I don't think I'm alone here. If I had to choose one word to
describe most of the parents I know, it would be "vigilant."
Dictionary.com defines vigilance as "keenly watchful to detect danger; ever awake and alert; sleeplessly
Before our children are even born, we research vaccines and
circumcision. We eat well and swallow huge, iron-stinking vitamins. We talk and
sing to the mystery babies buried in our bellies.
We sometimes push our bodies to their breaking points to
give our babies a "good birth" or to breastfeed them. We rise out of sleep
over and over to nurse our babies through the night, to pat their smooth
backs or to let them cry through our stinging bursts of guilt.
Just for a moment, let's stop striving.
We keep up with the latest, ever-shifting list of foods our
babies can eat. We read labels, books and studies.
We are ever awake and
We talk to our kids—at length—about feelings. About their bodies. About how to
stay safe, and how to be a good friend. We watch for autism, anxiety and ADHD.
When they patter over to us, wide-eyed, asking, "Mama? Are you
ever going to die?" Or "Where was I before I was a baby?" we dig deep for answers
that are age-appropriate yet honest. And when we come up short, we check with friends, books or the Internet, vowing to do better next time.
We nurture their passions, but try not to overschedule them.
We spend more hours playing with our kids than our parents
did, even though more of us work outside our homes.
We teach our children about diversity and racism. We explain the variety of structures
that families can take, and the continuum of gender. We try to tow the line of balance with
technology, seeking the sweet spot between accepting, rejecting or abusing
And yet, it still doesn't feel like enough. Even when our
kids show us, like my daughter did, that I'm doing fine.
On the Internet, on the news and at the park, we are
pummeled with information—with studies telling us we're ruining our children
at every step. With Judgy-McJudgersons who glare down their noses at our
mid-tantrum toddlers as we fly down grocery store aisles.
Often, it feels like we're damned if we do, and damned if we