Parents of small children worry
About everything. I know. I have four kids: a girl and three boys. The worrying started over 20 years ago when our first was still just an alien on an ultrasound. My kids are older now— our oldest is a senior in college, the youngest just turned 15. And I’m here to report from the other side of that vast, treacherous obstacle course known as child rearing that it all pretty much works out. No really, it does. I’m sure that’ll be hard for some to accept but that’s because our brains are clouded with worry.
The are-they-eating-right worries. The are-they-downloading-porn worries. The are-they-getting-lured-with-candy-into-a-windowless-van worries. The are-there-more-things-I-should-be-worrying-about worries. I’m telling you, from my vantage point: cut it out. Okay, you know and I know that’ll never happen. Okay, how ‘bout: cut it back. Lighten up. Relax. Everything will be more or less fine. Perfect? Maybe not… But what is?
I feel your angst
Look, I was there. My wife and I fought the food fight, for example, with every one of our kids over one item on the menu or another. It seemed every neighbor and in-law had smugly trained their offspring to enjoy oven-baked organic zucchini chips while we fought tooth and nail to gets ours to eat anything besides plain pasta, chicken nuggets, or cheese pizza. I was sure DCFS would be knocking down our door the next time I served Kraft mac and cheese.
I can remember pleading with kid #3: “There are hundreds of vegetables,” I reasoned (to a 4-year-old, mind you). “Pick three and I’ll just make you those.”
Stubbornly, he chose corn, broccoli, and green beans. So no matter what veggie the rest of the family was having for dinner, I made sure there was corn, broccoli, or green beans on a little side dish next to his plate. I’d sit, more or less patiently, watching him nibble like a chipmunk on the very tips of the broccoli, slathered in butter, avoiding any stalk.
That was then. Now, he’s 17. He runs 7 – 10 miles a day with the cross-country team. He lifts weights at the rec center. He’s cut his soft drink consumption to two or three a year. He chugs protein shakes instead, eats fruit, veggies, fish. He’s lean with broad, muscular shoulders. The other three eat better, too. Take it from me: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s warm and toasty.
The odds are with you
I’m not saying nothing will ever, ever happen to your precious progeny. Sadly, bad things can happen to kids; they can happen to anybody. That’s tragic. A lot of those things are out of our control. (Take it from the guy who was one flight of stairs away from a massive heart attack!) I’d be devastated if anything happened to one of my kids. What I’m saying is— the odds are in your favor that everything will turn out okay.
We teach our little ones to fear strangers because our CSI-fed imaginations tell us there are predators lurking around every corner. But real life isn’t like Criminal Minds. The statistics show that only a small percentage of children are “abducted” every year and the majority of them involve family members in messy custody battles or some other squabble.
The way child-safety expert Gavin De Becker, author of the book Protecting the Gift, puts it: children are “vastly more likely to have a heart attack…” than get kidnapped by a stranger “…and child heart attacks are so rare that most parents never even consider the risk.” Oh, great, another thing to worry about: kiddy coronaries! Does Bristol-Meyers make Children’s Chewable Plavix?
Who am I kiddin’
I know, parents of small children will never not worry. But I’m telling you from my perch in your future, moms and dads can take it down a notch or two and still be alright. If you do your job even halfway well, your kids’ll turn out okay. Parental anxiety, I’ve found, is like a kidney stone— it too shall pass. And also like a kidney stone, it feels so much better after it does.
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