I think parenthood involves this mixture of pride and terror.
Over the weekend we moved the car seats into our smaller car, a suburu outback. We typically drive a mini-van. The goal was to drive to the store, get gas for our smaller car (the one I drive to work) in one trip.
So we're on one of the busiest intersections in our city with no shoulder. All of a sudden, I realize that the door next to my son is open and he's leaning out the car door. It's open around three inches. He is still (thank goodness) strapped into his car seat, but is just fascinated by the pavement moving past so quickly.
We get the door closed and lock the doors using the automatic locks. I was the person who originally put him in his car seat, so I start to blame myself, thinking I didn't close the door all the way.
But then I turn around to see him pulling the lever to open the door, frustrated that it's not working.
On our way from the next destination, I hear the door open again, only to realize we hadn't locked the doors again. We get the door closed and locked again.
We did make it back home safely. Part of me is proud of my son for figuring out how the door handles work. Part of me is terrified that at two, he can figure that out.
In other news, I was talking with my father about being a parent. He mentioned that it's like watching your child drifting towards a waterfall. You can see the waterfall. You want to warn them. You shout and try to throw life vests. But you can't get on the raft/boat with them to try and save them yourself. If you did, you would go over the waterfall too.
Some parents might disagree with this. They will say that they would do anything for their child. And I would do anything for my children. But when my children are adults - there's only so much you can do. It may be considered selfish. But we have to let everyone live their lives responsibly. We all have obligations to different things throughout our lives: family, friends, career, community. It's a personal decision - but choosing to go over the waterfall with a child will leave everything else in the lurch. What really is fair? What is healthy?
It's funny how easy it is to judge another person from the outside. You think, I would never do that. It's easy to blame someone else, to blame a parent for their child's actions. To feel like the people in someone's life should be doing more - but in the end, who can know what the exact situation is. The older I get, and the more experience parenting - the more I realize that things are incredibly complicated and not black and white. My gauge is if people are doing the best they can with the tools they have. That people are working towards being healthy and self-sustaining. That's all you can do - and all we can expect of others.