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Is There a Way to Stop Worrying About My Kids?

Welcome to parenthood.

Stop Worrying - Ask Lenore

Short answer? No.

Long answer? Noooooooooooooo.

I worry all the time—and my kids are old enough to drink. (MORE WORRY!!!) Good luck finding a parent who truly thinks everything is 100% hunky-dory. There’s an old proverb: No family can hang a banner out their window that says, ‘There are no problems here.”

At least, I heard that was an old proverb. If not, it is now an old Lenore saying (old modifying “saying,” not “Lenore”), because IT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE!

It’s not easy to stop worrying.

One of the things driving so many parents crazy is that they think there is an answer out there—some secret way to get their kid to do X or Y, or become more X or Y, or achieve more X or Y, and as soon as that glorious day arrives and the kids stop bickering, the girl gets off her phone, the boy goes to sleep, and grandma calls to say you’re doing an awesome job as a parent—then, at last, you can kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor, because you’ve aced this thing, and bluebirds are flying in a happy ring around your head. And then, wait, WHAT THE ______? 

The kids are chasing each other with chopsticks! Your daughter is TikToking in a bikini! Your son is so awake he is kicking the wall and yelling that he will never ever, ever go to bed and you can’t make him and now, having stubbed his toe, he is screaming in pain. (And where did he learn that word?!?)

So this is just a note to tell you that you are not alone.

I tell you this because people sometimes come to me thinking that I am immune to pain and worry. Having let my 9-year-old ride the subway alone a million years ago, it may seem like I laugh at danger. 

Ha! I don’t even giggle. 

Yes, I do fret a little less than some when it comes to letting kids go outside, do things on their own, or talk to strangers. And I do try to remind us all—myself included—that when adults step back, kids step up. Kids need to take some risks and solve some problems on their own to get some real-world confidence and competence. I stand by that truth, but that’s in part because I spent 14 years as a newspaper reporter, so I know from research. And research says kids playing outside, talking to strangers, walking to school—those just aren’t statistically dangerous. 

But asking me to story worrying is like asking a squirrel to relax and enjoy a pedicure. You would have to stun me with a Valium-tipped dart, while giving me a Swedish massage, while playing Chopin nocturnes, while piping in essential oils, while pouring me a bottomless cup of Swiss Miss with Mini Marshmallows to get me to unlock my worry-clenched teeth long enough to bite my fingernails. And I still wouldn’t chill, not just because kids are kids, but because kids are people.

So they will make terrible decisions. They will ruin wonderful days. They will try their hardest, fill you with hope, and then fail at the last minute in some heartbreaking way.  

But be of good cheer.

Because you, too, stumbled your way to adulthood. You, too, kept your parents awake at all different ages and stages, coming up with novel ways to make their hearts plunge. That’s just the way it goes.

Remember it’s okay not to have all the answers.

No one is as self-directed, well-behaved, and uncomplicated as you think your friends’ kids are. No one is as perfect in private as public. And no one who’s a parent (or even a “parenting expert”) has gotten to this point without amassing a giant pile of worries. These worries are like the evil twins of Happy Meal toys. You’ve got a million of them, you don’t want them, and you keep finding them even years after the kids have left the house.

By the way, no one will buy them at a garage sale, either. But somehow everyone recognizes them—including your vegan friends, which means that they must sometimes buy their kids Happ—well, who really knows what goes on in other families?

All I can tell you is none of them can hang a banner that says, “There are no problems here!”

I hope that is of some comfort.

—Lenore

Check out this Ask Lenore about kids wasting time. 

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