From Worry-Wart to Chilled Dad…

Back when I was drinking beer with the aid of a funnel and sleeping wherever I came to rest, I really didn’t worry about much.  Sure I worried about who had cash for the pizza man, and what I was going to do with my life, but largely, I lived a carefree life.

When I became a father, my life changed.  Of course it did.  My life changed in all the predictable ways:  increased responsibility, financial strains, sleep deprivation etc.  But I started to worry.   I started to worry a lot.

When a baby is born, worry is born.  Hallmark could sell cards that say “Congratulations on the new baby and your ulcer!”

For me, the worry started long before the nurses let me take my son home from the hospital.   I worried about my role as a father, finances, the future, and what team I would let him cheer for.

But the day we left the hospital, my worry kicked into high gear as I had fits with the car seat and all the drivers on the road – the MANIACS that drive too fast and the MORONS that drive too slow.

My first night home with my son was spent listening and waiting for the next breath.  You did that too?!?   Listening for that next breath can become a preoccupation for many weeks for new parents.

From the breathing, the worry expands to include “What if you take a header down a flight of stairs?” to “That dog probably has rabies!” to “What did you just put in your mouth?”

Most worries are legit and logical, some are not.  Just accept that you will worry. 

You are in this parenting relationship for the long haul.  You are always a parent, no matter if your kids are 4 or 40.

Just ask my folks who helped me survive my divorce a few years ago – a time my mother admits she was the MOST worried about me ever!    Really mom?  The most worried ever?  Believe me, there are plenty of times you should have been more worried (like the time when I was 19 and I passed out in a rose bush with a black widow or this one time at band camp when I …) but alas, I digress…

Just keep your worry in check.  Yes, worry can motivate you to be a more effective parent, but it can also push you to become a crazy neurotic parent that TV reality shows could be based on.

If we can control it, why worry?

If we can’t control it, why worry?

Here are 9 things I DID worry about but have recently become more relaxed about:

Am I a good father?   I constantly worried about whether I was doing a good job and equipping my children with tools to attack and win at life.  I know the clock is ticking before they leave the nest but I am doing enough the intention and involvement is there.

Death.  Death of my children is a major worry, but largely I worry about my own death and what a huge hole that would be.  That is not my ego talking, but simply a reality that the death of a parent is a void that is tough to fill.  This worry impacts bucket list items like skydiving, running with bulls, and going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.   But when my time comes, it’s time.  So live it up!

My children’s spouses.  I know they are young, but will they grow up to choose good life partners or will they make poor choices and end up divorced like me?  I am thrilled now at my second chance to show them what a healthy, loving relationship looks like.  That’s all I can do, they will make their own choices.

Are my children safe?   Common sense, helmets, logical precautions, and just being present and involved helps minimize the risk and worry.   Don’t let rare isolated events that get sensational global media exposure cloud your judgment.   The world is safer now than ever, so relax.   

Kidnapping and “Stranger Danger”.   Is a stranger going to hurt or take my child?  Probably not and statistically very unlikely.  I will teach my children street smarts and to distinguish ‘good’ strangers from bad and to trust their instincts.   That is all I can do.

Idiot drivers on the road.   From drunk drivers to speeders, I used to worry about these idiots wiping out my family or yours.  Am I the only one that points and waves at speeders in school zones?  (FYI, the gun gesture I make with my hand is a RADAR gun, not a gun that I want to shoot you with)I can’t control other drivers, I can only teach my kids caution and safety. 

Bullies.  Will my child be bullied or picked on?  Maybe.  But what can I do?   Go to the schoolyard myself and kick ass?  Nope.  But keeping the paths of communication open will help detect bullying.  Other parents confided that they are worried that their child will BE a bullyWhat can I do to foster an environment that promotes self esteem and confidence?  Let’s face it, with self esteem, all things are possible – its bully kryptonite.

Will I raise a GOOD person?   I used to worry that my children won’t know what it means to be a good friend.   But if they are always watching and listening to me, then I can show them what a good person looks like.  Honesty, integrity, and respect are learned not innate.

Will my children be happy and resilient?  Yes, of course!  They are happy right now.  I will step back and let them make mistakes and learn from them.  They will learn more from life’s experiences than I could ever teach or explain.

Like diaper rashes and video cameras, worry and fear are part of parenting.  But we need to keep things in perspective.  Is your fear and worry logical?

Your worry versus the statistical likelihood of that fear actually happening is worth noting.   If your child has 2 playmates, Jimmy and Johnny, and Jimmy’s dad has a gun and Johnny’s family has a pool, statistically speaking, whose house is more dangerous?   Sorry Johnny, we are partying at Jimmy’s house. 

If I am worried about childhood obesity and healthy eating, then I can control that.  No one has more impact on their diet habits than me!   I buy the food and prepare the meals.

However, the sad reality is that most of my fears and worries are out of my control, no matter how awesome and powerful I think I may be.

Trust your instincts as a parent and as a human that learns from experience.  You know your children best.   Stop worrying and start living… go lean into your own life!

I will be a strong role model in my children’s lives.  I will live my life with purpose, passion, and authenticity.   I will show them ambition and drive.  That is what I can control.    After that, it’s up to them.

Until next time…

worry flowchart