Anxious Parenting – UPDATED

I love this piece by David Mills:

Once at a cookout, our youngest son and another boy, both seven or eight, were bouncing from opposite sides of the trampoline and bumping into each other in the middle, laughing hysterically as they fell down. Neither was a physically adventurous child, and they collided very gently. They loved the game, and would have played it for hours.

The other boy’s father and I were talking while we watched them, when the boy’s mother came over, drew her husband aside, and dressed him down in one of those hissed conversations that carry farther than intended. She was shocked at his carelessness in letting their son do something so dangerous. He came back and broke up the game.

If our older son had played the same game at the same age with his friends, they would have been bruised and possibly bloody, and the bruises and the blood would have been part of the pleasure. (This would have been true of me as well.) I can hear him telling the story later, in an excited, slightly boastful voice, explaining how we were knocking each other down and then we ran into each other really hard and we both got bloody noses and, mom, there was blood all over the place! And he would have been a happier boy for it.

Sometimes I feel we are the only parents left who would enjoy hearing our son say that there was blood all over the place. I am tempted to believe that I, only I am left, but of course there are others. But in certain areas and in certain social circles, not many. And in certain family sizes, like those with one or two children, almost none.

Perhaps it’s because I only have two children, (that’s Elder Son, barefoot near brick in the picture!) but there is something about parenthood, and the insane love you feel for your children, that allows one’s imagination to take turns into the gruesome and the macabre like nothing else. I sympathized with Mills in this column, but I also identified with the yuppie parents. I never knew what sort of fearsome darkness lurked within my own psyche, until I had kids.

Which is why, the older I get, the more wise and instructive seem to be John Paul II’s constant reminder: “Do not be afraid.” I thought about that at Adoration, today, and once more was reminded:

“Everything” is about nothing
Everything ended with the sacrifice of the Lamb.
All is consummated.
We are forever and always at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, at the Resurrection.
Time ended with the tearing of the veil and the rolling back of the stone.
The rest is illusion and catching up.
There is nothing to be afraid of.

Sometimes, when it’s late at night, and your child is driving on a road full of black ice, or thrashing about in a raging fever, remembering this is the only way to keep your own fears from driving you into a ditch.

UPDATE: I’ve posted it before, but if you have not read Tim Dalrymple’s Why we have children, don’t miss it.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Manny

    As it so happens i just posted a blog on my adopted son (titled “Matthew and the Pediatrician”) and our pediatrician visit, and how the pediatrician says our son is too passive. Any experienced parents out there please go over and offer me some advice as to whether the pediatrician is bonkers or correct. I know what you mean Anchoress about being overly cautious. I only have my Matthew. But do you think having lots of children would make us any less cautious? I don’t know the answer.

    [I'm not sure what "too passive" means. Does he mean "obedient"? Our Elder Son was extremely obedient and mannerly, but I'd never have called him "passive." Perhaps your son, being adopted, is merely observant? -admin]

  • Tmking Casa

    This past Sunday … I was sleeping in a bit late, and I was in a DEEP sleep.

    On this morning, I awoke to the sound of my snarling dogs and my daughter’s voice screaming “Mommy” and “Help me”.

    I went from dead asleep to 90 miles/hour in 2 seconds …. going past my awake husband who was aware of the situation.

    BTW … TempurPedic matttress provide no traction when trying to spring out of bed. I hit the floor with my feet going so fast that my eye couldn’t catch up.

    Halfway down the hall, the momentum of my large-ish upper body overtook my feet … resulting in a quite nice lump on my head where I hit the door jamb and 2 5″ bruises on my knees, with a little burn for the sake of the pants I was wearing.

    Door jamb not withstanding … I got to my feet and flashed into the family room … to see that children and canines were OK … just a little dust-up over a toy … tails were wagging, children smiling

    Life was good!!

    There are not words to describe the terror of being awakened with a fearsome noise (dogs snarling) and your child screaming “Mama, help me” … there is no context, there are no assessments — it is pure primal protection.

    My knees and head will heal … but the memory of hurtling my body down the hall (no holds barred) at the speed of light to protect one of my children … that shows me that the human spirit is the fieriest forces of nature – particularly when it is defining the child and the parent.

  • bigmomma

    I have 9, and the answer is NO.

  • Kathleen

    thank you. that gratuitous slap at parents with “only” one or two children really hurt me, for some reason.

  • joan

    So cute.Adorable baby.Great photo.

  • Andrew B

    I have no children (two step-children, but they came into my life “fully formed”, as it were) and so am no authority on the subject. I have been able to watch my stepdaughter raise her own daughter, and this very topic has been very much discussed of late.

    What is fascinating to me is that my stepdaughter obsesses about things which would never occur to me, and certainly never occured to my own mother. Her current kick is that we MUST NOT have any knives in the kitchen. Huh? My mother’s kitchen was festooned with more dangerous cutlery than a pirates’ convention, yet my siblings and I all survived. In fact, I grew up in a house filled with knives, guns, nasty fishing tackle, sizzling bacon fat, boiling coffee, toxic chemicals, cigarette smoke and gin.

    Somehow–mostly because of close parental supervision and fear of crossing my mother–we all survived. Thank God for small favors.

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  • Bruce in Kansas

    There is a mommy-daddy thing at play in the anxious parent thing as well. The only one of our ten children not in the stitches club (yet) is the one-year-old.

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Didn’t finish… Mom tends to be the more risk averse one while Dad tends to be the one encouraging them to take chances and try adventurous things. They have usually been with Dad (me) when we end up going for stitches. Mom’s a bit of a catastrophic worrier, but she was a school nurse for years. So far, none of the damage has been life-threatening. I broke bones and had stitiches growing up…anyway, passivity is not a problem!

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