When I really worry about something, I don’t just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don’t go. I’m too worried to go. I don’t want to interrupt my worrying to go. —J.D. Salinger, “Catcher in the Rye”
I’ve come to the conclusion that we, as in those of us who are now raising kids from 0 to 18, are the first generation of parents to chronically beat ourselves up over every trivial thing about those kids.
Except for maybe three or four generations ago, the first settlers in “these parts,” were walking in head-high grass to stake a piece of ground. I imagine they had issues of their own to work through, leaving the threat of structured playtime and cyber bullying for their future descendants.
But our land is settled. Our nerves, not so much. I feel really bad for us sometimes. As the world has become smaller through information and the end of personal privacy, the fear bar has risen. We’re all just roaming around, over-thinking it all, wondering if we’re doing any of this right. And I don’t care how you classify yourself, it all boils down to the same thing—fear:
• “Anxiety in the heart of man weighs it down,” Proverbs 12:25.
• “Before he gets what he wants, he worries lest he should not get it. After he has got it, he worries lest he should lose it; and when he worries, there is nothing he will not proceed” —Confucius.
• “If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew, just go right along and you’ll start happening too” —Dr. Seuss.
The ironic thing is if you spend a little time with young kids who haven’t yet been tainted by life, their concept of worry (in most cases) hasn’t been formed. Which is what makes the act of worrying on the parent’s part all the sadder. I’m up for wallowing in bouts of worry when called for, but after awhile it becomes a hassle, a real downer.
I can recall dozens of things regarding my kids that I’ve spent a significant amount of time worrying over in the past month. Some justified, some not. Which means I chose to spend a big chunk of my allotted 24 hours per day stirring a big pot of “I am going to screw them up!” stew.
In my experience, the kids, reaching a certain level of maturity and experience in their own right, may pull you back into the here and now, a virtual slap across the face, per se. As my oldest daughter did when I raced up and down the stairs for the umpteenth time in my quest to cross off every final entry on my crisp bathroom redo list. Three little words from the mouth of a child, “Just sit down.”
Great advice from my unusually centered pre-teen. Now, I may have chosen to fly right by yelling, “I can’t! I have to get this done!” Still, I appreciate her interjection. And I will take it to heart.
Oh, who am I kidding? The truth is I’ll worry that my pooh-poohing of her suggestion will show her that she has to run around like a mad woman to feel any sense of accomplishment. They learn from example, I hear.
I suspect that was her unpretentious way of telling me to find my way back to the basics, to “settle my land” so to speak. Or maybe to at least pull my head out of the grass.