On Friday night Andy and I watched Mad Hot Ballroom. It's a charming documentary about a New York school dance competition. As I watched one team of eleven year olds, crying as they realised they hadn't made it through to the semi-finals, I felt a rising panic. It hit me that the huge responsibility of looking after my sons extends beyond the toddler stage.
I feel overwhelmed.
There are all these milestones you go past on the way to raising your children: pregnancy, birth, feeding, weaning, first words, first steps, tantrums, nursery. This is all before they go to school. Most of this list deals with their physical needs. Obviously you also show them love, through the gift of your time, with plenty of hugs and kisses thrown in.
Being a parent extends way beyond that tearful first day at school (me, not them, I expect). Until I watched these school children in the film, I hadn't really thought that far ahead.
When they get to school will they make friends? Will they be bullied? Will they be academic? Will they good at sport? Will they be picked for teams? Will they be picked for the school play? Will they be artistic? Will they be confident? Will they be popular? Will they be happy?
How will I feel the first time I let them out to play on their own? Will I let them ride their bikes into town? Will I let them have the freedom I enjoyed as a child? Will they want to ride a motorbike? (There's not a chance of that being agreed to, never in a month of Sundays). How will I feel when they drive off for university or leave home? How will I cope if they want to spend a year travelling the world? What will they do for a living?
Will they fall in love? Will they get their hearts broken?
I feel overwhelmed. Being a parent is for the rest of your life.
I'll be there for them every step of the way. I'll cheer them on. I'll put plasters on their knees. I'll hold their hands when they're ill. I'll listen to their violin recitals. I'll be polite to the potential partners they bring home, even though I know they'll never be good enough for my boys.
I want to wrap them up in cotton wool, but I know that won't prepare them for the real world. Life can be tough, but I hope I'll do a good job in preparing them for whatever they encounter along the way.
For now though I'll try to stop worrying about what may or may not happen in the future. I'll live for today. They'll be awake in a while and I need to decide what to cook for them for tea.
Image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/321656