or the word love.  So I guess a lot of people don't count it as a love song.  But I thought it was beautiful.

And so I can't bring myself to say the lines of classic love songs.  I just want to say what I know, in my heart, is real.

And this is what I know is real.

Some days marriage feels like a fight to be noticed.  A race, if you will.  And one that no one ever wins.

Did you notice I cleaned the house today?  Do you know what an accomplishment that is, with a toddler on my heels, begging to be held, spilling crumbs behind me, even as I vacuum the last ones?

Did you notice I made a healthy dinner for our family?  Do you know what I went through to pick up the few ingredients I needed to realize this task?  That I literally dragged Benjamin by his arm through the aisles, and it took four of us to get him corralled enough that I could pay without him running out the door? 

Did you notice the music that's playing on the iPod?  That it matches my mood right now, with its soft melody and its hint of sad and its quiet longings?  Do you know that today I felt both smothered and alone?  That I was bursting with joy and crushed with frustration, all in a matter or seconds?

Do you know what it's like for me?

Do you notice?

 But let's be honest.  I don't often notice him.

Well, that's not fair.  I notice some things.

I notice when he's a half hour late for dinner.  I notice when he disappears as I go to do the dishes.  I notice when he falls asleep on the couch before he's even asked about my day.

Those are the things I notice.  Or the ones I tell him, at least.

But I'm trying to be last more these days.  I'm not very good at it, to be honest.  But I'm trying.

And when I can quit the race long enough to fall behind, I start to notice him in front of me.

I notice him shuffling around the room every morning.  I notice it's still dark outside, as I follow his silhouette in the moonlight.  I see that he's tired, and it's hard to listen to the persistent pleas of his alarm.  But I notice that he does.

I notice what people say about him, at school.  Parents and other teachers.  I smile and comment that yes, he does work too hard.  But inside, I'm so proud.  Because I notice that, in fact, he does.

I notice how the boys squirm when I announce, Daddy's home!  How they hide behind couches and walls and how small squeals almost always escape from their bellies, where they hold the excitement of this moment.  I notice how they wait for him to call them, to come find them.  And I notice that he does.

I notice how, whether it's gone cold or not, he goes on about my dinner.  Particularly when I know it's nothing to go on about.  But then, and I think even more so, I notice that he does.

I notice that he might disappear for the dishes, but he always shows up for bath-time.  That I can play my music and chip away at the piles of dirty plates and cups while the kids fight and splash and laugh and whine upstairs.  I notice that he's tired and he just wants a minute to relax, but the kids need washed and dried and changed.  And I notice that he might not always want to, but he always does.

I notice that he falls asleep on the couch by eight some nights, before we can even talk.  I notice the evidence in his deep breathing, that he's given his all that day.  That there's nothing left to give.  And that even when there's nothing left to give.  I notice that he does.

I notice he's not perfect.  Believe me, I notice that.

But I notice that he's trying.  And I notice him in these words.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13)

And so I notice that as the years pass, I care less about flowers and love songs.  I care less about date nights and romantic gestures.

I notice less the spending of his money... and more the spending of his life.

And when I'm holding out because I want some help and I want some recognition and I want a break, I'll try to step back.  If for just a minute.

I'll try to fall behind and I'll try to look ahead.

And I'll try, my best, to notice.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Angry's okay

It's no secret that my middle child can be a bit moody.

He's also my most snuggly.  My sweetest.  My most affectionate.

He's the most likely to tell me he loves me multiple times a day.  To wrap his arms around my waist and melt into my embrace.

It's just that his feelings are big.  And while other children feel their feelings, he is oftentimes consumed by them.  They're bigger than he is, right now at least.

But I can see he's starting to grow into these giant-sized emotions.  As the days and months pass I watch him filling them out, like a pair of oversized jeans.  Some days, though, they still hover over him, and he looks so small in their shadow.

I imagine it's scary there.  With those big feelings looming over him.  But all too often I think only of how they affect me, or his brother, or his behavior at school.

Sometimes I tell people that Finn is doing well, when they ask about him.  What I mean is that his happy, subdued moments are currently outweighing the angry ones.  Or I say that we're struggling with him... which means it's the other way around.

I define his successes by happy and his failures by angry.  I can't help it, really.  Because happy makes my life easy and angry makes it very, very hard.

Angry cannot be reasoned with.  No matter how we've prepared.  No matter what we discussed and decided beforehand.

No, angry needs to be felt.

It needs time and space.  Just like happy.  Just like sad.

It needs the same respect, the same empathy that I give his tears, or his moments of overwhelming pride.

We teach kids about angry.  I mean, there it is, right with happy and sad, a bright red slice of our colorful pie charts.  We tell them angry's okay.  That it's a feeling.  Just like all the other feelings.

But when they're really feeling the angry, when they're caught in its fiery grip, I think we oftentimes send a different message.  And the message is this.  Angry is definitely not okay.

And for a small child who feels big feelings... that can be really scary.

Of course kids need to be taught that we can't hurt with our angry.  That it's not an excuse for destruction.

But oftentimes we stop there.  And the message sounds a lot like this.  Stop feeling what you're feeling.  Stop it with the angry.

In play therapy I always bring a selection of "aggressive-release toys" for the kids.  Play dough to smash and pound or a stuffed animal to throw or crayons to scribble so hard with that they break in half under the pressure.

But at home there is no alternative.  It's "don't hit your brother" and "go to your room" and "stop being so angry."

So I'm trying to give him more grace.  To realize he's only five, and he can't mentally talk himself down from his anger.  That when he's angry, he needs a chance to feel it.  And someone, perhaps, to help walk him through.

So every once in a while, when I can check my own anger, I kneel down in front of him.  I ask him why he's so angry and I tell him I understand.  I wrap him up in my arms and I clamp my lips together to stop myself from telling him what to do, or what not to do.

I'd love to say this always works.  And that I'm not oftentimes too busy making dinners and chasing toddlers to do any more than yell STOP!

But sometimes it does work.  Sometimes I realize that the anger was really jealousy or dejection or helplessness.  And sometimes I realize it was just anger.

Even if I get through one out of ten times, though, I hope the message is loud and clear.

Angry's okay.

These big feelings are scary, I know, but I won't make them scarier by saying they're wrong.  By telling them to stop.

I'll help you to see the angry as something to feel.  Something to experience.   Something to release.

But I won't give it more power by allowing it to define you.  You're not an angry child.  You're my child.  And you sometimes feel angry.

Which is just fine.  Because even when it doesn't feel okay... angry's okay.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday afternoons

Ah, Sunday afternoon.  As of late, the most treasured two hours of my week (aside from every minute with my precious children, of course).

Joel takes Benjamin on Sunday afternoons to play with a few of the local babies.  The big boys insist on joining, for fear of missing something remotely fun.  Which leaves me... all by myself!

Sunday mornings are chaos around here.  Somehow, on weekdays, I get all three kids breakfasted, clothed, lunches packed and out the door by 8 (ish).  But on Sundays there are two of us.  There are no lunches to pack.  And we CANNOT get out the door before 10:30.  No matter how we plan and prepare we are always running out of the house and always, always late for church.

So after I drop off the boys on Sunday afternoons I drive back home.  When I walk in the door it looks as though a bomb exploded.  I start to panic.  My insides feel all chaotic.

But then I take a deep breath.  Close my eyes.  And listen for a minute to the blissful quiet.  I look around and no one is tugging on my leg or asking me to play a game or begging for a snack.

And so I hang up MY coat, put away MY boots, walk calmly to the iPod and push play.

The house fills with that day's female-singer-of-choice, as loud as my ears can handle.

I start in the far corner of the downstairs.  Picking up crayons and placing them lovingly in their small, cardboard home.  Arranging the pillows just so on the couch.  Plumping the one on our cozy, gray armchair.  Wiping the table.  Sweeping the floor.

And finally... the dishes.  I wash and I scrub and I belt whatever song is playing at the very top of my lungs, pausing occasionally to close my eyes and really let loose.  The sun winks its final good-bye as I gaze out the kitchen windows.

I get so sad when the dirty dishes run out, so I wipe every inch of the counter and I scour the room for messes because the music is moving me and my kids aren't and I just don't want it to stop.

The moment I put down the sponge my phone rings.  Every time.  And so I put my boots back on and zip up my coat.  I look around one last time and I soak in the order and the clean and the quiet conformity.  I say good-bye to it, until next Sunday, and walk out the door.

I open only one car door.  Buckle only one buckle.  I drive in complete quiet for three minutes before my boys pile in.  Before they fill the car with fighting and laughter and hurried, excited chatter.

I suppose I should go out for coffee or take a nap or sit in the middle of all that mess and watch TV.  But it feels so peaceful... bringing order to the chaos.  Connecting to the singers and the songs and being alone but not feeling alone at all.

Another Sunday afternoon.  Just me and my sponge.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Nationwide-induced anxiety

Okay, so I know I'm a few days behind in this.  Which in the world of news and social media, may as well be a lifetime.  I'm sure it's been done and overdone by now.

But people... my toddler doesn't nap anymore!  Or rarely naps, I should say.  Which means I don't have a chance to think until bedtime.  Bedtime!  And we all know after bedtime my brain can only process trash TV and that no coherent output can be expected from it.

But I'm aware that the Super Bowl occurred a few days back.

I have a strange kind of detachment to these American events now.  I remember them being very important.  I don't recall caring very much, personally, but I know that many people did.  And even if you didn't care, you still sat in front of the TV and ate fattening snacks and tried your best to pick one team or the other for fear of succumbing to mind-numbing boredom.

But now I follow these events via Facebook, as I can't be bothered to read actual full-length articles about football.

I'm not sure I know who won.  Or who played, for that matter.

But I know one thing.

Nationwide really pissed some people off.

I am, admittedly, naive about marketing, and a sucker for good advertising.  Really, I'm pretty sure I bought ketchup every week during Heinz's "talking label" campaign.  I'm not certain I ever watched a Wendy's commercial without the oftentimes uncontrollable urge for a chicken sandwich and Frosty.  And just forget it when Starbucks offered its gold card.  Free birthday drink?  I'm totally in.

But from what I do know about marketing, people talking is always better than people not talking.  So I'm sure Nationwide knew this commercial would cause quite a stir.  I'm sure they were ready for it.  I'm sure some executive somewhere is smiling as he watches "Nationwide Super Bowl Commercial" soar on the list of social media trending topics (if such a list exists).

Honestly, I'm not bothered by sad.  In some ways, I'm even drawn to it.  There's something about grief and true, true sad that makes sense to me.  The people most affected by it seem to possess a holy kind of reverence for life, and I think, perhaps, they understand things that I don't.  That I can't.

So it didn't bother me.  The sad.

What did bother me... the fear.

Before we could leave the hospital with baby Aiden we were made to watch two videos.  One on SIDS.  One on shaken baby syndrome.  Afterwards, I was fairly certain I would never sleep again.

And for a while, I didn't.  I'd check his breathing obsessively, any time he slept.  If he wasn't getting up at night, I was.  Tiptoeing into his room, lying my hand on his tiny stomach and waiting with baited breath for its slow inflation.  If someone so much as jostled his small body, my heart would jump into my throat.

Later I heard of a child breaking his leg on a slide.  And so I became obsessive at the playground.  I followed his every move, shuddered at the height of the playground equipment, guided him slowly and safely down treacherous slides.

And, just as Nationwide so aptly reminded us, I knew too well what could happen in the bathtub.  And so Aiden bathed in our miniature, baby bath until he was nearly three years old.  He could barely squeeze his giant body into the blue, padded basin by the end, but he didn't know any different.

Do you remember senior superlatives?  The section of high school yearbooks everywhere (or just in the States?) depicting the best dressed guy and girl.  The best looking.  The most likely to succeed.

When I was a senior, I was voted Most Laid Back.

It comes up every now and then.  When Joel and I need a good laugh.

Because motherhood changed me.  I stopped taking things in stride and hoping for the best.  And I started planning.  Controlling.  Protecting.

I thought, nearly a hundred times a day, I would rather play it obsessively safe, than live to regret not.

I could picture the worst case scenario in any and every situation.  I saw my child falling down the side of a mountain.  Choking on a grape.  Reaching for a knife on the counter.

It was terrifying.  And I'm sure I never really relaxed when Aiden was young.  How could I?  With threats to his safety everywhere.

I'm still a bit compulsive and anxious when it comes to my kids.  But I'm better.  Finally.

Three kids will do that.  And a move overseas.  And the absolute inability to control every situation, no matter how badly I wanted to.

But I think more parents, particularly American parents, are like anxious me than are not.  I think parents today are hyper aware of all the trouble that can befall their child.  I think they know, too well, deep in their gut, that accidents happen.  I don't think Nationwide needed to remind them.

It is unendingly sad to me that children die.  That parents lose their babies.

But before, when I'd walk around with a constant knot in my stomach and want nothing more than to bubble-fy my baby... he was losing his childhood.  And I was losing my mind.

Even today, my eldest is scared of things he shouldn't be scared of.  Things that he wasn't scared of as a daring, full-of-life toddler.  Things that his friends aren't scared of now.

I thought it was better to make him paranoid, than allow him to get hurt.

So now, he is.  About some things, at least.

I forgive myself.  I understand that I was adjusting to motherhood and to the responsibility of keeping this precious life as safe as possible.  I'm fairly sure I didn't permanently scar him.

But I didn't need someone, marketing or not, playing into my deep anxiety during that time.  Not to mention the dear parents who have lost.  Who know all too well that accidents happen.  That children can die.  I wonder what it was like for those brave souls, watching their loss touted about for the sake of insurance sales.

Perhaps I'd give Nationwide more credit, had they made the commercial more factual and less emotional.  Had they given parents tips instead of paranoia, guidance instead of fear.

I'm all for informing parents on safety guidelines. In fact, I'm particularly fond of safety rules.  As a grade schooler, I was devastated every year when the safety patrol was announced... and I never made the list.  I watched wistfully as they enforced order in the hallway, their yellow sashes gleaming like the sun.  I longed for a sash of my own.

But I don't think parents need to be baited with guilt and fear to do what's best for their child.  What's safest.  They don't need to be informed that their child can die.  They know.  Believe me, they know.

I'm sure Nationwide doesn't care much what we have to say.  Particularly if insurance sales rise.  Which I imagine they will.

But if they did, I'd say this.

You don't have to tell us that accidents happen.  We know it from the second our children are born.  We carry around this knowledge in every fiber of our being, all day long.

But we're also trying to live our lives with them.  To enjoy their childhood.  To put off fear and anxiety and love them right now.

You want to give us some tips?  Some actual facts?  Something we can do?  Please... bring them on.

But don't play with our fear.  Don't toy with our imaginings of future guilt.

Don't think we haven't thought about these things.  We've been worrying these worries since the day our children were born.  And you know what... it hasn't changed a thing.

And so we're trying to let go.  Some of us.  Of the anxiety and the fear.  Of the worst case scenarios.

We're doing what we can to keep our kids safe, but we're realizing that we can't, in fact, place them in a bubble.

And we wouldn't really want to.  Because if nothing bad can touch them, then neither can anything good.