In our house we don’t just greet the day, we launch a full-on assault on the morning. As soon as it hits 6am, Isaac barrels into our room, full of energy and verve. There is no slow wake up, although N bravely and resolutely pretends to sleep through it all. Before kids I considered myself a morning person. I would get up early and enjoy a (hot) cup of tea, watch the sunrise and read. It was gentle. There is no gentle anymore. Isaac goes from zero to a hundred at a pace that would spin the head of any race car driver.
For the past two weeks his extreme energy have filled my days. I am unsure whether I had forgotten his intensity or whether the constrains of school meant it was building all semester. But my little boy was in full flight over the break. His energy fills me with awe, is slightly terrifying and is mostly exhausting. I find myself losing patience, not because he is naughty (although we have plenty of that too) but because the sheer pace of him fatigues me. I have asked him to turn it down, to calm down, to take a breath, to lower the intensity. When I ask why he is so full on, he replies, wide eyed, “I am just so excited”. “About what, my love”, I ask. The eyes open wider: “About everything mummy!”
Everything is exciting when you are five year old boy. I didn’t grow up with brothers but close friends of mum and dad at our church had boys. I remember their manic energy. My sister and I would thrill to their madness. Crazy antics undertaken for no reason other than they could. We would giggle and call them “bonkers” which would only send them to an even sillier place. I’d forgotten all about those boys until I saw their behaviour mirrored in my son. And I worry that there are limited places for that energy to unfurl.
I often speak to other parents about how differently we do things from our own parents. I imagine we are romanticising a little. I don’t think every parent in the seventies and eighties sent their children off in the morning, blithely unaware of their whereabouts and didn’t expect them home until dinner. But they certainly didn’t hover as we do. They gave us room and space to make mistakes and figure our way out of them. Now, dangers real and imagined stymy that space. It feels likes the larger community is quick to tut tut and point out parenting flaws, but less inclined to help recreate a space where children can exercise the freedom we once enjoyed.
I am a cautious parent – it’s hard not to be when you have lost a child. But I also have a sense of fatalism that I didn’t before. We simply cannot protect our kids from everything. Xavier died doing nothing more dangerous than sleeping. When fate points its bony finger at your family, there is nothing you can do. In reality, there aren’t more evil people around than there used to be – we are just hyper-aware of when bad things happen. It is not good luck that protects our children – it’s incredibly bad luck to have something happen to them. We don’t live in a world full of bad people, but we have created a community were people are scared to do the right thing for fear of being judged as doing the wrong thing.
And I wonder if our collective fear is stopping our children from finding their wings and soaring.