It only takes a second. That’s why we worry.
We buy cars with 5-star safety ratings and spend hours researching car seats and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety safety rankings.
We pad the sharp corners of tables and lock the cabinets where we keep the cleaning supplies.
We put them to sleep on their backs and take the bumpers out of cribs.
We buy baby gates.
We hold tiny hands as they race across uneven terrain.
We buy bike helmets and kneepads and elbow pads.
We move into a house that’s in a kid-friendly neighborhood with good schools and low crime rates, even if we can’t really afford it.
We choose organic milk and all-natural snacks.
We go to the doctor for immunizations and flu shots.
We teach them to look both ways before walking across the street.
We make sure to meet their friends’ parents before we say yes to a playdate.
We buy cell phones so that they can call us whenever they need us and so that we can call them whenever we need them.
We talk about peer pressure.
We spend weekends in parking lots, empty except for orange traffic cones and our lone car, wanting to close our eyes in the passenger seat but too scared to give up that much control.
We make sure they understand their curfew and that they have to be where they say they’re going to be.
We try to get them to stay home.
We talk about drugs and rape and making good choices and how to keep an eye on your drink, and we save the number for the cab company and remind them that they can still always call us if they need us, no matter what time it is.
We meet their roommates and wish we’d met the roommates’ parents too.
We drive home — alone in our cars — to a house that used to have locks on the cabinets and bumpers on the edges and bikes in the garage.
And sometimes the doorbell rings in the middle of the night, and we find out that the car with the airbags we thought was so safe wasn’t safe enough to protect our child from a drunk driver.
Sometimes we get a call from the school that there was an accident — they’re so sorry, they don’t how it happened — and if you can get to the hospital as fast as you can, you might not be too late.
Sometimes you’re sitting right there, and they begin to choke and no matter what you do, you can’t stop it from happening.
Sometimes they just stop breathing, for no reason at all.
We know that it only takes a second for everything to change. We know that despite the helmets and kneepads and cell phones and doctor’s appointments and open lines of communication, we don’t actually have control over the way our children’s lives will turn out.
That’s why we worry. That’s why we’ll always worry.