I started this post intending to write “Five Things Parents of Only Children Know,” but got stuck about two paragraphs in. I looked at my title and looked at what I had written and realized everything on the page applied, more or less, to all parents. I could have crossed out the “Only” in the title and written the same post as “Five Things Parents of Children Know.” Whether we have one child or four children, our kids are the centers of our worlds, and as such, most of what we feel as parents is universal. The hardships and struggles, the joys, the fears, the guilt, the pride — these are the feelings that permeate the parenting experience. Perhaps parents of only children worry about the development of their child’s social skills more than a parent of three, and perhaps that parent of three worries about giving equal attention to all of his or her children, but at the heart of it, we all worry about our kids. Worry. Yes, worry is the proverbial sidekick to parenting. When I was discharged from the hospital after having my little one, I was given an infant CPR DVD, a rented breast pump and a book about newborn care. But nowhere in my newly acquired arsenal of parenting information and supplies was a manual on how to manage the worry that comes with raising a child. Now that would have been useful.
The hubs and I have been stuck in hyper “worry mode” for a couple of weeks now. We’re currently living in an almost completely anticipatory manner: We’re preparing for a move in a few months and we’re also applying to kindergarten for our daughter for next year even though we’re not completely sure where we’re moving. Worry. How will the child handle the disruption of a move, a new school and moving farther away from cousins and family she’s extremely close to? Worry. And to top it all off, the kiddo is having a shit time at school this year. Worry.
When our daughter has a kid-sized worry I tell her worrying is for grown-ups, not for kids. Then I tell her to put her worry in my hand so I can take the burden from her. She’ll gently place the worry in my hand, I’ll close my fist around it, then we decide what we’re going to do with that worry. We’ll throw it out the window, put it under the pillow or, when she’s pissed, smash it. Last night, the hubs tried to pull my own trick on me when he noticed I was fretting about something. “Can you put some worries in my hand so I can take them on for you?” he asked. (Yeah, he is the very best.) If only it were that easy.
I often have this recurring dream that I’m running through the airport, suitcase in hand, trying to make a flight that I’m late for. As I near the gate, my suitcase rips open and all of my clothes go flying all over the airport floor. I scramble to gather them up and shove them back into their container. I like to think of worry in this way — like a suitcase I carry around with me. Sometimes, it’s a neat, tiny bag that I can comfortably tote around with me as I go about my day. Other times, it’s an unwieldy, cumbersome suitcase with one broken wheel and it’s bursting at the seams, ready to spill its contents everywhere for everyone to see. When the parenting experts finally get around to writing that worry manual that they’ll hand out to new parents, I suppose it will never be able to tell us how to eliminate worry from our lives. We’re parents, after all, and some worry is necessary. But perhaps it can tell us how to transform our giant unwieldy suitcases into manageable little tote bags. Because a parent with a handy tote bag, now that is a force to be reckoned with.