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When Our Children's Fears are Bigger than Us

By Kristal Clark

While in a rare deep sleep in the early morning hours on Saturday, I was jolted awake by the sound of my frantic pre-teen. She was holding tight to me and crying. I cuddled her for a few minutes before asking what was bothering her. I could not have been more unprepared to manage what she was about to say to me.

“Mom, they took away abortion rights today. Did you know that?”

I did know that…but I didn’t realize that she knew it, too. It was not something we had talked about and it was occurring to me in that moment that we probably should have.

Confused as to why she was so upset by this, I cautiously responded “I did. Can you tell me why it’s so upsetting to you right now?”

“Mom…if they can take away rights that have been around for so long…what about me? What about LGBTQ rights? I’m scared.”

There have been a few defining moments in my motherhood journey that have left me feeling helpless and inadequate. This was now one of them.

I sat in the dark silence cuddling her because I didn’t know what else to do. It is my job to not only keep her safe, but to make sure that she feels safe. Right now, she wasn’t feeling safe and I couldn’t give her the reassurance she needed in order to feel ok. I couldn’t tell her that she would be protected by established rights for the LGBTQ+ community, because what if she isn’t? If they can overturn a ruling from 1973, what will stop them from repealing the laws currently in place to protect her?

I said the only reassuring thing that felt genuine:

“I will fight for you. I will always fight for you.”

I immediately felt her tension leave her body as she was wrapped in my arms. That was it. That was what she needed. I could have told her that she would be protected or that I could fix the problems that are so far beyond my capability, but she would have seen through that, increasing her anxiety because she would know that I was not being genuine.

We cuddled a little longer before she went back to bed, once again feeling safe, or at least knowing that she will never be alone, that I will always fight for her.

As parents, we try to fix all the problems that our children face and we often try to protect them from things that feel too big. As much as we want to protect them, this is their world and it will one day be their fight. As they grow and their problems get bigger, we can’t always genuinely say “you are safe”. In those moments, sometimes the best way we can protect them is to say “I will fight for you”. When the fears are bigger than we are, it is helpful to know that we have wrapped them in our love and support and the knowledge that we will fight for them, and that is enough.

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