There are many things that change when you have kids. One change you don't expect is that you can never read the news the same way again. Bad things happen to children every day, and such things are reported in the media every day, but as a non-parent, you tend to read them and sort of shrug them off. "That's terrible," you say, and then you go on to the next news item and have a sip of coffee.
When you're a parent, you can't ever read something about a child dying without imagining yourself in the parents' stead, and just the thought of losing one of your own kids is enough to twist your guts. Parents simply aren't meant to outlive their kids, and losing your own offspring is a deeply unnatural occurrence.
Via Crystal, we learn that New York City blogger NYC Watchdog lost his five-year-old son in a drowning accident.
Ambulance Driver shares the story of a call involving the death of a six-month-old baby.
Non-parents read these kinds of things and say, "Gee, that's terrible," and they mean it, but they can't quite comprehend the primal fear that creeps up in a parent's mind when they read the same thing.
If someone were to ask me to summon up the essence of being a parent in one word, I'd reply without hesitation with "worry". Those little bundles come wrapped up in worry, and it stays with you pretty much every moment of every day. It's one of the things you take on in exchange for the smiles and belly laughs, the hugs and the tickle sessions. Nobody in their right mind wants to burden themselves with it, but we do it because we can't un-love our kids. Not worrying about someone means you don't particularly care about them, and in that context it's only natural to worry more about our children than we do about even ourselves.
Despite this, you can't let your worry consume you if you want to stay somewhat sane. All you can do is to take precautions, and then let them toddle off and find their way, and tell yourself they'll be okay.
That's what parenting is: controlled insanity. Those of you who think it's nuts to want to put yourself through such an experience--you're absolutely right. Those of you who take up that burden and wouldn't trade it for anything--you're absolutely right, too.