There’s enough parental anxiety without the need for shock & awe media marketing
Here’s a tweet from the Stir, part of the Café Mom family of blogs I follow, as a parent-centric blogger:
“Yikes! That Juice Box Could Be Killing Your Kid.”
Hey, we give our kids juice boxes.
Oh, no. They’re going to die.
Of course I clicked on over to the story. That’s what the tweet was intended to do, make me click the link. The editors at the Stir apparently learned their social media outreach from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the publisher-fathers of Yellow Journalism. Upon further review, I discovered that Jay and Chris were not in imminent danger from juice box plague, or whatever horrible calamity that headline was intended to imply. It’s the sugar content in the juice. They’ll die 60 or 70 years from now because of that.
But they are going to die.
They are going to die, and we are going to die, and so are you. Not necessarily in that order.
For some reason, that knowledge doesn’t make me curl up in a fetal position on the couch and await the inevitable, fatal moment in the company of a Mad Men marathon on Netflix.
Why is that? How can human beings, even parents, set aside the rational knowledge of our inevitable demise to go about the mundane daily business of eating, pooping, peeing, working, playing, laughing, frowning, complaining, having sex, driving, walking around and lying on the couch doing nothing at all?
We compartmentalize, certainly. Besides, dying is a long way off … no it isn’t. It’s now. Somewhere in the world, someone just died. And now.
OK, I don’t obsess about this. I really don’t. But why not? How is it that I can sit here and type these words, reach over and take a sip of this glass of Yellow Tail cabernet, pause and listen to my sons and wife playing together upstairs, let the distraction of the sounds outside my window of peeping frogs and playing children far off on a neighborhood street wash over me in the springtime twilight?
I don’t know. Really, I’m not some existential nervous Nellie. I’ve had brushes with death. I know what it’s like to teeter at the edge of the eternal unknown, but it’s not what drives me every day.
My family does that. And so … I worry.
Are they happy?
Are they healthy?
Were the clothes we dressed them in warm enough?
Are they learning in school?
Are they making friends?
When will the seven-year-old graduate to bicycle riding without training wheels?
When will the four-year-old boy finally learn to pee standing up?
Was the last time I yelled at them one of those moments they’ll always remember about me as they grow older?
Or will they remember instead all the fun we’ve had at places like Disney World?
Or will they remember both, and will those memories be charitable toward me?
Does that even matter?
Will they fall off a jungle gym at the after-school center and break a bone or worse?
Are they getting enough sleep?
Do they watch too much TV?
Do they get enough exercise?
What if we’re doing it all wrong?
What’s that odd swelling on the back of the four-year-old’s hand?
Should we take him to the doctor?
What if we don’t and his hand turns gangrenous?
Do they even make those metal claw hands for four-year-olds?
What if he sticks himself in the eye with his sharp metal claw hand?
And on …
And on …
And on …
Trust in God, you say? OK.
And, you know … every genocide and killer storm and epidemic plague in the history of the world.
No, that’s not going to work for me. See, the way I figure it, God’s not all that interested in the day-to-day minutia that make up our lives. And that’s the stuff I, as a parent, worry about the most. The stuff that informs and shapes the minds of our children, the stuff that won’t kill them in 60 or 70 years, the stuff that parent-centric websites like Cafe Mom would have a hard time turning into a sensationalist tweet straight out of the late 1800s Yellow Journalism playbook.
No, I worry about whether our kids are exposed to enough of the things that will help them live during their terribly long, terribly brief time on Earth.
And I worry that they might fall down and I won’t be there to pick them up, to soothe their anxieties, to tend their wounds. I worry about that, and oh, so much more. I’m a parent. It’s what we do. Worry.
Bad things are going to happen. Bad things, man.
But oh, yes. Yes.
How do we, parents, keep from going utterly insane under the weight of the inevitable?
How do we stop worrying, subdue the anxiety?
We don’t. We participate in it. We say yes to parental anxiety.
Something … life … could be killing our kids!
Yes. Yes, it is.
Not yet, though. Not yet.
—first appeared on Dad Scribe
—photo by Colin_K/Flickr