I've never been afraid of heights. But, as I gripped the handrail and dribbled in terror on my shoes, I realised something - being a dad has made me scared of everything.
We were at a local castle, in which a new series of platforms had just been opened which reached four storeys in height. They jutted out from the medieval stonework, designed so that they looked barely supported, and as I stood vulnerably in the breeze at the top of the tower I resisted every urge to drop to the metal floor and commando-crawl my way out of there. The fact that my three children were dancing and flinging themselves around like they didn't even realise how easily they could kill themselves wasn't helping.
But that's the thing: children don't see danger anywhere. That's why they run into the road, or eat whatever they find on the floor without a second thought. As a parent, it's the total opposite. You see danger in absolutely everything, without fail.
The Terror can be about anything, big or small. When my son is bouncing on the trampoline I find myself almost waiting for the misjudged landing which injures him. I worry whenever one of my children walks down the stairs that they're going to trip and end up in a crumpled heap at the bottom. Every time one of my kids coughs whilst eating I find myself leaping to their side, hovering over them, palm raised and waiting to whack them in the back just in case they start choking. For their part, they're just looking at me like I'm a lunatic.
But the Terror can also be crippling, if you let it. Horrifying news stories about awful things happening in the unlikeliest of places mean that I'm always terrified that something terrible will happen to my children. All it takes is one car driver not paying attention to mount the kerb, or a psycho with a gun to walk into a school, or a badly-built castle platform to fail. And those are just the dangers you can see: they could catch an awful, life-threatening illness without warning. How many times do you see a rash on your child's skin and instantly think meningitis?
It's not just a fear of your child being hurt, or crippled, or worse. It's an all-consuming, gripping terror of what your life would be like without them, if one moment they were there and the next they weren't.
How would I cope? How could I possibly go on with just memories, wondering if I could have done something, anything, to prevent it? How could I even face the day if something awful happens to my child?
The Terror will never go away. It lurks in the mind of every parent, a dark shadow, a burden borne by every mother and father throughout the world. The trick is containing the Terror, keeping a lid on it, because if you spend every waking moment worrying about what might happen you'll never get anything done.
And it's about living every moment with your children to the fullest, no matter what - even if it means standing at the top of a tower, on a rickety platform, just so they can enjoy the view.
Do you feel like this?
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