When I first met my nephew Charlie, he was only an hour old and I had never been so scared in my entire life. I looked down into his tiny, sleeping face with his perfectly formed little hand clutching my thumb and I was swamped with a fierce and burning desire to revert to my primal state and protect him like a mother tiger. The fear was like a yawning abyss and it occurred to me in that amazing and infinite moment that I would literally chop off my own arm if it would keep him safe for as long as he’s alive.
I don’t have children of my own so I don’t know if that’s what everyone else feels the first time they hold a new life of their flesh and blood. I don’t know if it’s different for me because I’ve worked in the criminal justice system for so long. I know how many predators there are out there and how difficult it is to keep children safe. I’m pretty sure I’d be a neurotic mother if it ever happened to me, constantly texting and giving lectures on not accepting drinks/sweets/rides from strangers. I’ve often admired my friends who have children for not having complete meltdowns. They’re constantly exhausted and frazzled, they always have a million and one things to do and they appear to have a bottomless pool of patience and love when it comes to their kids. I genuinely don’t know how they do it.
I saw something in the supermarket a couple of days ago that really struck a chord with me. The woman at the next aisle along had just discovered that her young son, maybe 8 or 9 years old, had hidden something in his pocket to steal from the shop. She very calmly put her basket down, apologised to the cashier and took the boy away. It wasn’t until I was on my way out that I saw them – she’d taken the boy to the security guard at the front of the store and made him confess to what he’d done and accept a stern lecture from said security guard. The kid was devastated and ashamed, crying and red, but I can almost guarantee that he’ll never do it again. Or at least not while his mother is around.
The more I’ve thought about it over the last couple of days, the more I’ve realised that, as a parent, that must be the bravest thing of all. We all hate hurting the people we love. We’ve all been there…having to tell someone something they’re not going to like. It’s difficult. How much more so is it to discipline your child, the person you love above all else? I have a newfound respect for parents now.