When I was growing up, my mother had a mug with this motto. It was only slightly less inspirational than "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." But it sums up my mother's and my life philosophy perfectly. Why relax when you could better spend your time worrying about something that probably won't happen?
When I was quite small, I remember learning that ulcers were caused by worrying too much. My first thought was that someone was putting something over on me. How could worrying make your tummy hurt? My second thought was to wonder if I was anywhere close to the ulcer-inducing worry threshold. I was the child who woke up a few times (about 17) the night before first grade in a clammy-handed panic over the next day. Would my teacher like me? Would I like my teacher? Would I know anyone in my class? Would I make friends? Would I get good grades? Never being one to deprive others of my charming company, I took my middle of the night worries to my parents. I believe I was told (with increasingly over-evident patience) that everything would be fine and to go back to sleep. This is advice that should be tattooed somewhere on my body.
Of course, now that I am a parent, I'm finding my worry has stepped up a notch. I had gotten my habit somewhat more under control, but being the caretaker for a helpless human being has caused some backsliding in my quest to be the type of person who says "What, me worry?" The following is a random sampling of ridiculous worries I have devoted brain space to in the past week:
What if I forget LO is sitting in his car seat on my trunk and start to drive away?
Is LO sleeping too much?
What if he turns out to be allergic to pet dander, and the industrial sized garbage bag of cat hair that I pick up on a daily basis (and that still does not get all of it) will cause him to have sneezy, watery eyed misery?
Will LO grow up believing that the sounds of Call of Duty, Weeds and 30 Rock are lullabies? (These are the sounds he is most likely to hear while he is napping.) What if he gets to be an adult and will need to have someone play a violent video game or watch an old tv show in order to fall asleep--like it's a strange white noise machine?
Is giving LO one bottle of supplemental formula per day going to compromise his immune system, brain growth and people skills? Does it mean he won't get into Kenyon in 18 years?
Did I leave the oven on?
Is LO sleeping enough?
Are J and I spending enough time interacting with LO?
Is it possible he could get pinworm at the Y's daycare? (This, to be honest, came from me reading the infection section of Baby 411, which was clearly a mistake. There are many things that I could have lived a long and happy life without knowing, and this was one of them. I'm not even remotely a germaphobe, but this made me want to wrap LO and myself in Purell-lined plastic).
Does the fact that I'm not germaphobic put LO at risk for more gross infections?
Are J and I spending too much time interacting with LO? Does he need more time to figure things out on his own?
Does LO spend too much time in his swing?
Will the Sierra Club revoke my membership because I've been using disposable diapers about half the time and haven't put any laundry out on the clothes line since it's gotten cold out?
It's fairly clear that few to none of these will ever come to pass. (When I mentioned a few of these worries to J, he gave me an "Okay, crazy lady" look and told me that it was probably nothing to worry about.) But I'm saving time by worrying about these things before they become problems. I'm nothing if not efficient!
I know a great deal of this comes from my concern that I be a good enough mother to my son. Right after he was born, I found myself thinking over and over that I just wanted to make sure I deserved him. That way madness (and worry) lies, but I couldn't help but think I needed to be better at this than anything else I've ever done.
The thing is, despite my best efforts to the contrary, I am only human. I'm going to f*ck up. Royally. I just hope that I have it in me to make it right or laugh it off or show LO that it's okay to eff up sometimes.
While I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes for a good parent. I decided that it was self-awareness. Knowing that I'm going to mess something up and being cognizant of my frailties will make me a better mama. I have quite a few doozies that might get in my way: I worry too much (natch!). I'm impatient and want everything to happen yesterday. Even after 31 years, I have a temper. I sometimes wish my life away. I jump to conclusions. My fill level for fed-upped-ness is far lower than I ever realized before I started this exercise in self-awareness. I can be inconsistent.
I hope knowing about these frailties will help me to recognize when they're leading me away from my best parenting. I hope LO understands.
I hope that thinking about all this doesn't give me an ulcer.