I Will Protect You

There are days when the world feels truly accessible.  Days when the sun shines and strangers smile as they pass us by.  There are days that fill me with courage; days that give me wings to soar.

Then there are days when the world feels especially big and inhospitable.  Days when the wind is harsher and the people more hurried.  There are days that leave me tired and isolated; a loner amid a faceless crowd.

On these days, when I cradle my daughter as she drifts off to sleep in my arms, my heart aches.  It aches because I long to hold her forever.  I long to wrap my arms around her and protect her from all that is cold, harsh and faceless.

And I’m not alone.

So often, I hear of mothers, fathers and grandparents, worrying about what this world holds for today’s children.  We only have to turn on the news to understand the magnitude and potential for pain that this world offers.

Several months ago, my then-four-year old stopped to read the headline of a newspaper, propped up on display at our local grocery store.

Mama, what is ‘fight’?”  Her huge, pool like eyes gazed up at me in wonder.

I wanted to bottle her innocence, right there in the store.  I wanted to hold her and never let go.

I contemplated spinning a line, a fairy tale white lie to spare her the pain of the real world.  I considered evading the subject completely, or distracting her with something fun from another isle.

But I didn’t.

Because I respect her too much.

So I offered her the truth.  Not to scare her, but in a juxtaposed way, to protect her.

Fight is what people do when they have pain in their bodies and they don’t know how to let it out safely.  Fight is when people choose to hurt others, instead of choosing kindness.”

I saw her digest the information.  I saw her pause and ponder.  I saw her grow up, just a little bit more, in those few moments of our day.

And last year, our home was burgled.

Mama, what is ‘burgled’?

I didn’t want to have to explain.  I didn’t want to admit that injustice takes up a slice of this world of ours, alongside the beauty of daisies and butterflies.

I could have shut down her question.  I could have told her that it’s adults' business and to go and play.

But I didn’t.

Because I respect her too much.

So I offered her the truth, again – to protect her.

Burgled is when somebody takes something that isn’t theirs to take.

This time, it was my turn to pause.  I could have gone on, and on…I could have layered my explanation with my own value judgements and reasoning.  But I didn’t.

Because I respect her too much.

Instead, I chose to give her the space to make her own value assessment about the situation.  And I chose to give myself the opportunity to trust in her conclusion.

And when she was three, her great grandmother died.

Mama, what is ‘dead’?”

I didn’t feel ready to answer her question.  Even though her great grandmother was a 93-year-old cancer patient, it didn’t feel like the right time to join those particular dots in my child’s world.

I considered softening the story.  Or avoiding the question.  Or passing it on to my husband to handle.

But I didn’t.

Because I respect her too much.

So I offered her the truth.  Because sometimes, protecting our children means opening up a daunting dialogue and being there all the way through it…even when it feels uncomfortable and even when we don’t know if we have the answers, or even the words to try to explain.

Dead is what happens when somebody or something stops living.

Like when the flowers die, mama?


Where is great grandma now?

Her body is in the hospital right now.  But we will return it to the earth, so that the energy in her flesh can help create new life.  Like flowers.

I watched as she processed my words.  I waited for more questions, and sure enough, plenty more came over the following days, weeks and months.  And with each question, my daughter received more information, to allow her to piece the puzzle together in her own time.

And in this way, by answering her questions as they arise and by being real, truthful and authentic, I know that I am protecting her.

I have been challenged about this truthful approach, plenty of times.  Some people prefer to spin a tale, to prevent children from experiencing the pain of this world…and I understand this thinking, I really do.  Except, I don’t agree with it.  Because all fairy tales must end eventually, and I would rather stand alongside my daughter as she pieces together the puzzle of life – in her own time - as opposed to leave her to figure it all out alone, when she happens to reach the arbitrary age that society deems her capable of processing real life information.

Before becoming a mother, I assumed that the notion of protection was absolute.  I assumed that we protected one another and ourselves from the dangers in life by making informed and rational choices, in the moment that each one arises.

Yet motherhood has broadened my perspective.  I see now the grey areas in between these limiting notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and I understand that the protection that I can offer my child will burn bright long after I am gone.

Because, far from being absolute and one-dimensional, I am offering her a sense of security that will follow her indefinitely, no matter how high or how far she happens to soar.

As I brush away a stray hair from my sleeping daughter’s face, I realise that this principle of eternal protection is one that I’ve been following all along.  It is what I am offering right now and is what I will continue to provide, even after my time is up.

Because how I choose to protect my daughter now, will continue to protect her as she grows.  As her mother, I am offering her a legacy, a candle that doesn’t stop burning, which she can hold with all her heart for all of time, and which she may even pass on to her own sweet babies when the time comes.

Sweet girl, I will protect you.

I will protect you with trust.  So that you intrinsically believe in yourself and know that you have a loyal and unquestioning companion, along every road that you choose to take.

I will protect you with time.  So that you can reach your own goals, on your own terms, without hurry or pressure to conform.

I will protect you with kindness.  So that you become attuned to the good in a world so often filled with bad.

I will protect you with the truth.  So that you do not feel let down or misled by the stark realities of life and death.

I will protect you with courage.  So that you learn that it is ok to follow your heart and to choose your own path, even if it feels like you’re swimming upstream.

I will protect you with laughter.  So that you learn to look for the fu­­nny, the joyful and the light.

I will protect you with tears.  So that you know that it’s ok to cry.  It’s ok to feel.  It is healthy, accepted and understood.

I will protect you with respect.  So that you know what to expect and what to accept from the world.

I will wrap my arms around your sleeping body today, but this embrace will not fade as you grow.  It will always be here, in the grey areas of life, nestled beside you on your journey.

Because, little one, I will always protect you with love.

This article also appeared in print, in issue 14 of Holistic Parenting Magazine.

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