Worry: The Real Thief of Joy
If you know me, you know I have the smallest inclination towards the dramatics. Somewhere deep, deep in my body lives a small, flamboyant Real Housewife of Georgia. She comes out often. She has big emotions and opinions. If you like me, you learn to tolerate her. It is what it is.
Anywho, I have mini-meltdowns frequently: “My son hit his brother. Obvious rage issues. I need to cut food dye from his diet and limit his screen time. I just read an article about that.”
“My daughter told me she couldn’t sleep last night because she was worried about a test. Anyone could see that she suffers from a dark form of childhood anxiety, and I should spend a couple of hours consulting with Dr. Google.”
“My husband isn’t chatty after supper. Everyone know this is the first sign of an affair. Better call my girlfriends and discuss my options. I can go total hit-em-up-styles and burn all his clothes, or hire a private detective and work through this infidelity.”
I have a lot of over-the-top feelings and ideas. I am faced with hundreds of less-than-real disasters a year. Worry is my mind’s screensaver. It’s where my thoughts go when they aren’t directed for a moment.
As mommas, we sometimes fight imaginary battles in our minds because our real life battles are too big. Too real. Too scary. We worry about things that probably don’t really matter, because our reality is too much to process. We are literally in charge of human beings. We keep them alive. We feed them. We make every decision that matters. All of our little day-to-day choices will account for a large chunk of who they grow to be.
We will one day answer for how we shaped these precious souls we have been entrusted with. What did we do to mold them, to grow their hearts, to shape their views of the world? How did we teach them to treat others? Did we make sure that they really felt loved?
My husband and I make plenty of parenting mistakes, but one thing we have always understood is the importance of spending one-on-one time with each child. With five children (don’t act so shocked… and remember your birth control, friends), it is so important to make each one feel seen, heard and special. This is also important with one or two children, but requires less planning and less ice cream binges at Bruster’s. Thighs be damned. All in the name of good parenting.
Once every couple of months, my son and I get away for mint chocolate chip ice cream and long chats about absolutely nothing. These are the moments that time slows down for a bit. I look at my baby — who has gone and turned into a big kid when I was distracted with grocery lists and all of my imaginary disasters. I haven’t really taken time to look at him for a while. To just take him in.
It's in these moments discussing the growth stages of iguanas that I am reminded that this is the good stuff. This is the blessing of being a parent. Did you know that Iguanas have 2 penises (peni?)? Isaiah did. He shares with me a bunch of things I never knew. I witness all of the magic and wonder what I am too busy to see through my schedule and my lists. I notice his baby fat has completely disappeared. He once had such kissable chubby cheeks, and now he is tall looks like more like a young man than a little baby. My goodness, it’s just not right.
I have squandered too much time away focusing on things that didn’t matter. I have wasted precious moments worrying about things that never happened, or turned out to be less of a big deal than I thought. Other terrible things that never had crossed my mind before, came crashing into our lives with no warning.
My worrying has magically stopped zero bad things from happening. I will never, no matter how hard I try, be able to keep my babies from feeling pain. I teach them, and give them tools, and pray for them constantly. But none of this will make things easy for them. And that’s ok. That’s life.
I look at my now big kid, and I can barely see a resemblance to the jolly baby that I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to at least 20 times a day. I never got annoyed that he demanded me to sing it constantly. Every time we got to the part where the sun came out and dried up all the rain, he would laugh so hard his whole body would jiggle. I would sing forever to keep hearing that sweet little laugh. It’s not fair that it all passed so quickly. What I would give to re-do it all and really enjoy those baby stages.
We talk about school and friends and the 22 jobs he will have when he grows up. He will be the first American President who also happens to be an astronaut, wildlife expert and McDonald’s worker.
One day, our laughs over ice cream and stories may be replaced with silence that I try my best to break through. I hope he will share his big thoughts with me. Will he feel comfortable talking to me about girls? Will he wonder about his purpose? Will he turn to me when he grapples with the wonder God?
I want to be a safe place, and I believe with my whole heart that our talks about making slime and laughing over ice cream induced brain freeze are laying a foundation for that time. But if not, what a gift to spend time with my baby today.
I will not waste these moments worrying or playing “what if?” I will memorize the sweet little voice that squeaks a little when his story is too exciting to tell with just words. I will look deep in those handsome dark eyes, and know that whatever the future brings, this child is a gift. I will spend time laughing and talking about stuff that doesn’t seem to matter, so that I will be trusted with his future conversations. The ones that don’t come so easy.
I will allow him to sit in my lap until my legs fall asleep and I will hold his hugs a little bit longer after he lets go. I will remember what a joy these days are, and what a privilege it is to get to spend time with my little man with no distractions and no agenda. I will enjoy this time together with every fiber of my soul. I will stop worrying so much about tomorrow, so that I can fully appreciate today.