This question interests me because I have had rather selfish parents, and I am currently expecting my son’s arrival two months from now.
I suppose my parents might, just might have sacrificed themselves if it had been the “kid falls on tracks- train approaching”-scenario.
However, in everyday life things are not so clear-cut. The same parent who might jump on the tracks to save her kid, might not take the effort, or have the foresight, to make sure the kid doesn’t fall on the tracks in the first place. That parent may be annoyed to have to hold the kids hand all the time to keep it from wandering off, or she might be reading a book and resent havign to pay atenttion to the kid all the time, or she might be hesitant to put the kid on a life-saving kiddie leash because it looks odd and might get her some flack from other people.
When I think about my mom’s instinctual care for me, one anecdote comes to my mind. I was nine years old, mom was driving, the year was 1979, and I was in the front seat. Even at that age, I was completely anal about getting my seatbelt on, (the people on TV said I should, so I did, in the same annoying way kids nowadays try to get their parents to stop smoking ) so I was wearing my seatbelt. I was always nagging Mom to put on hers, but she often wouldn’t, because it was “too much of a hassle” for her to put it on just for the short rides to the mall in the towns’ center.
Then a car rounded the corner unexpectedly and mom had to brake completely and suddenly, or we would have been hit, and at some speed, too. She did, we both lunged forward, and she stuck out a hand in front of me in a vague protecting gesture. She could and should have used that hand to steady herself, because she bumped into the dashboard and steering wheel hard enough to leave a bit of a bruise.
But instead she tried to protect me. Completely unneccesary, as I was wearing my seatbelt and she wasn’t.
The incident made a big impact on nine-year old me. It was a symbol of how Moms’instincts were in the right place, and also a symbol of how little good that did me. A symbol of how I still had to look after her, instead of being able to rely on her protecting me.