Editor’s note: This essay is one of a 3-part series of parenting essays in this week’s Tiki Tiki.
by Tracy López
Before I had children, I was laid back, relaxed, a “go with the flow” type of person. I rarely felt anxious about anything because I was a firm believer in “What happens, happens.” … All of that changed with the birth of my first son.
I remember clearly the day of my first panic attack. I buckled my infant son into his stroller and left our apartment for a walk, just to get some sunshine and fresh air. As I made my way down the sidewalk, it occurred to me all of a sudden, that the cars passing by on the road only feet away could easily hop the curb and crush the stroller with my child in it, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it.
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe and adrenaline surged through my body. All around me other mothers walked with their children, smiling or scolding, but oblivious to the danger. My heart pounded wildly in my chest, so hard that it hurt, and another car passed by – whoosh! … I turned the stroller around and rushed home. Closing the door behind me, I tried to slow my breathing, tried to calm myself, but I couldn’t unlearn the truth of what I had realized – I am not in control.
Writer, Elizabeth Stone, once said, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – And that is precisely what motherhood is. For better or worse, a piece of your heart is out there in the world, vulnerable, and there is only so much you can do about it. We baby proof our homes, agonize over vaccinations, slap hands away from hot stoves. We teach them to look both ways, read them books on “stranger danger”. We teach them to swim, we don’t leave them unattended. We give them a balanced diet, and make sure their food is cut into bite-sized pieces. It’s constant vigilance, even as we sleep. We set up baby monitors and sit bolt upright, waking from a sound slumber, rushing to their bedside when we can’t hear them breathing.
If you are vigilant enough, and not without a pinch of luck and prayers, your child grows up intact. Overnight, it seems, your boy becomes a man, your girl becomes a woman. My “little boy” has the shadow of a mustache and out-eats his father at the dinner table. Sometimes when I hear his voice from elsewhere in the house, I become confused, and look around to see why my husband has arrived home early, only to find that it’s my son who was speaking in his new, deep baritone.
My little boy is no longer a little boy – He’s growing up. I remind myself of the lesson I learned when he was a baby, “I am not in control”, but instead of solely a fearful thing, it now brings with it pride, relief, and bittersweet memories. I am not in control. And so, when my almost 12-year-old asks to take the dog for a walk around the block, and my mind reels with the horrible “what ifs” of allowing him out of my sight, I know that I must give my consent, for motherhood is a cruel tug-of-war, a constant push and pull, a slow, painful process of hanging on, and letting go.
Tracy López is a writer and mother of two. You can read about her bi-lingual, bi-cultural adventures at Latina-ish, or follow her on Twitter: @latinaish. Tracy previously shared The Difference Between a Latino Kid Party and an Anglo Kid Party with the Tiki Tiki.