People always ask, "What is the hardest part about being a parent?". The answer is simple, and is one of the most difficult things for a parent to handle, seeing our children hurt. In this sense the word hurt can mean many things, physical hurt, emotional hurt, or even just seeing our children mentally drained or stressed. The greatest pain for any parent is seeing their child struggle through the many obstacles in life that inevitably can cause them a great amount of hurt.
As we continue through adulthood we will go through the ringer many times with friendships, relationships, family members, school, sports, work, money, etc. This gives us a great deal of experience in dealing with the pain and hurt in our own lives. When we have children we tend to think to ourselves, "With all this experience I will be able to help my children avoid all the pain and heartache that I have been through, so they will not have to experience it". Unfortunately we learn quickly that it will not be that easy. As humans we are conditioned to learn through experience, rather than just taking another individual's advice, and our children are no different.
As infants and toddlers we have the ability to shelter, and ultimately control the amount of pain and heartache a child endures. They cling to us with their every move, and every decision, because they have not yet realized the potential that they possess and all of the things they have to experience in the world. But they will not stay little forever, and eventually they will step out from the shadows and the world may just start them off with a big slap in the face. This is not to say that an infant/toddler will not experience any hurt, that will bring us as parents to tears, or to unconsciousness.
All children experience what they believe to be emotional hurt, when they get disciplined or when they get a toy taken away, but we as parents know that this is nothing compared to what will come later on. The greatest pain for a young child will almost always be physical, as they are prone to run into things, trip over things, hit their heads and faces on things, etc. My son has had more bloody noses than I can count, one time to the point I thought it was broken and I nearly passed out while holding on to him while he was screaming and writhing in pain. He has had scratches everywhere, black eyes, and even a pretty severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic at one point. All these physical pains are hard to deal with as a parent, partially because our children are just beginning to understand what pain is, and they do not realize that these minor scrapes and bruises cannot compare to broken bones or other physical pains that they might experience later in life.
The physical pains later in life will be even more difficult to handle as a parent, but I believe the emotional and mental struggles will be more taxing on me as a parent because I see them as much greater obstacles because they cannot be fixed with a Tylenol, a cast, a band-aid, stitches, or a bowl of ice cream (okay maybe some of them can be fixed with a bowl of ice cream).
The mental struggles will likely begin when a child starts kindergarten, as this is where children begin to learn about real responsibility and how their actions can have serious repercussions. They will have homework, that they are required to do to receive a grade. This can cause a lot of stress, and that stress will continue for another 12 years and these struggles can weigh heavy on a young child and as parents we will see that and it is our job to do our best to alleviate some of the pressure from them. We do this by simply being there, answering questions, and doing our best to help them without holding their hand the entire way. It is important that we allow them to excel on their own, but we have to stay close enough to them to know that they are not becoming overwhelmed with the stress of being a child.
These struggles will not end when they finish school, they will actually become greater and much more serious. Going to college, working a job, buying a car, paying bills, etc. can all be stressful for us as adults, and we all know how stressful it can be as a teenager just getting out of high school and starting on our own. This is not the time to stray from your child and leave them to fight the battle alone, but it does not mean that they need the road map drawn out for them. Mental struggles for children can often be mended easily, by us simply being there for them, and listening to them. The biggest obstacle for someone struggling mentally is being left alone with their mind.
I believe the most severe of the three hurts that a child will endure is emotional. For myself, and many people I know, the worst periods of our lives were times that we were hurting emotionally. This can be at any age, from toddler to senior, we all experience great emotional struggles throughout our lives. As parents the most important thing we can do is love our children, and guide them through these tough times by showering them with the love that we have for them.
I remember the hurt I went through in high school after my first major breakup, and it was one of the hardest things I have dealt with emotionally in my life. I dread the day that one of my children come home and tell me that their relationship ended, because I know what that pain feels like. I also dread the day that my children begin to understand death and what it means when someone dies, because the pain of losing someone forever does not go away easily, many times not at all.
These emotional pains that our children will experience are going to be monumental times in their lives, and these are the times when strong bonds are made, both with family members and friends. Making it through hard times with someone by your side will create an everlasting bond with that person and will create a mountain of trust which is absolutely necessary between a parent and child.
I fear the pain that I know my children will suffer throughout their lives, and like many parents I wish I could just keep all the pain away forever. There are some things we can prevent, and others that we have to watch as bystanders. The important part is never straying too far away, because as parents we are responsible for helping to pick up the pieces and put them back together. It is not our job to judge whether they were at fault, and are suffering because of their own doing, it is our job to love them unconditionally. The real test for a parent comes when our children are hurting the most, and they need someone to show them that love. We all fear the inevitable pain they will endure, I just hope that we all also rise to the occasion when they need us the most.