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Parental Vulnerability

30 January 2005

Tonight I was out late filling up my tank on my car and I saw a family out with their young boy, maybe about 3 or 4 years old — same approximate age as Eli. It was 11 at night, and way later than I would keep Eli up or out if I had a choice, but at the same time, I really feel jealous. It made me think of the Talking Heads song, “Up All Night”. I really do love Eli so much that it hurts, and there are times that I allow my mind to wander into the place that all parents know, but none of us like to talk about. It’s that place of utter vulnerability, when you think of the fact that your child could get hurt, at any time, and you are completely and utterly helpless to prevent the possibility. They could get hit by a car, or kidnapped, or burnt, or one of many various possible painful things, and the image of that just paralyzes you and makes you want to hold your child and protect them from the entire world. Of course, you can’t protect them from the world — the world happens all around them, all the time and will for the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, you just get so scared, and you have to shove the thought out of your head. In about 5 weeks to the day, I’m going to double the chances of one of my kids being hurt. I’m going to be 100% more vulnerable, and 50% less capable of stopping something catastrophic from happening. I know that I’m going to love my boy, Isaac, and he’s going to light my life up in ways familiar and entirely new. I can’t wait to meet him and get to know him in the ways I’m getting to know Eli. I can’t wait to see how similar he is to his big brother, and yet how completely different. I am scared about his birth, and his first weeks and months. I am frightened about all the things that might go wrong, and the things I can’t prevent. And yet, I am courageously entering into that space of parenthood and accepting the challenge to live in a place of uncertainty and vulnerability; to wear my heart on the outside of my chest. I know the experience is part of maturing and becoming wiser, but I do it not for the possibility of personal growth. I do it because I don’t even know Isaac yet, but I already love him, and love is a force that you cannot compromise. I am compelled into the space of danger and uncertainty and I dive headlong into that realm with a smile on my face.

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