I am a terrible mother.
There's no reason to look down your nose at me or whisper behind my back. I admit it: bad mom, right here. Don't believe me? Let me count the ways.
First of all, I have utterly failed to teach my child that the world is a terrible place full of dangerous people. For this egregious omission I have no excuse. I know better; I grew up in a neighborhood where you always locked up your house and your car, where the local crazy person would occasionally camp out on your front porch and scare the bejesus out of you, and where a young man in a gore-splattered t-shirt once came to our door and asked to use our phone because his friend had just shot himself in the head. Yet I've allowed my daughter to believe that such things are the exception rather than the rule, and I've neglected to teach her to walk through life looking over her shoulder for bad guys. Totally irresponsible.
I also let my child out of my sight sometimes. I've been known to let her walk to friends' houses, all alone. This is just asking for tragedy, I realize, as she is armed with nothing but common sense. That's just not enough in this crazy world. Besides, I can't guarantee her safety even when I'm right there next to her; how can I throw her into the scrofulous maw of one block over as if she were bulletproof? Sometimes I'm stunned at my own behavior.
I let her wander off in stores, too. Sometimes I even let her use the restroom at Target by herself. No 10-year-old should have to shoulder that kind of responsibility. I admit this makes me feel terribly guilty on occasion, so if a place is unfamilar or crowded, I'll accompany her as a sop to my conscience. But I can't lie: if I'm in Aisle 7 and she wants to look at something in Aisle 3, I just let her go, as if the grocery store weren't teeming with axe murderers and sex fiends.
I don't know why I do these things. She couldn't cross the street by herself when she was five. She didn't have a house key and let herself in after school when she was seven. But as time went on, I guess my standards eroded. Maybe I cared less about providing a surgical environment for my precious child. Like a bad pet owner, I took her off the short leash and let her find her legs. And every time she proved capable of handling small freedoms, I handed her larger ones. I just know that some day that's going to snowball into her making her own decisions, and some of them will be bad ones. But that horse is out of the barn, and I have to live with it.
Here's the kicker: I've done almost nothing to prepare her for the awful world into which I released her. I taught her to be wary of strangers and avoid dangerous situations - big deal. I told her to use her judgment and trust it, as if that could keep her from harm. I've prayed for her safety every time she's been away from me...but we all know that God allows His children to be maimed and killed every day, so what's the point?
No, what it boils down to is that I'm a bad mom. Against all the evidence, I believe that the world is full of wonderful things, as well as its share of dangerous things. If I were any kind of decent parent, I suppose I would dedicate my life to making sure that nothing bad ever happened to my child. But that's just so exhausting. So I selfishly conserve my energy for showing her the possibilities of life and giving her the confidence and strength of character to deal with adveristy when it shows up. And I spend far less time than I should in fear that there's a bullet or a car fender or a predator's hand with her name on it.
Someday I'm going to lose her. I'm going to turn around, and she'll be gone. Where once there stood a sweet little girl, there will be an independent adult. And I'll have no one to blame but myself. Because I am a terrible mother.