scaredy dad

I used to think my mom was scared of everything; partly because she's my mom, and partly because I don't think she ever really tried to hide her fear. I can remember coming across a journal of hers with an entry she'd written when I was entering Kindergarten, talking about how afraid she was to let me go. It seemed pretty par for the course.

Then I had my own kid.

Suddenly, it made sense to be scared to send your son off to Kindergarten, or even to the other side of the yard. Suddenly, I realized how you can love someone so much - how you can want so bad it hurts for them to have all the joys that a long, full life can offer. Realizing that, and knowing at the same time how hard life is, and how fragile, it came to seem a miracle how unafraid my parents really were. It baffled me to think of how my parents allowed me, at the age of five, to have my own machete and to run around in the jungle, unsupervised. How reckless and unimaginably secure my parents must have been, to have allowed me the freedoms that they did.

It becomes, in the context of my fear-soaked, American life, an absurdity. Me, I want to toss my son into a padded room and slide trays of organic, hypoallergenic food under the door for all eternity. I want to hold his hand when he crosses this street, and the next one, and the next - so that I will always be there to throw myself under the bus for his salvation.

But then I think... what then? Who will hold his hand after I'm just another bloody smear on the grille of a semi? Who will keep him safe when I cannot? The fear is cyclical, and it spirals ever downward.

I cannot keep him safe. Not really.

And what good is a life spent fearing the grille of a semi, anyways?  I stop. I breathe. I squeeze his tiny, perfect little hand in mine and then, little by little, I let go.


  1. Its settled, then. I'm sending Mateo a machete for his birthday!

  2. He prefers the Tramontina brand, please.


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