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Fayette-Mom: What to do when she hurts

Posted June 20, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

From the moment I brought her home, I was on the defensive.

A nervous new mother, I was overwhelmed with feelings of protectiveness in those first few days out of the hospital. Those in the know advised me to “sleep when the baby sleeps," but that’s kind of hard to do when you peek over the top of the bassinet every few minutes, using the visual of your newborn’s chest rising and falling as confirmation that she is, indeed, breathing. That would satisfy me for about 30 seconds, and then I would start debating in my head whether I should check again, finally giving up altogether and exchanging any chance of rest for the peace of mind only holding my baby in my arms could give. In my mind, I was simply doing my job.

I did eventually let my guard down enough to get at least some sleep, but the urge to anticipate potential dangers and eliminate any risk has never gone away. The mother of a baby instinctively makes sure their fragile heads get enough support, their cribs never have too many blankets, and their special rubber duckies signal when the bath water is too warm.

Toddlerhood brings independence — and new mommy fears. My eyes constantly scanned whatever room my daughter and I found ourselves in, making sure electrical outlets were properly covered and securing furniture that could topple down under the pressure of a baby learning to pull up.

As my child got older, I was able to put away the baby gates and the baby monitor, but in my heart, she was still my baby. Protecting her from harm and preventing her from feeling pain would always be my duty.

How, then, will I find a way to stand by and allow my daughter to get hurt, to watch her feel pain?

She’s getting to the age where she has to learn life’s lessons on her own. I know this, logically speaking, but logic doesn’t stand much of a chance when it comes to a mother’s instincts. And yet, I really have no choice in the matter — now is only the beginning of my child ignoring my warnings and doing what she wants to do. And this is as it should be — I know this. But still --- it is heartbreaking.

She’s growing up, and I have to learn to let go. When she soars, and when she falls, I will be here — waiting.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.



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  • 4.13 Jun 21, 2011

    You ended this exactly as you should have. "When she soars, and when she falls, I will be here - waiting." That's all you can do. And, believe it or not, that's what most girls want.

  • Killian Jun 21, 2011

    This is a tough one. It starts when you *know* she is going to screw up and you're going to have to dish out a negative consequence, but you realize that she has to learn the lesson. So she takes the new novel into the bubble bath to read, despite repeated warnings not to. And yep, when it gets soaked, you refuse to replace it. And she learns. =)

    But then there will be crushes who take a chip off of her heart, teams she didn't make after tryouts, friends who move away or turn on her. It'll take the same chunk out of your heart too, but it is part of her learning to handle disappointment and find the confidence and strength in herself, to be the amazing young woman you're raising her to be.

    So kudos from a fellow mom. My girls are 19 and nearly 18, and it is tough, but so well worth it.

  • Bklyn2Raleigh Jun 21, 2011

    OMG, Jennifer, I was just thinking about this the other day about my son. It is soooo hard. Espcially when you have a kind-hearted, sweet child. I guess we will slowly watch their naivete grown into experience and comfort them when they need it. It is a fine balence between wanting tho sheild and protect them from the world, and wanting them to experience things that will help them grow into strong, resilient adults.