Tuesday, May 21, 2013


So, my daughter turned one on Sunday. We had all the neighbors over and we ate in the backyard and watched the kids go nuts. At one point I embarrassed myself by freaking out when someone left our screen door open - I was worried one of our cats would get out. Now our cats are big, they're three years old now, and they have their full complement of defensive weapons; they would be fine outside. I've never let them out. Why? I'm overprotective.

I'm that guy. I'm pretty OCD. I've never lost my keys, never locked myself out of anything. I clean things as soon as they get dirty. I annoy my wife to no end.

So what if the cats would probably have a ball and enjoy life a lot more if they went out once in a while, they might get hurt and I'd rather not risk it. (Besides, we cheaped out and haven't gotten them rabies boosters lately.) Intellectually I know they're going to die at some point and keeping them indoors isn't going to magically make them immortal.

At the party, I explained my latest theory, that if I get all my obsessive over-protectiveness out on the cats, I'll be better able to let my daughter explore and experiment and get hurt. While I'm not proud of either, I'd rather emotionally scar the cats than my daughter.

Everyone was reassuring me that there's nothing wrong with being overprotective. They seemed pretty serious and strenuous about it. I suppose they could be compensating for their own insecurities, but I don't think that's it (or at least all of it). Since then I've been wondering if this is a difference in worldview or am I just strange. Usually I can pick up when I'm doing something, likely because of my faith, that sets me apart from normal society. I was not really aware that this might be one of those things.

It seems natural, for me especially, but for all parents, that we'd want to keep our children from harm. If we do it too much, we stunt their development and deny them some of the joy of life; if we don't do it enough, we alienate and injure our kids. It's a tough decision. Ultimately, though, I know we live in a world of pain and hurt. My daughter will experience that, whether I try to protect her or not.

I've always felt one of my most important parental responsibilities is allowing her to experience life - all of life, the good and the bad. Now, it's also an important responsibility to walk with her through those experiences and help her understand the world. I'm really concerned I'll be overprotective and keep her from something beautiful.

There is a lot of beauty in overcoming pain, perhaps the most beauty. That doesn't mean we seek out suffering. We don't have to; it comes whether we're looking or not. But I think it's important to embrace the pain and hurt in our lives, because grace and love and peace that come on the other side are much more beautiful than avoiding pain in the first place.

I guess, looking at it in words, this idea is pretty out-of-the-ordinary. And it's certainly something I arrive at because of my faith. I can't help, but believe it's true.

So, it may be my fault our cats are skittish and scared. I'm been overprotective. But I can't help but notice, since the weather has been nice and my daughter has been spending more time outside, crawling around on her own, she's less scared. She's more open to people, she doesn't scream when we run the vacuum, she's more likely to climb on things. The more she's allowed to explore the world, the more she benefits.

I sure hope I can handle it when she starts to walk.

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