The dentist called to me from behind her desk. “There is a slight discoloration of the tooth next to the one that was fractured… I am going to write you a referral…” My heart dropped to my stomach. This was to be a short appointment in which the dentist checked the fractured tooth and the bonding. The appointment was to take five minutes. Instead I found myself comparing extra pictures, coloration, and taking possession of a written referral for a specialist. There is a possibility that the other tooth has experience trauma.
Most of what the doctor said disappeared into the either. I wanted to turn back the clock, crawl into bed, or simply find someone else to listen to this news and take it in so that I could deal with the rest of my emotions. As last year ended with this and that medical situation, this year seems determined to begin with them. The dentist soothing voice continued. I nodded and made the right noises and gestures while wishing that there was a hand to hold or arms to hold me.
I am a responsible person. I am the strong one, the one that gets things done, and the one that can be relied upon. I am that Velveteen rabbit that some men find difficult to handle because I don’t need them. But there are times when I feel more like the China doll – delicate, fragile, and in need of someone to care for me. This is increasingly true when the situation involves my child.
As a parent, I want to protect my daughter from the world at large. I want to keep her safe. For me, the way to do this is through education. I expose her to life, let her explore the world around her, and am open to letting her find out who she is – learn from her successes and her mistakes. As she ages, this means letting go that much more.
I have to learn that I can’t protect her to the extent that I would like. I can give her the tools she needs to keep herself reasonably safe, but part of life is about living and exploring and experiencing. For her, life is about activity and running. It is climbing rocks and using her body. I have to let her go; but I have to ensure that I have taught her what she needs to know so that she can fly safely.
As I told my mom about the latest in the tooth situation, I thought about my brother. My brother is attempting to protect his boys from the outside world by limiting their involvement or roll within it. They associate only with those that attend their small church, are home schooled, and do not take part in any community activities like football, baseball, swimming, or soccer. Quite different than how I raise my daughter and how my brother and I were raised.
“Look what happened to me” my brother stated in response to my question as to why he would not allow his son, with the great arm, to play Little League baseball.
“Yeah, look at what happened to you,” I responded and walked away. I have no idea what my brother was trying to say nor did I feel that I had an answer to my question. What exactly did he mean? Does he find baseball at fault for the trouble in his life? Does he blame little League for something that happened? I assumed that he liked the person that he is – but apparently he doesn’t give little League any credit for building him into that person?
My brother was not an athlete. My brother was a sensitive child with me for an older sister. To me, this would have been a great reason to only have one kid… to save the second from older sibling situations, but… he has five. (Meaning that I didn’t do as much damage as some might have believed I was doing at the time!) Despite not being athletically inclined, my brother participated in team sports. He was part of the team though not one of the super stars. I would even suggest that it is through his participation in these teams that he found his current profession.
I don’t think he would say that though. From what I have observed, he is attempting to raise his boys in a way that protects them from the hurt he experienced as a child. His eldest was and is discouraged from crying. Even as a 2 year old, the child was not allowed to cry. Whether consciously or not, I wonder if my brother was attempting to create a stoic boy because that is something that he was not. IN the same sense, perhaps his lack of athleticism is forming his decisions to not allow his sons to be a part of organized sports.
He is attempting to protect his boys from the world around them; protect them from the things that he experienced from others based on his sensitivity and his lack of athleticism. He is doing it his way while I am doing it mine – through education and trial/experience.
I want to keep my daughter safe, but am learning quickly that I can’t. Her tooth is just a tooth. Lots of active kids have crowns and dental issues. They break arms and legs. They twist ankles and have knee problems. It is just part of growing up and being active. It is part of being an active kid.
A while back I told her that I should have raised her with dogs instead of cats. Dogs keep, usually, all four feet on the ground. They don’t climb, perch, jump, and attempt great feats that tempt fait because they have 9 lives – all of which my daughter does without second thought.
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” she told me. “God made me this way.”
There is the point of protecting my daughter – and then there is the point of allowing her to be who she is. Perhaps I err more on the side of the latter than the former more often than not. And it hurts my heart to watch her fall. It hurts to know that there is nothing I can do to make it better or to make it all go away. I can only love her for all that she is and all that she is not. I can hug her and hold her; support her and be her biggest fan/source of comfort; and I can provide her with knowledge and exposure to the world at large. I can give her what she needs to protect herself through confidence and strength and knowledge.
And I could really use a hug as this parenting thing… well, it’s difficult. There is nothing quite like feeling helpless and entrusting others with your child… entrusting your child to fly in that great big and sometimes scary while very exciting world.