If you are one of the nearly 7000 people (dupes!) who follow my Facebook page, you probably got annoyed last week when I asked you for topic suggestions. Sue me; I had some writer’s block.
And I have bigger things to worry about than your happiness. As one of my readers reminded me with her suggested topic: Mums suffer from constant ridiculous anxieties re our kids. Like is he eating enough, has dad put his woolly hat on properly, will he get to college if he doesn’t get into the right nursery… and is he eating enough? How about you share your worst and most ludicrous dad anxieties?
Let me start by saying that a propensity for parenting anxiety can’t be so neatly divided by gender. I am often more paranoid and unnecessarily protective of my son than Mom and Buried is, and I think that just comes down to personality. But you’re right, Anonymous Reader: WOMEN BE CRAZY.
Of course, men be crazy too, so let’s talk about the weird ways in which I freak out about my kid, none of which have anything to do with whether my wife is taking care of him properly, but that’s just because moms are so much better at it than dads, right?
So, what do I worry about when it comes to my son?
Ruling out health and food and shelter, I mostly worry that he’ll like soccer too much. Or the Jets too much. Or playing the drums too much. (Most of my worries revolve around my own comfort level because I’m a terrible person.)
Without those things, there isn’t much left that I would call “ludicrous,” but I’ll give it a shot. Here’s an actual list of my parenting concerns and now that I’m done writing it can you please pass me the heartburn medication.
Parenting Stuff That Gives Me Anxiety
- Sports – This used to be a stereotypical guy thing, but the landscape is definitely changing. I wasn’t exactly a star athlete. I dominated before puberty, and then I switched to the marching band because that’s where real heroes are made. The odds of my son making varsity in anything other than clarinet aren’t super-high, but a dad can dream (or have nightmares). I don’t really worry, per se, that he won’t be a jock, because I don’t want him to end up selling used cars after college. But I do want him to be active and enjoy sports, even if he doesn’t end-up lettering. And I definitely want him to enjoy watching and following sports. But that’s a different concern…
- Interests – A reader asked about this, in relation to sports, in last week’s advice column, but it obviously extends beyond favorite teams. I am desperate for my son to like the same stuff I like, whether it’s superheroes, David Lynch, Dostoevsky, the Whedonverse or Spoon. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night, especially when I catch him singing along with Idina Menzel and worry that Mom and Buried is winning the war.
- Money – Will we have enough to give him a good life? Will we have so much that he grows up spoiled and entitled? Will he grow up a Daniel LaRusso or a Johnny Lawrence? Will the dollar still exist? Will.I.Am?
- Social Life – My kid has a pretty outgoing personality, but will that last or will it be teenaged out of him? When gets older will he be popular? Will he be well-liked? Will he get bullied? Will be BE a bully? (Will he grow up a Daniel LaRusso or a Johnny Lawrence?) It shouldn’t be until elementary school that the real socializing begins, where actual friendships are forged and cliques are formed and all of that, and it won’t be until more like junior high that shit really gets real, but he’s likely to experience different levels of acceptance and popularity throughout his life. I hope we raise him with the self-confidence to handle it, and that Mom and Buried and I are able to help him weather the storms of adolescence in an increasingly volatile environment, especially as the pervasiveness and influence of social media and other unforeseen technologies only grows, making the politics of youth, and the potential for sabotage – self and otherwise – even harder to navigate. Fuck it. We’re becoming Amish.
- Education – I don’t yet know much about the so-called Common Core but I’ve caught wind of the frustration and seen a few examples of offending incidents and if I am not yet informed enough to have a real opinion, neither am I comforted by the uproar. And that’s just the system; I also wonder how well Detective Munch will take to school, both intellectually and socially. Then there’s the over-medication issue should someone decide he’s too hyper in class. And the “will college be worth it?” and “will we be able to afford college?” and “will college still exist?” trifecta.
Whoops. Those concerns got increasingly less “ludicrous” as this list evolved. That’s my bad. But let’s not lose sight of the real victim here: ME. I mean, holy cow, I need a vacation just to get my mind right! I haven’t tested it yet but I’m pretty sure that just writing this post raised my blood pressure. I have to stop before I have a heart attack. THANKS, ANONYMOUS READER.
Allow me to cleanse the palate with a quick list of things I don’t worry about: whether my son will like boys or girls; whether my son will become a Brony; whether we’re keeping up with the parenting Joneses; whether my son might get a boo-boo today at school; whether my son will bring a gun to school (we don’t own any guns); whether moms get more credit than dads; whether my son might swear at school (it’s gonna happen and it’s not a big deal); whether he’s going to go to heaven or hell or Narnia or Westeros; whether he’ll be a democrat or a republican (by the time he can vote there will only be one party; wait, there already basically is only one party. Which makes not worrying about it even more valid); what Other Parents think of me…
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I think the key here is realizing that there is a lot more NOT to worry about than there is to get stressed over. At a certain point you just have to trust that you’re raising your kids well and setting a good example and live your life with confidence. Hopefully it will rub off on your spawn, and things will end up okay. So as fellow dad blogger David Vienna suggests, hakuna matata and all that, or else you’ll drive yourself mad. Or else one of your readers will by encouraging you to probe your deepest parenting fears.
Seriously, if my heart explodes anytime soon, this is on YOU, Anonymous Reader! Just in case, I’ve sent this post to the FBI and Liam Neesons, with explicit instructions to seek revenge. How’s that for anxiety?