Tag Archives: worry

Worry & Fret: Parenting

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I read Rachel’s recent post (see My House is a Deathtrap for Children) and remembered those days of constant worry and questioning.  Besides listening to his heartbeat whenever possible with a special stethoscope (kindly provided by my sister) during his days in the womb, I read everything (surprise) I could get my hands on about parenting and subscribed to every parenting magazine out there.  I was going to get this right. Vigilant Mama. I think now, thank God, I didn’t have the internet to turn to or I might have been committed.

The worries? When Nick first rolled over, he was in the family room.  I wasn’t there.  Apparently my golden retriever was watching him (so much for constant vigilance), and he rolled right across the room onto the single layer of red brick that formed the hearth of our fireplace. I found him there with a slight mark on his sweet head and hoped that no one would call DCFS but wondered if I would should turn myself in.  I knew I needed to be careful when he was on a bed, but who mentioned they could cover such a large area when rolling over?  The guilt I felt as a mom who worked outside the house played into this and I concluded that I was not cut out for this motherhood gig. I vowed to remain ever vigilant so that he would never be injured again.

Those who are reading this, and know my son, are chuckling. Or perhaps laughing out loud.  I know we didn’t break every record for trips to the ER but it seemed to me we did.  What kid has 2 concussions before starting high school?  Or who has to have his face sewn up (I will never get over this one) when he is only 4 years old, and making his stage debut as Joseph (Mary’s guy, earthly father of Jesus) the next evening?  Or breaks his arm playing shortstop while all of us are watching him make, what my husband called at the moment, “an all- star play, he could break his arm doing that!”  I have only begun to list these moments and I will stop now because I am having heart palpitations.  I never did make the world completely safe for him – despite my desire to remove all possible sources of harm.

Thank God he didn’t play football in high school (I won this battle) but he still managed to injure his knee playing basketball, which ended up leading to his vocation but that’s another story.  He will be twenty three in a matter of months and I still lay awake at night worrying about everything: is he pushing himself too hard?  Not enough?  Who is this girl he’s dating?  Dear God, please keep him safe on the subway…!  You get the idea.  It is never a good thing to wake up at 3 a.m. because generally I get through this list and then some before dawn.

The battles?  Oh my God.  So many. Over so little. Or so much.  “You may not stay out that late.”  “No you cannot eat that junk, drink that sugar…!” “No video games!”  “You said what to the Principal?!?”  “You call this a completed project???” And so on.  My days as enforcer, “Hurricane Mama,” Big Meanie are over.  Now, I answer the phone and try to remain calm, reasonable, helpful, the sage advisor.  We won’t discuss the dialogue with my inner self which I have at the same time I am dispensing pearls of wisdom!

And despite the fact that he seems so grounded and solid and is taking on the world 1000 miles from home, I am waiting for some deep-seated neuroses to appear – created at some dark parenting moment in the past, when I really, really screwed up.

No, Rachel.  The doctor did not need to tell you to be paranoid.  It is hard-wired deep within us.

And although I am no longer vacuuming like a madwoman or scrubbing floors with massive amounts of disinfectant (I know, there are harmful chemicals in these things so I was careful to rinse, but I still worry that these chemicals did some latent harm), I often scour the internet looking for tips on how to be a great long-distance parent to a kid in his twenties.

Maybe I need to run over and help Rachel scrub her floors with vinegar.

-Karen261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n - Version 2

For Starters

An introduction to my mom life.

It’s my son’s first year working as an actor in New York City. Even though he has lived in NYC since starting college in 2009, there still are days I am certain that he has somehow fallen in harm’s way and perhaps THIS TIME, he is lying unconscious and in mortal peril in a hospital or the subway or possibly the morgue (which would obviously mean way more than unconscious), but no one knows that they are supposed to call and inform his mother.  It does help, at least temporarily, when my son returns my phone calls or responds to text messages with “I’m okay, mom!” But like Rachel, I am usually very worried that something is terribly wrong unless I’ve talked to him in the last hour. Did I mention that he’s 22 and not an infant?

This parenting gig is the most overwhelming experience of my life to date and I wouldn’t change any of it for anything. It is full of wonder and love and joy so intense, I think my heart might burst. BUT (and there always is a BUT ), to balance the joy and awe, there is also this equally intense “worry and fret” thing that comes along with it. In these past 22+ years, my mind has been flooded with concerns both mundane and huge that center around the well-being and happiness of my now adult son…and it doesn’t seem to end no matter how many birthday candles we blow out each year. And like Rachel, there has been a lot of walking forward, putting one foot in front of the other, and trying to do the next right thing as a mom.

And in my experience, there is a lot of talking to/debating with yourself involved in being a mom (see Rachel’s thoughts 1-4). That’s why I believe it is important to talk to other moms and ask questions and then just GO WITH YOUR GUT.

I was a lawyer with an active law practice when my son was born and went back to work when he was 3 months old. I needed to pay the mortgage (my son’s dad was a young resident at University of Chicago hospitals), put food on the table and make the car payment. I compartmentalized and kept putting one foot in front of the other, but I worked to make it home as early as possible and to work from home whenever I could. Much of the time, I will admit, I was miserable – torn between being with my beautiful boy and doing what needed to be done at work. I worked out what was, in retrospect, an incredible daycare situation with Nick in a wonderful home daycare setting where he grew and developed skill sets I would never have been able to teach him (hitting baseballs, shooting free throws, fielding ground balls).

But I never stopped missing him. There was always a little bit of grief in my heart everyday. My head saw the benefits of working mom but my heart never quite believed it.

But day care moves into before/after-school care in the blink of an eye. We got lucky there as well. Miss Debbie, our angel. I learned as a parent there are many angels out there ready to help us parent. That village thing. And then after-school sports practices and games, theater rehearsals, band concerts take the place of the caretakers…and then they go to college. Sometimes 800 miles away from home. And still, there was and is a little bit of grief in my heart everyday. Because no matter how old, our children are still our children. And as parents we start letting go from day 1, whether we work outside the home or stay at home.

And the letting go is never ever easy for any mom. Because being a mom is hard work.

And yes, we learn there are more questions and few answers. Here’s to mulling over the possibilities together.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n - Version 2 -Karen