The other day a co-worker and I were discussing parenting. He and his wife made the conscious decision not to have children. He asked me, "How do you not worry all of the time?" His question was serious and caught me off guard. It was one of those "truth" questions - it was deep and unexpected and it elicited a profound internal response. Holding back tears, I looked into his eyes and said, "You don't. You worry all the time. And then go numb." My answer surprised and saddened me.
Later, I continued to think about my co-worker's question. It dawned on me that we experience worry when we do not feel in control of a situation. For many, worry is an integral part of mother/parenthood. Since I am generally a pretty relaxed, go-with-the-flow type of person, I have not worried very much in motherhood. Whenever I started to feel out of control, and the worry would start to mount, then I would go within to find the answers to the challenge, research to learn more about how to handle a particular situation, and/or talk to seasoned and not-s0-seasoned mothers. In the end, I have always been able to resolve my concerns and find a place of balance with worry.
That is until recently.
All three of my children are school age and all of the rules have changed. They are now beginning to encounter forces beyond my control. For starters, I cannot homeschool them. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is financial. So I must send them off to school which may or may not be a healthy place for them. I keep this worry in check by being "that parent" - I talk to the teachers A LOT and I do not hesitate to advocate for my children or to file complaints as needed. Still, the worry hasn't totally gone away and there is a place in my body where I hold this worry each day.
Recently however, I have encountered a new worry. Something I have not learned how to mitigate for: other children. Children can be so damn mean! And since I am certainly not in control of other people's children (nor do I want to be), this constitutes a true worry for me. The truth of the matter is that I do not know how to protect my children from the out-right mean-ness and abuse from other children, especially from their so-called "friends". My daughter was subjected to bullying, from both her peers and the administration at school, so I took control, did magic, talked with the staff ad nauseum, and finally I moved her to a new school.
But I could not protect her heart, which was broken by the experience. She is only now starting to show signs of recovering. Unfortunately, it is not just girls who are mean on an emotional level, this year my sons are experiencing fickle friends - kind one minute, ridiculously cruel the next. I have never felt more powerless than when my children come crying to me saying that their friends call them names, or that they weren't invited to a birthday party, or when were excluded from a group at school. And, as an empath, this is doubly excruciating for me.
Watching children abuse each other has really shifted my concept of reality. The sheer malice of children is staggering. Why is there such a seeming innate need to exclude, to make others feel bad, to tease? Is this cultural? Did children in ancient tribal cultures act this way? What about current tribal cultures? Sadly, it isn't just limited to children, but I watch as adults perform acts of cruelty to each other.
My dad taught me this phrase when I was teased in school: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Of course, this isn't true. Names hurt. Being left out of a group hurts. Teasing hurts. Feeling as though you don't have a friend in the world hurts. This is pain that doesn't leave a visible scar; rather, it leaves an invisible mark on the soul instead.
So, as my children enter a new year of school, I worry. I ask myself, how do I protect my children from others and from the emotional scars and wounds left by their peers?
I teach them. It is the only tool in my arsenal. I teach them how to decipher when someone isn't worth being friends with anymore. I teach them how to be a good friend and what that means on the most intimate and detailed level. I teach them how to use their words. I teach them to always, always stand up for each other. In the end, I also teach them how to defend themselves verbally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. And, I let them know, without reservation, that I've got their back. I let them know that they are perfect and wonderful and amazing, even if the neighbor kids can't see it.
But I know that this doesn't really help.
In the end, I have to let them go. I have to hold them. Treasure them. And then send them off to face the other children in the neighborhood and at school. But not without a strong magical spell to protect them (wink!).
-Jennifer June Sterling, Goddess mother of three wild and beautiful souls.