I’m thinking a lot about protection this week, and why it feels so essential to motherhood.
For one thing my sister is due any minute. I helped organize a blessing necklace for her. The necklace holds all the blessing of her dearest, stringing us together in our love for her. This kind of birth necklace gives the mama strength for birthing as well as the extreme nurturing that motherhood entails. Her friends and family sent beads from all over the world, and my dear friend Chandra strung them together into an amazing necklace. I put it on to make sure it was the right length, and I could feel its power. It was a talisman in the deepest sense: “A talisman (from Arabic طلسم Tilasm, ultimately from Greek telesma or from the Greek word “telein” which means “to initiate into the mysteries”) is an amulet or other object considered to possess supernatural or magical powers that are placed on the object by an outside force. It’s an inanimate object that one makes animate.” (I hate to admit this definition is from Wikipedia, but sometimes it’s spot on.)

More so than almost anything else, birth merits an amulet of protection. When I was birthed Jordan, I loved wearing my necklace, feeling its good karma heavy on my neck. It reminded me so much of the line from this Rumi poem “I Have Such a Teacher”—A circle of quiet lovely friends becomes the ring around my finger.

When I was trying to get pregnant with Oriah, I wore a spiral, a symbol for fertility around my neck. Then during pregnancy I wore a hamsa, a palm shaped amulet to protect against the evil eye. We also have one on the door of our house that a wonderful Turkish merchant gave my son when we were visiting New York City.

But of course, we can only protect so much…my daughter takes my hands off of her when I am holding her in a trepidatious situation, she wants to fly solo, even if it means falling. Today on the carousel at the Boulder County Fair she definitely wanted me to unhand her. In fact she was so preoccupied with me taking my hand off of her, she was making the situation even more risky. I had no choice but to take my hands off and just hover, energetically trying to protect her.

And my son, now five, can all of a sudden do so many things. He can ride a pedal bike. He can go down the big water slide at our local pool and not mind going under the water. He can wipe himself (almost). He is slowly making his own way through the world, figuring out his itinerary. And along with that means making mistakes, i.e. successful failures that he can live with and grow from.

One of my pet fears that developed in motherhood was my children getting their fingers caught in a door. I think because it happened to me and was so painful. And the worse thing about the scenario? Once you get your fingers in the jam, it hurts even more to get them out. It’s terrifying, actually. And it just happened to my son for the first time. He got his fingers pinched in the car door and started screaming. I started screaming too—not my most mature reaction, but I was almost paralyzed by his pain and also afraid of that awful moment of release.

He didn’t break his fingers, but they were swollen, and I decided that what the aftermath required is nature’s greatest balm: ice cream. It did make things better, he confirmed.

But the experience also taught him something that my words alone never could—that doors and fingers are a delicate mix, best approached with healthy caution. Although now he is in a phase where he says he will never close a door again, we both learned something that day. Me that my son can withstand pain, and Jordan that pain is a wonderful teacher.

Finally, my ruminations on protection lead me to this—I am so happy my children have each other—for company, solace, and the vastest kind of shelter.

Jordan and Oriah already have their own wonderful and fraught relationship, a love that is its own thing entirely, its own continent of connections. I see their independence in this deep friendship, and how it gives them the courage to go forth in the world in ways they don’t as a solitary unit.

They have each other’s backs—and fronts.

What are the ways you let your children make their own mistakes? What ways do you try to protect them from making the same mistakes as you?