Parenting Truths 21: Worry is normal

Worry is one of the jobs of parenting. Stuff that you never thought about for yourself–how often you poop, whether you should eat honey or not, how many inches you’ve grown in the last six months, whether your teacher likes you or not–becomes of paramount importance when it’s about your kid.

That’s all normal. I think it’s biologically wired–if early people didn’t worry and keep their infants close, those infants would be stolen by dingoes. We’re still human, so it’s still hardcoded in us to keep kids close and to worry about them. Thinking through the possibilities and how we’d deal with them helps us with mental flexibility and keeps us prepared for the inevitable crisis situations.

If your worry becomes so big that it takes over other parts of your life, and prevents you from having other emotions about your child and the other things you do, that’s a sign that your hormones are out of whack and you need help. Tell your partner or a friend and they’ll help you tell your doctor, and your doctor will get it straightened out. Overwhelming worry is treatable.

But normal worry, worry that’s just one occasional emotion mixed in with all the other emotions, is part of being a parent. As your kids get older and more competent your worries will grow with them. But you’ll be able to meet each stage, prepared. 

One thought on “Parenting Truths 21: Worry is normal”

  1. No one ever told me about the worrying. As parents, we had our first ER visit with our son a few months ago. I cannot even begin to tell you about the horror show; the blood, the screaming. He sustained a facial laceration playing at a friends house while my husband and I were both at our jobs. He was running and fell and hit his face on a bench in the yard. Split lip, through the vermilion border, and knocked his teeth loose. Got THE CALL at work. No pediatrician on duty at the ER. Followed the advice of the doctor who recommended that we sedate him and stitch him up without a local anesthetic, that to give him a shot in that location would cause distortion of the lip and would make it too difficult to suture. Was told that once he was sedated, "he would not remember anything". All of this did not sink in until the procedure was underway. I would have absolutely left the hospital and drove 30 mins to Children’s Hospital if this procedure had been explained to me in a way that I could understand. My brain was completely offline, and my husband was unreachable on a job site, out of cell phone range. Well, sorry doc, but he remembers the pain of having his face stitched up, and I cannot get his screaming out of my head. Still, 5 months later! I could barely function for the days following his injury, suffering bouts of uncontrollable crying and full-blown anxiety. I finally called my therapist, who concluded that my reactions to this event were PTSD. Thank goodness I had someone to talk to. Looking back at this event, I realize that I needed to have an advocate there at the hospital, as it was impossible to for me to really see and hear what was going on, or to make an informed decision about my son’s care. I have a lot of guilt, that I was a bad mom who let my child down, that I was unable to handle a crisis. My husband’s reaction to this event has been less than stellar, and unfortunately this just feeds my feelings of guilt. He feels it was essentially my fault this happened – I should have been home with my son instead of at work, and that my friend who was babysitting him that day was irresponsible for allowing this to happen, as if running and tripping are preventable. My therapist pointed out that he is more scared than I am, that his worry is deeper, and his behavior is primarily fear-based. My son had fallen countless times as a toddler, and has suffered smaller injuries right in front of me, so I am not going to buy into his logic. His pediatrician offered up this comment, during a follow-up appointment: "just wait until he starts playing sports". Great! The worry is there, that I will be mutilated if something happens to my son. Agreed, it used to be potty related, sleep related, food related. Now it’s 1st grade worries that he won’t have friends, that he talks to himself too much and will subsequently be hit by a car because he is re-enacting a spongebob episode in his head, and that his "quirkiness" will put him in the path of bullies, students and teachers alike. I worry about all this, and I admit it is becoming all-consuming. Could it be peri-menopause? I guess I should look into that. Could it be that I feel my son’s quirks are a cause for concern? I guess i should start digging into that too. But right now all can do is try to recover from the flood we had last week, and deal with filing an insurance claim for the first time ever, and get to the doctor for my sinus infection, and somehow get some crap together for back to school, while worrying about where all the money is going to come from to get all this done. Wait, what was I talking about? Occasional worry + other emotions = normal. So we are all good here.
    Thanks for all you do here. I have been an avid reader of your blog since 2008 and it has been an invaluable resource, and sometimes a literal life-saver during those long nights of nursing and sleep deprivation and doubt. No one tells me I am doing a good job, but you do. And always when I need to hear it. So thanks:)

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