Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rattlesnakes and Parenting

Sometime around my 5th birthday,
my family got together with many of our relatives
and biked together through a canyon near our house to a picnic spot in the mountains where we enjoyed dinner together.
I was proud of my new ability to ride my bike without training wheels,
but the terrain in the canyon and the little wheels on my bike made it slow going for me.
My dad sent the rest of the family ahead, my mom caring for my four other siblings,
while he stayed behind with me as we slowly but surely made our way along the trail.

My dad hung back a little, giving me independence and allowing me to set the pace.
I have always had this unique ability to completely tune out my surroundings when I'm concentrating,
so it comes as no surprise that as I was focusing on maintaining my balance
and pedaling as fast as I could over the bumps on the trail,
I neglected to hear his cries.

"Stop, Kaitlyn! STOP!!" he yelled as he frantically pedaled to reach me.
He could see what I could not.
A few yards in front of me, coiled on the trail, lay a rattlesnake.
And I was headed straight for it.
It must have happened in a matter of a few seconds--his sighting of the snake, his shouts for me to stop, my continued pedaling, and finally the snake's venomous strike.

It hit my tire.

And the entire time I remained blissfully unaware.
Moments later, he was at my side, checking to make sure I was okay and assessing the situation before asking with a mixture of panic, frustration, and relief,
"Why didn't you stop?!?"

I really don't have any memory of what happened between the time he asked that question and when we made it to our destination and enjoyed dinner with my family.
I don't recall great feelings of fear or relief.
I think, to my young mind, it was just another of life's incidents that didn't require any special attention.

Fast forward about twenty years.
Last night I walked in the door after a meeting and immediately knew something was wrong.
The cover of our giant LoveSac had been removed and there was the faint smell of something sour in the air.
Sam explained that Wesley had come into the family room with a stomach ache
and while laying down had suddenly thrown up everywhere.
I rushed down to my little boy who lay awake in bed.
Though it wasn't a big deal, I was concerned that in his time of distress I wasn't there to soothe him, to rub his back and stroke his hair and dote on him and make everything better the way moms do.
Sam had taken care of his needs, but I felt strangely helpless.

And as I lay beside him, coaxing him into slumber,
I thought about that situation in my childhood and how helpless my dad must have felt.
I thought about what it must have been like for my mom to hear what had happened and to know she wouldn't have been at my side if the snake's strike had hit my leg and not my tire--
in that pre-cell phone era, the scenario could have been very urgent.
And I thought about the many situations that exist in parenthood where we want desperately to take away a problem and simply can't.

Whether we put a bubble around our children and try to protect them from anything bad that may come their way
or give them unlimited freedom to explore to their heart's content
or more likely hover somewhere between the two extremes,
we will never be able to fully protect them.
Whether we like it or not, situations often lie outside the parameters of our control
and we all have weaknesses in our abilities to care for their needs.

But thankfully, I know there is a plan.
I know that my job is to do my best, to teach my children, and then to trust that the One who knows better than I has a plan for them and cares for their interests even more deeply than I can imagine.
I know I need to trust that He will make up the difference as I fail to mother perfectly,
and I have seen Him make up that difference on many occasions,
some too painful for me to even recount.

I have learned that I can't do it alone, and I rely on Him more deeply than ever
as I try my best to care for these precious little ones.


  1. Amen! So true. I am always frustrated that I continue to be imperfect in my parenting, even though my intent is to be the best at it. I realize more and more, as my kids grow older, how important the influences of a father, a mother and Heavenly Father are in raising a child together. Each of these influences can have such a powerful impact.

  2. This post is.....I can't even think of words good enough to describe it. I'm not a parent, but I suspect that this will hit me even harder when I am than it does now. I love the way you worded it. Also, both pictures are adorable!


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