Monday, May 21 , 2018, 5:02 pm | A Few Clouds 66º


Meghan Gesswein: I Wasn’t This Crazy Before I Became a Mother

Our natural desire to keep our children safe drives us to temporary insanity

As a youngster, I wasn’t afraid of anything. Well, almost anything. There were the usual fears of rabid dogs and, of course, stranger danger, but for the most part, nothing caused the sort of fear that made my heart beat fast, my throat close up and a vague sense of nausea sit at the bottom of my stomach. I never had an overwhelming urge to get out of bed on a chilly winter night to make sure that things around the house were OK.

Then, I became a mother. Suddenly, the world held dangers that I had never before realized. Around every turn, out every door, beside every stranger there is some horror about to befall us.

I constantly check that my doors are locked, both to keep others out and to ensure the boys stay in. Windows are closed and locked at night, regardless of the warm summer breeze, because someone could sneak in the window and steal my babies. The boys are strapped snuggly into their car seats, as car rides have become the No. 1 danger. Plane trips, which used to hold so much excitement, now instill a fear in me that never existed before. Not because I’m worried about terrorists, but because planes crash, and who’s to say that the one I’m on with my children won’t?

I’ve spent a lot of time pulling my hair out over the “insane” fears that the boys sometimes develop. Santa has been at the top of the list, but the vacuum and any type of power tool were close seconds. I keep wondering how long these “irrational” fears will last. Will they grow up terrified every time a drill is used? Will they be 8 and still run away in terror every December when we run into Santa at the mall?

No. They’re kids, and as far as they’re concerned, the vacuum is just as likely to suck them up as it is the dog hair on the floor. Santa is a big, imposing figure in a bright red suit with a hidden face. Can’t really blame them for being wary of him.

They’ll grow out of these fears and dive into the ocean, as I did as a child, without any worry about drowning. They’ll hop into a car with friends one day and won’t even think twice about getting into a car accident. They’ll grow up to use power tools and won’t be consumed with fear that the saw will cut off an appendage.

It’s my job to worry about all of that. To make sure that the lifeguard at the beach is close by and that the surf isn’t too high. To make sure that seat belts are worn, safety glasses are donned and bike helmets are snug.

That’s the job of being a parent. To take on the fears that your children are too innocent to know on their own. To keep them aware of the dangers, but not consumed by them. To get up in the middle of the night to make sure they’re OK. To be on guard for potential dangers, without instilling in your children a fear of the outside world. (As you know, I’ve failed at that a time or two.)

So, I accept my temporary insanity. I won’t make any apologies for it. I’ll allow my children to run in open fields of wildflowers without telling them that a rabid dog might, just might, run out of the forest and attack them. But I’ll be there with a big rabid dog beating stick. Just in case.

— Meghan Gesswein is a stay-at-home wife and mom to three young boys. A New York transplant, she has lived in Santa Barbara for the last 14 years. She writes on her personal site, MeghanGWine, and is a staff writer and special events editor for the online magazine Curvy Girl Guide. She is often sarcastic and her work should be read with a sense of humor. And also a cocktail. You can follow her on Twitter: @MeghanGWine, friend her on Facebook or reach her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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