After having read Dr. Alison’s post about her daughter Olivia, who she lost a few months ago, I came away tears streaming down my face, almost finding it difficult to breathe. I’ve always said that had I known how vulnerable having kids would make me I’d not have done it.
I thought I was a strong, independent woman, even if I did keep making decisions for myself that centered around the men in my life. They were my decisions! There was nothing, I thought, that I couldn’t get through. I was indestructible; I truly believe that. My husband and I had a really rocky start to our relationship, what with being on different continents and having to decide to make a real go of having a life together before we could even try it out for very long. There were intentional breaks, unintentional breaks, other people got involved. It was pretty horrible. I remember lying on the floor in the hottest August heat ever, crying my eyes out because I thought I’d never see him again. There’s something about those two very different intolerable sensations, heat and loss, that has imprinted their memory on me.
Yet even that has nothing on what I imagine losing a child must be like. And what I imagine it must be like probably has nothing on what it is actually like. I do try not to think about it, but occasionally when my mind wanders – usually due to some horrible news story – all I see is darkness. There is nothingness in the future beyond that loss. I suppose that if one of my children remained I would have to keep going for her. I don’t know how, but it would be a duty to her so I would. In fact, the possibility of loss is both why I want more children and do not at the same time. Essentially the more children I have the more reason I would have to keep going should the unimaginable happen; however, statistically, does it not make it more likely?
In this haze of morbid pondering, it occurred to me: I like facts and figures, statistics and scientific studies. They soothe me when I don’t know what to think. But scientific studies are not the reason to hold your child while they sleep, or try your hardest not to yell. Statistics can relieve your concern that refusing to spank or time out your child will make them into a spoiled, entitled adult, but that’s not why you should parent gently.
You should parent gently because this is the absolute most precious relationship you can ever have. You should parent gently because while they are little you are all they know about comfort and they are all you know about love. You should parent gently because that is the best way to keep that love close and warm for the rest of both of your lives.
That’s what matters. It’s all that matters.