How many times have I said those words to my children? Probably as many times as my own mother said them to me, but when she said them I didn’t understand what the hidden meaning of them was. Now I do.
It means “don’t fall” to a toddler and if you do fall don’t land on your head.
It means watch out for bullies on the playground and don’t climb too high on the monkey bars. Hold on tight to the merry-go-round and don’t walk in front of the swings when other children are swinging in them.
It means don’t talk to strangers, don’t get in cars with people you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to tell me if someone abuses you in any way.
It means don’t drink or eat after anyone else and don’t take food or drink from someone you don’t know.
It means play sports with enthusiasm and heart, but take precautions to protect yourself.
It means be aware of your surroundings. If a place doesn’t look right or feel right, it probably isn’t; get out of there.
It means wear your seatbelt, always. Don’t drink and drive and don’t get in a car with anyone who does. No arguments, no discussion.
It means date only people you know well, not people you meet in chat rooms or over the Internet.
It means be home by curfew and keep your cell phone turned on so that every time I hear an ambulance I don’t have to wonder if you’re in it.
And don’t think that when you turn 18 that I will stop telling you to “be careful.” In fact, you’ll probably hear it more often. Because the older you get, the less I am with you. I can no longer kiss away your hurts. I can’t protect you from the harsh realities of living in a world filled with danger. I don’t want you to be afraid to live, I just want you to “be careful.”
Which in parent language really means, “I love you.”