Please don’t tell me that I am ungrateful because you and your spouse have been trying for years and after cycle after cycle of fertility treatments you began the adoption process and you were already to adopt a beautiful child from Vietnam and while you were inflight Asia to pick her up, her mom showed up to collect her daughter with her new rich boyfriend already to start over their family life together. Don’t tell me that because that’s my girlfriend’s story……
I ask this rhetorical question because right now I am having a stressful week due to problems that one of my kids is having. I knew being a parent would be hard hard work. I would be physically spent (I have a 9,7, 5, and 2 year old), that I would have little time for myself (although I wasn’t prepared for my lack of good and consistent personal hygiene) and that I would be rewarded with precious (abet brief) moments of pure, unconditional love. The part of parenting that I wasn’t prepared for is the non-stop worrying. I worry about the alarm not going off in the morning, my child being lice-free (although its not the shameful plague here, its a pain in the ass), that my kids eat a good lunch, that they don’t fall of headfirst off the monkey bars, and that they get their school work done so that they can eek out a few hours of fun and relaxation before the whole drill starts again. That kind of worrying I can control. I can ignore the small stuff when I need to. But no matter how in check my incidental neurosis may be, I cant help but worry that my children aren’t happy. I worry that my children don’t have good friends, that their teachers don’t appreciate their specialness, that an older, wiser kid is going to take all the fantasy and mystery from their childhood… But most of all I worry that someone is going to be really cruel to them and make them feel scared or even worse, make them feel like shit.
I know not why this worries me so much. I was not the victim of any profound cruelty or really hurtful behavior as a child. I was fortunate to have two functional and loving parents who made me feel safe and with the usual emotional and social challenges that I faced growing up, I survived just fine. I think that with the exception of 8th grade (yearbook picture: boy haircut+broken arm sling+ peeking case of chicken pox) I have always possessed a sufficient amount of self-esteem, confidence and worth.
When I see my children struggle, it breaks my heart. I inevitably go back to the time that I first looked hard at each of my newborn babies and cried. Cried because I was moved beyond expression by my beautiful babies, but I also think I was in awe of the enormous responsibility to protect and grow these little souls. They couldn’t live without me and I was so in love.
Now I look at them and I think about the time when will they start lying to me, steal money to buy cigarettes and really give me something to worry about.