When you’re first expecting a child, some people ask “What do you want?” referring to the child’s sex. The classic mother-to-be’s response is: “A healthy child with 10 fingers and 10 toes.” And, when the child is first born, those features are quickly checked by the mother before a deep breath of relief is sighed. All is right with the world.
As children grow older we tend to impose new standards on our desires for them – may they play nice with others, not get bullied, go to religious school, whisper in public, and keep family secrets in the family.
As they move through teen years, we hope they don’t get pierced in odd places, join the gay alliance in support rather than in affiliation, don’t become drug addicts, don’t DWI, don’t become a teenage parent, and the list goes on. Later, we hope they don’t marry out of the religion, or get snipered by terrorists, or travel the world without getting hijacked. We’ll deal with whatever happens, but we hope against hope for only good things to happen. We pray for safety even while preaching “take risks.”
When my brood were in middle school, Columbine happened in Denver. It was akin to when Kent State occurred during my own college years. A sense of safety was permanently ruptured. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time took on new meaning. Even the hallowed halls of academia were not safe.
Lately, youngest’s college is being attacked with a rash of bomb threats. I won’t say too much about it now. I could bring her home, but hibernation is not an option. It’s only a matter of time before she’ll have a different close encounter with other crazies.
And, perhaps that’s what it’s all about. At some point we all need to come to terms with the elusiveness of safety. All we can wish for our kids is that they live as long and safely and happily well adjusted as possible with 10 fingers and 10 toes. And if even if the appendage count is not possible, it’s not the end of the world. One can live without thumbs. It’s the living that’s important. Everything else is just gravy.