I will be the first to admit I am a sensitive person. But I never used to be so tenderhearted until I became a mother. I once read that when you become a parent, your heart is forced to live on the outside of your body, exposed to all pain, fear, and worldly elements.
I didn’t realize how exposed my heart was until a month after my son was born. I was home, sitting on the couch nursing my newborn when a special news alert interrupted the bad tv show I was watching. A 20 year-old man had walked into an elementary school and shot and killed 20 children and six educators. As the news anchor began to summarize the horrors playing out, my body broke into a sweat, and I started to cry hysterically, clutching my four week-old infant to my chest. I quickly turned off the tv, almost unable to breathe. I called my husband at work, and as my hysteria continued, he attempted to calm me down. There is no doubt that much of my reaction was brought on by a combination of hormones and lack of sleep. However, within a matter of moments, my worst fears as a parent were confirmed.
If it’s not a news story, it’s a Tide detergent commercial or a performance by a 10 year-old child on a singing competition show. All have been known to bring me tears. I don’t ever remember being so emotional or sensitive before having my son.
I used to watch horror movies, read the news or even a Jodi Picoult novel, and get cut off in traffic without shedding a single tear.
I believe that mothers become hyper aware of everything around them and their children- and every danger, hurt, or evil (even hypothetical or fictional) becomes a threat.
My heart, which I carry around on the outside of my body, is always on heightened alert. Therefore, I take even the most indirect action or experiences personally. As if there is a chance that a fictional Lifetime Channel original movie or horror film could somehow play out in real life. Maybe I am making this all sound a little bit more dramatic than it actually is… in no way am I constantly afraid that something bad is going to happen to my child or myself.
It is only that I have realized that there is a lot of hurt in this world, bad things happen to good people, and poor choices are constantly being made. I have been hurt, seen bad things, and watched pain play out in people’s lives.
These facts became even more evident this past week when there was a threat made on one of our local schools. Law enforcement responded, educators stepped up as heroes, and parents had to wait in fear for news about their children. Our children experienced senseless darkness.
These events remind parents, teachers, and all adults that we cannot always protect our children from fear or from the unknown. All we can do is teach them how to process their emotions and remind them that above all else they are loved. As parents, we will continue to try and shield our children from these experiences for as long as possible. The idea that our children have to feel the heartaches of life has made me into the sensitive person I am today. Like many of the mothers before me, I will continue to wear my heart on the outside of my body and cry just a little too often.