And here we have the latest adventure of our heroine, Anxiety Girl:
I am at a stage in my life where I’m thinking about my next big life event. I’m twenty-eight (or pre-thirty) years old and I’ve been married a few months now and every time I log into The Book of Faces, as I affectionately call Facebook, I see another friend from high school or college announce their engagement or post wedding photos or announce a pregnancy. It is just how it goes. However, Sir and I have made the decision to wait on our own progeny so that I can get more acquainted with military life. Nothing much has happened while we’ve been married and I’m told that’s all about to change in the next few months.
I am one of those people who like to plan. I can’t help it. Not knowing what to do in a situation makes me ridiculously anxious, so to mitigate that stress, I make colour-coded lists and plan ahead. Being neat and tidy helps too, but please don’t confuse that with a love of doing housework. (I’d like a clean home but I hate doing chores; you do the math.) I also learn by actually doing things, as I’m sure many people do. So what does this mean for me? Well. I know we’ll be “transferred” at the end of the year and we should know “soon” where we’ll end up this next tour. But we could go to the South Pacific or to the Pacific Northwest, we could stay where we are right now or be sent to the last place I lived for eight years (ol’ Jacksonville). Sir will be on a boat, doing what he’s trained to do while I’ll just figure things out as they come to me. My list-making skills aren’t very useful to me right now. So , since I have no say in the Navy’s decisions on my life, what do I worry about instead? I worry about my next generation. Bringing forth fruit from my loins. (I’ll never use that phrase again, forgive me.) In short, I’m slightly short of terrified to have kids one day. Apparently, there actually ISN’T a handbook that parents receive in secret that must be kept from their children at all costs. And now you’re going to tell me Santa Claus isn’t real, right? I KNEW it!
Now, any given evening, if I were to turn on the news, just my local news channel, I’d see “news reports” that would either bring me to tears or cause me to turn into a hermit. Just hear me out. Either cities are being burned to the ground by rioters, natural disasters cause destruction on a biblical scale, politicians are being sleazy in general spending taxpayer money on getting nothing accomplished, or various terrorist organisations across the globe are doing terrible evil things because no one seems to like Americans. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, the priority story is when a celebrity couple has a baby and names them after their favourite candy bar, or whatever. Parents are being investigated by Child Protective Services because they allowed their school-age kids to walk home by themselves for a couple of blocks, but a mother who dragged her teenage son out of a riot he participated in can hit him on national television. Let me be clear, I support BOTH parents. But this is no longer the world I grew up in, and I have no idea how to cope.
When I was a kid in the 90s and 00s, I was practically told to stay outside most days. I was a shy kid and I had good friends so my parents didn’t need to worry. I’d come in if I scraped my knee and get a band-aid and a kiss on my boo boo and then I would be sent back outside to play. If I wanted to play inside at a friend’s house, I’d have to ask for permission, and most likely I’d be told, “Yes, but be home at 6 and not a minute later!” and then I’d walk home. By myself. A few blocks at most. Why is this weird now? I see so many parents who do the hovering, or helicoptering with their kids on the playgrounds, or in their little sports or whatever their kids do. I walked to school in fifth grade in North Carolina and middle school in Virginia. I remember my mom walked me the first day and asked if I remembered the way to do it myself the next day. If I couldn’t have found the way alone, she never would have trusted me to do it and I was glad to be given the responsibility to look after my younger sister on the way home too. I was ten or eleven years old. Today, would my parents have been given the evil eye as others drove their children home the .6 of a mile it takes to go from school to the house?
Am I supposed to hover so closely? Will I be a bad mother if I don’t? When they get older, should I do their homework for them or call their teachers when they get bad grades and blame the teacher? If my child gets sick, will I blame the doctors and sue them for not preventing the common cold?
Of course the short answer is no.
I was terribly distressed in a high school play, when a younger girl was given a big leading role in a show that no one particularly thought she should have. We felt she didn’t have the talent (and I freely admit that I VERY STRONGLY disliked this girl on a personal level so perhaps I was biased). Later, I was told that her parents donated a substantial amount of money to the drama department for the production of our show, and isn’t that the way of the world? “He Who Has the Gold Makes the Rules” and all that rot. Where does a parent draw the line between trying to give their kids the best the world has to offer and giving them things they maybe don’t deserve?
I’ve got close friends with new babies and I love helping them out and watching the babies grow. I don’t know how they do it though! They’re amazing! How does a new mother decide who to listen to when she’s getting advice from sooo many places? In my own case, later down the road, I’m sure I’ll be getting it from my mother, mother-in-law, grandma, and my aunts, my best friend and my sister and my sisters-in-law, plus the doctors and nurses I see, and let’s not forget the research I’ll inevitably do on my own on the Internet. Who do I trust when I’ll have so many different pieces of wisdom about, say, when to introduce peanuts to my kid? (But now read this article giving the opposite advice.) In the end, people say to trust your gut. That’s all well and good, but what about those mothers who decide that vaccinations are NOT in the best interest for their children because of the Myth of the Autism Link? Aren’t they trusting their guts too? (Again, I want to be clear here too, that I am TOTALLY pro-vaccinations, but I do feel for those mothers who were given advice from many sources and they trusted the wrong ones. They don’t love their children less than the mothers who chose to vaccinate.)
Add into this equation the fact that I’ll be forced to do a good portion of the parenting by myself because Sir will be under the water for months at a time and you can hopefully see what would get me up in arms. What kind of world is this to bring children into? I hope to raise children who are responsible, kind, intelligent, and so on in a list of all the good traits I can think of, but to accomplish that seems like a tall order in the world we live in today.
Anyway, I don’t have answers yet and I probably won’t have answers even when I have a toddler bouncing around my knees. I’m not looking for advice and consolation here. I am glad to have gotten this off my chest though. I’ll go make a list for something now…groceries maybe. Or baby names for Future Me to have on hand in a few years. (Why put off until tomorrow…)
Photo Credit: Parken Zoo, Sumatran Tiger Wayan