On liberating ourselves from worrying about our kids

April 18 | Guest post by Juana Bee
Kids jumping on the sandbar 3
Photo by bdamna, used with Creative Commons license.

My kids are perfect the way they are. Every parent says this — well, maybe not every, but enough. We might even believe it when we say it (or a part of us does). But the same parent worries, too: my children aren't getting enough to really develop into their full potential. I'm not doing enough to give them the best start in life.

I have worried about getting my kids services they need to be the best kid possible with the best tools possible. I have worried about giving them a team of experts who "know what they're doing." I have read book after book of admittedly helpful and useful information, but how helpful is it when, after consuming the words on a page, I lose sleep at night wondering if his life at school could be better, wondering how her self-esteem is coping? These books offer great strategies, but they do nothing to soothe a worried parent's soul.

I got so wrapped up in trying to mold the world around my children — because nothing is wrong with them, and nothing ever has been wrong with them, nor will it ever be; it's the world that has the problems. I got so wrapped up in trying to protect my children, do you know what I did?

I forgot about my children.

I hadn't even realized it. Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, I was cooking with my daughter. I don't even remember what was said or what we were doing, but she said something particularly smart-alecky and looked up at me and flashed a sparkly eyed grin that seemed well beyond her five years… and it hit me.

My children are happy. Isn't this the only thing that matters?

After everything they've been through, the trauma, the changes, the uncertainties; everything I had to pull myself out of to be 100% with them now, after all that, did I really forget what it was for?

Then, the other night, my son had a school vocal concert. He stood tall on the risers and beamed widely until he saw us. And then, he positively radiated. Even before he ever noticed us, though, he was comfortable, confident, assured. And maybe it's all in my head, but this hard-of-hearing mama actually heard her little boy's voice sing out so loud she could hear him apart from the other 70 kids there.

My children are confident. Confident and happy. What have I been so worried about?

I've been worried my children aren't making healthy decisions, they're eating crap and watching too much TV. I've been worried they're too loud/too withdrawn; too focused/too frenetic; too this/too that and the other.

Every parent does this.

And I'm here to tell you: stop. It's not worth it. It'll eat you up, and one day, you'll look at your kiddos and realize you've missed a significant chunk of their childhood. I'm lucky. I caught it early.

I shouldn't take all the credit. My son's teacher helped. I spilled all of my worries out to her, and she said, "You know, I get it. I come home from work some days, and all I want to do is turn the TV on and zone out for an hour. I don't even watch it. It's just there." I complained he didn't like going outside and riding his bike anymore, and she said, "He really does love those video games, doesn't he? You know, he seems to enjoy imaginative play with his friends here at school, and part of that is running around and pretending to be characters from those games. He really does love a good sprint!" Two beats later, she said, "I notice he's also not just a good reader, but he enjoys reading. He's quite intelligent."

It's a trip, this parenthood thing.

So quit worrying about your kids. Just watch them. Observe, marvel! They're unique, constantly evolving specimens, and moments are too short to be spent worrying about how to make the world better for them.

Wanna make the world better for your kids? Remember one thing: you are their world. It doesn't matter if your children are three, thirteen, or thirty. You will always be their world.

Keep your corner tidy.

They'll catch on.

  1. Wow. This was quite emotional for me. So true in every aspect, and also very alarming. I love watching her play. She blows my mind-at two years old!! I just can't believe she was once a helpless infant who couldn't do anything! I definitely feel like making yourself a better person is whats going to make your children better people. I enjoyed this a lot and will probably read it a few more times to really absorb it. ­čÖé

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  2. Amen, I definitely noticed my mom doing this when I was a preteen and despite her spending so much of her time 'for' me, it never felt like she was really with me.

  3. My parents raised us with this attitude and it was a truly beautiful gift. Only now we're all grown up my Mama suddenly has all these regrets and wishes she'd fretted and fussed more, everything from 'why didn't I force you to keep taking math at school' to 'I shouldn't have fed you frozen lasagna and fish fingers every night the year we worked three jobs between us.' I have to grab her and say, 'Listen here, woman, you raised three happy, healthy, intelligent and loving human beings. Where's the pride at!'

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  4. Thanks for the reminder! I notice that when my family spends a lot of time around my very anxious mother-in-law, I start soaking up her nervousness. I have to remember to be confident that I am being a "Good-Enough" Mother and that my child is very happy and secure.

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  5. I love this and needed to read it. Right after my daughter was born, I got this gut sense that she was strong and would tell me what she needed, and for a while I just relied on that and stopped reading parenting books altogether. Now that she's 6 mos old I feel like I've been backsliding into worry a bit, exactly the way you describe here. Thanks for the reminder!!

  6. This whole "Am I doing enough?" starts so early in the parenting timeline! If I miss my prenatal vitamins one day I go into an insta-panic "She's not getting her folic acid!!! Her brain is never going to develop to its full potential! Ahhhhh!!!!" I have to calm myself down with a little "She'll be a great, happy, amazing, confident person if you can just be with her and do the best you can. When you meet her, folic acid will be the last thing on your mind."

    1 agrees
  7. Crying now. Thank you so much. This is something I worry about… too much. I think we all need that slap in the face that tells us to chill out and enjoy them. Have fun with them. Play with them. LOVE them. Wonderfully written.

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