A father and son spend time together walking hand in hand on the beach.
A father and son spend time together walking hand in hand on the beach.

First it was the ultrasound. Seeing the limbs move, the heartbeat, the innocent sucking of a thumb. There is a little person in there. Moving around. The thought crosses a new parent’s mind, “What qualifies me to protect a defenseless human?” And the worst thought of all, the one we all have, “What if I screw up?” We all worry whether we will be able to protect our child, even before they are born. Parenthood is the hardest security gig ever. But our fears lessen as we grow, and our selflessness becomes more natural. We learn to care about someone else, to put their well-being above our own. It is, I dare say, the most transformative experience on earth.  

Providing security in the womb

A mother’s womb is the first place we provide safety for our children. Everything a mother does matters from the amount of exercise she gets to what she puts in her body. In brief, a mother protects a child’s health in utero. I see nine months of pregnancy as a sort of preview for parenthood. It allows time to adjust to the idea of having a new baby and the sacrifices that will require. First, parents lose a little sleep, getting them ready for what is to come (she says with a maniacal laugh). The mother begins to watch what she eats, knowing she will soon be responsible for her child’s diet as well. Time and money spent babyproofing the nursery and playroom is but a taste of the resources parents will expend throughout their child’s life to protect them.

Security breeds selflessness

The highest lessons in life are taught through the most undignified experiences. Ever. If you have had a little person in your life for more than a minute, you know exactly what I mean. Poopy diapers. Snotty kisses. Midnight feedings. These messy little creatures force lessons upon us. But the most important is putting someone else’s needs before our own. In a word, selflessness.

As children, we learn to protect ourselves, right? When that kid at daycare takes your toy, you take it back. Natural for a two-year-old child. A bit spicy for a 30-something mom. Just as the childhood instinct to protect yourself grows selfishness, looking out for another develops selflessness. The focus is taken off parents and our needs. The new denominator is now what is best for the child. And what’s more, this security gig is complicated by the immeasurable affection that forms as we learn to protect this little human. The stakes are high.

A resume-builder?

I must wonder though. Why can’t the most important, universal, and time-consuming job not be listed on our resume? I will go out on a limb here and say that parenting little humans teaches more about life than any other job. I mean, what is more important than learning to put others first? Without the experience of parenthood, would we learn empathy? Possibly, but the crash course is sure effective, and I will even say quite enjoyable.

Ways to make them feel safe

According to an article on former NFL coach Tony Dungy’s website AllProDad.com, “One of the key jobs for a parent is to create a safe and stable environment for the kids. When they feel safe, they have freedom to grow, test boundaries, and explore.”

What are some ways we can make our child feel safe? Here are a few things AllProDads.com suggests:

Time. The more time our children spend with us, the more they will feel the safety of our presence.

Affection. A gentle kiss on the forehead, a hug, holding a hand all reassure children of our commitment to protect them.

Boundaries. Children will test our limits. Parents can make them feel secure by enforcing boundaries. Yep, the wall is still there.

Everyone functions better when they can count on a safe environment, especially children. It is something simple, but potent. As controllers of their little worlds, it is a parent’s duty to calm the waters on which they sail and ask them to trust us. And if we ask our children to trust us, we must be found trustworthy.