I love being a dad, but while parenthood is certainly the most rewarding job in the world, it comes with a measure of stress. Mostly it’s just an acceptable level of angst about every single decision one makes – every day, forever – and how each one might affect our kids for the rest of their lives.
Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” too violent a film to let them ride the corresponding tower attraction at Disney California Adventure? Will our two oldest kids enjoy first grade and kindergarten when school starts this month? Is that a tick? Does it carry Lyme disease? Did we decide to throw away all of the plastic bowls and cups in our house too late to save our kids from the effects of estrogenic hormones? Is three hours of screen time a day really too much?
That constant hum of worry is something I imagine every mom and dad lives with to some degree. It goes with the procreating territory. It’s the moments of debilitating terror that are decidedly less fun.
A close call driving; a child’s trip and tumble that could have been much worse; a second when you’re not sure where your kid went; a high fever that won’t break: all invoke a rush of adrenalin, epinephrine and other fight-or-flight hormones. Soon the fear is followed by more measured musings about the many ways a pleasant world can go wrong in an instant of inattention, animus or bad luck.
After that passes, finally, there’s a quick giving of thanks for how fortunate we are to have a healthy and happy family.
Worrying about the kids isn’t the only cause of stress. Worrying about the world works, too. What will it be like for the next 60 years or so as they live in it, especially during the decades when I won’t be around?
My wife and I spend endless hours guiding our offspring toward being helpful, kind and cooperative members of society, with a touch of sarcasm and humor mixed in.
Perhaps we should be teaching them survival skills instead. Should I be trying to toughen my kids up in preparation for a future of climate chaos, mass extinction, coastlines inundated by rising seas, terrorism, extremists on the right and left in pitched battles disguised as protests, unaffordable health care with ridiculous deductibles, racial and cultural intolerance, and a rising tide of troubling world views rising to prominence and power in countries near and far?
The truth is I tend to be optimistic by nature, the happy-go-lucky type who believes things will probably work out. And I still am, when…