The unthinkable happened this past spring for the family of a young woman who was attending the same college as my daughter. Every parent worries about their child’s safety when they leave home, and sometimes our fears are grounded in terrifying reality.
I do not want to in any way trivialize the tragedy this young woman’s family is going through. I cannot begin to fathom the anguish and grief they must be feeling. But I can empathize somewhat and try to put myself in their shoes since I have a daughter the same age and at the same school. My heart breaks when I think of what I would be feeling were I in their place.
During the years our children are small we think that things are so serious. We worry when they won’t nap, don’t eat right or potty train on schedule, or don’t hit some milestone as quickly as some other child did. And when they get to school we still worry about things we’d like to control and the choices they make. Are they eating too much junk food? Are their grades high enough? Life seems like an endless list of things to worry and fret over and it all feels like it’s just so important.
And it’s not my intention to downplay the worries we have when we have young children. There are serious illnesses and accidents to cope with for too many. I remember being frightened when a fever would get too high. Being a parent is never an easy job.
But when those children begin to venture from the safety of home and our protection we begin to realize how truly scary the world is, and how little control we have over it. I’ve listened to many young mothers lament how difficult it is to raise little ones. They’re exhausted from walking the floor and play dates and they feel that if they can just get through “this phase” that parenting will get easier.
But it doesn’t.
My own mother told me years ago that as our children get bigger so do their problems. The choices they face can have life-long consequences. Likewise, the things that can hurt them can be life threatening – or as in this case, life ending.
I know that like every other mother of teenagers and young adults, I’ve worried myself sick when they drove off in the car. I’ve stayed up late waiting for them to come home from social events. I’ve observed them carefully for signs that anything else might be amiss in their lives. I also know that this worry never stops. Your babies are always your babies even when they’re grown. This is the curse of motherhood – your worries never end.
My own family lived with the grief of losing a young family member. My mother lost her only brother to a car accident just a few short weeks after he graduated from high school. This took place in 1958 but cast a shadow over my entire family. While my mother and her parents were never the same, the ripple effects of tragedy are long lasting and far reaching. They touch – and alter – the fabric of lives forever.
I imagine that loss from a senseless act of violence is even harder to comprehend. I’ve no words to offer that will ease this family’s pain. I also have no words to ease the fears we have for our own children. All I can really do is just offer a prayer that this family will be surrounded by love and friendship during this tragedy and throughout the rest of their days.
I’ll also be saying a prayer as I send my own daughter back off to college. Parenting never gets easier.