As parents, we control many aspects of our children’s lives—the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the kind of education they receive and even the values we impart. Then there are the other facets of life that remain completely out of our control, from their temperament, their health and well-being, and the darker days that we wish we could protect them from.

The vulnerability of parenthoodWe’re vulnerable to whatever life has in store for us.

In many ways, vulnerability offers several advantages. When we allow our kids to struggle, we help build their strength and determination to keep trying. In witnessing their disappointment, we know that they’ll likely appreciate what they have and continue to learn from their mistakes. Even getting hurt or heartbroken—emotions we’d rather not have—can lift them to greater heights.

Then there’s the vulnerability to unthinkable circumstances that no child—no adult—should experience; yet throughout the world and sometimes even closer to home, many do.

There is no insurance or guarantee to completely shield kids from any and all harm. No command-Z “undo” should anything horrifying happen to our kids. And one of the more painful feelings of being a parent is realizing that we can do our best, and that’s all we can really do. The rest lies in the choices our kids make and what life brings.

So how can we help ease the vulnerability we often feel when we realize that our babies are growing and will eventually face the world on their own?

  • Empower them with resiliency. Bad news can easily plunge a person into a downward spiral, where negativity begets negativity. Those with the resiliency to pick themselves up from the dust have better chances to thrive and remove themselves from a potentially negative cycle.
  • Build a stable home with set routines. While we could all use spontaneity here and there, most of us hold better with routines, especially when change—positive or negative—takes place in children’s lives.
  • Be the anchor in their lives. Kids need to know that they can turn to their parents and loved ones for support, guidance, and information, and often draw reassurance from us to quench their fears and frustration.
  • Embrace all their emotions. Whether your kid is afraid of dogs or is struggling through a traumatic change, acknowledge their emotions as real. Label them. Discuss them.
  • Don’t live in fear. So many terrible events can happen in a given day without warning, yet so much goodness can flow as well.

There’s a bit of vulnerability that touches on every mom. From the moment we’re pregnant, we’re left with the possibilities of what could go wrong, such as hoping to just get through that first trimester so that we’re “safe.” Then we realize that parenthood doesn’t really have a safe zone where anything is guaranteed. Even as one worry passes, another one can easily come. After all, anything can happen to our children at three days old, three months, three years, even thirty years.

The vulnerability and worrying over all the “what if’s” would be so much easier if we didn’t pour our whole lives and hearts to our kids. It can be painful to love so much, not knowing just how everything will turn out.

But it’s so worthwhile, this whole parenting thing, even with your heart on your sleeve.

I used to think that parenting babies and young kids is a one-way street, with parents giving and giving. Who wouldn’t, with all the sleepless nights and endless needs and demands. Yet I eventually learned that it’s actually the other way around: my son has given me so much more in return, even at three years old. And that is worth the vulnerability of parenthood.

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This post is dedicated to all children who continue to touch those around them in ways only a child can. Thank you for teaching us adults a thing or two about life.

How do you handle the “what if’s” and worries that could happen to your kids? What lessons have you drawn from your kids?

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