Does More WORRY = More LOVE?

Readers zthazabeab
— This is a fantastic essay from Parents, by Kara Corridan, the magazine’s health editor. Read the whole thing here.  – L

Worry Doesn’t Equal Love by Kara Corridan

Lately I’ve felt as though I’m part of a competition I didn’t enter. It’s called “Who Loves Her Child More?” And I seem to be losing–if the only way to succeed in it is to worry.

It started at the church carnival. My almost-4-year-old found one of the few rides she was tall enough to go on, the kind where you sit in an “animal” that goes up and down while rotating around the center pole. Each time my daughter passed me in her flying unicorn–roughly every 30 seconds–she’d gleefully wave and shout “Hi, Mommy!”

A mom I know appeared at my side. “My boys kept asking to go on that,” she said by way of greeting. “I was like, ‘Forget it.’ There’s no way I’m letting them on that thing.” She visibly shuddered.

“This is Lila’s fourth time,” I replied, not taking my eyes off my child’s delighted little face.

The mom shook her head. “I would be sick if my kids went on that. It looks so rickety. And check out the guy running it.” While not the most attractive man I’d ever seen, he seemed to be doing his job perfectly well. Mother Doomsday moved on, perhaps to spread fear at the teacup ride.

A few months later I was chatting with a woman in the pediatrician’s waiting room. The subject of drop-off  birthday parties came up and I shared my view: They’re awesome, and I couldn’t wait for the day when my younger girl was old enough for them.

I rely on those precious 90 to 120 minutes to scramble around and complete as many family-related errands in a 15-mile radius as I can. The woman explained, “I’m not big on drop-offs. But that’s just me. I’m a worrier. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to my daughter when I wasn’t there.” More…

Lenore here: The rest of the essay is every bit as wonderful. Let me just add my frustration with the, “I’d never forgive myself if…” deal. Thinking that way makes the parent’s feelings paramount. It’s not only worst-first thinking, it’s “my-neurosis-trumps-any-upside-for-you-kiddo” thinking. It’s all about calming the parents’ nerves. There’s something creepy about seeing your child’s life through the lens of how guilty you’d feel if anything even unpredictable happened to them, so your “only” alternative is to bubblewrap. – L.

Can I hold you this way till you're about 37?

Can I hold you this way till you’re about 37?


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56 Responses to Does More WORRY = More LOVE?

  1. Becky November 13, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Some time back I got caught in an online discussion with some folks regarding a sad news incident where a parent had forgotten their child in a locked car, resulting in the child’s death. There was one mother in the discussion who was of the firm opinion that anyone who ever forgot their child for even ONE SECOND was not fit to be a parent. She refused to accept that anyone who could possibly forget that their child was in the backseat of a car, or not know where exactly their child was at any given moment. was a terrible person and deserving of the most heinous of punishments. Most of the other commentators were, if not forgiving of the parent in the story, at least able to acknowledge that occasional lapses in memory/consciousness do occur. This woman, however, was absolutely, 100% sure she had never once put her two children out of her mind for even a second of their entire lives. She basically accused every sensible person on the discussion thread (including those who admitted to having experienced the common ‘highway hypnosis’ effect from time to time) bad parents. After some back and forth, she also admitted to having been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which she agreed could have contributed to her hyper-awareness.

    So, is it possible that non-beneficial worry about the safety of one’s children is, in fact, a result of a mental disorder?

  2. Mark Roulo November 13, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    I have a slightly different view: I love my child too much to let his life be constrained by *MY* fears.

    Because of this, he has often been allowed to do things before his age mates. Things like walk to a friends house. Things like walk to our downtown library. Things like walk to our downtown and eat at a sit down restaurant alone (then go to a bookstore). Things like take our region’s light-rail system alone at age ten.

    And he has been lost before, too (a whole hour at the Phoenix zoo when we had a mixup about where he could go … he was 7 at the time; once in Manhattan when he was a bit older). These things don’t always go perfectly. And I worry. But *he* is growing up and learning how to navigate the real world and learning independence.

    Were he to die while off being independent, I would be devastated … but I wouldn’t blame myself. I’m making a conscious risk/reward evaluation and we might get unlucky. But we can get unlucky the other way, too, where he ages but does not grow up.

  3. pentamom November 13, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    “or not know where exactly their child was at any given moment. was a terrible person and deserving of the most heinous of punishments.”

    Not only is a person who is unaware at times of “exactly” where their child over the age of 2 is at any given moment not terrible, I’d say anyone who IS aware of the precise whereabouts of a post-toddler at all times without exception is not being all that great of a parent. If a child can’t move from room to room within a house while the parent’s attention is elsewhere at the age of three, or be running in and out of doors without the parent constantly having to notice it by the age of six or so, something is wrong. Of course you don’t want to be unaware of your three-year-old’s actions for long periods of time, but if he can’t EVER walk from the living room to the kitchen without you immediately noticing, you’re smothering and wasting your own time in pointless hovering.

  4. steve November 13, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Re: ” I’d never forgive myself if something happened to my daughter when I wasn’t there.”

    A good response might be:

    “Does that mean you’d feel so much better if your child died in your arms?”

  5. SKL November 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    I’m not really sure how some parents get that “I’d never forgive myself” feeling. I mean, obviously if something awful happened to any of our children, we’d probably regret something or other if we thought for an instant that making a different choice would bring our child back. But having not in fact lived through that, what makes a parent go over that scenario to the point of being paralyzed by it? Too much time on their hands? Or not enough encouragement to take “baby steps”?

    When I became a mom, I wanted to keep my kids close to me even though I worked. I figured somehow that would be really good for them. I hired a nanny and I could hear every sound they made all day long. However, the time came – earlier than expected – when I decided the full-time nanny gig wasn’t working out and they needed to go to full-time daycare. I felt like I was choosing the lesser of two evils and was kind of disappointed. It took me about 2 days to realize that was the best thing I could have done for them under our circumstances. That’s just one example, but a lot of times people are afraid to take that first leap of faith, and why is that?

    Similar to the story, last weekend I took my kids to an indoor water park. I let my kids go off on their own while I chatted with other parents. Occasionally I hung out by the side to cheer my kids on, especially the one who really craves that kind of attention. I watched her come down the slide into water over her head and swim to the side and repeat the process many times, always with a big smile. Meanwhile a other moms, whose kids were big enough to stand with their heads out of the water, would go in and retrieve their kids each time. I don’t know, maybe that is what the kid needed to feel secure, or maybe the mom thought that was what good moms have to do. I didn’t even bring a swimsuit because my kids do not in fact need me in the pool. Of course nobody said anything to me, but my kids were most certainly being well cared for. They were being provided with the opportunity to get exercise and practice life skills such as swimming, making their own choices and plans, communicating to get what they needed, etc. When I remember that I have only 10.5 years before they are off to college, I wonder if I am giving them enough freedom, not whether I am protecting them from the world well enough.

  6. Stephanie November 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    My kids love carnival rides. Sure, they often look rickety, but they’re safe enough. And what is the guy going to do to that precious snowflake right there in the carnival anyhow? Pretty sure ugly’s not a crime.

    I have to admit that there are some parties where I enjoy not dropping my kids off. That would be when the parents socialize and just let the kids do their thing. For me, sticking around the party with my 4 year old might just be a break, as she’s too busy playing with friends to care that I’m chatting with parents I rarely get to talk to. Now if all the parents are obsessing over the kids, absolutely, that’s boring and I’d rather leave.

    Stuff happens to kids, even if you’re there. I’d trust my older two at a pool party without me, because they’re competent enough at swimming, and most families with pools are good about having enough supervision. They don’t want the liability if anything goes wrong, I’m sure.

    My youngest doesn’t go to pool parties without me, because she doesn’t swim and doesn’t yet have enough sense about water. She is the child who steps off the pool steps and gets in over her head and has to be pulled up by the nearest adult. I wasn’t the nearest adult when that happened, but I was there to tell him that she absolutely needed help… not that he wasn’t figuring that out already. It was only a bad dunk, not more serious than that, but it still keeps me there any time she’ll be near a pool. Life jackets came out after that. They weren’t out at first because I really want her to quit relying on devices, so we always start things out without anything.

    Of course, kids learn from these things, and my daughter was more careful in the pool the rest of the day. Hopefully swim lessons will finally click for her next summer, so she’ll be a little safer.

  7. Michelle November 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    I’d never forgive myself if I condemned my kids to a life without carousels, birthday parties, or daycamp, especially if it involved spending a significant amount of their day locked up behind bars and bullet-proof glass.

    I wonder if the parents who advocate pat-downs for adults entering the elementary school realize that the next step is pat-downs for students entering the high school? But I guess if your kids don’t have anything to hide, and if we really care about their safety, then you shouldn’t mind your precious babies being treated like criminals — for their own good, right?

  8. Beth November 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

    The whole concept of parents staying at a child’s birthday party amazes and confuses me. My kids are older so it’s no longer an issue, but if any parent(s) had stayed at one of their birthday parties I would have been beyond peeved. I planned activities and food for kids, not adults, and I wouldn’t have wanted them hanging around my small house even if they insisted on not wanting food, drink, or entertainment.

  9. Buffy November 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    I SO hate the “if you don’t have anything to hide…..” argument. So much. Not having anything to hide doesn’t mean I want everyone to know my business. It doesn’t mean I want everyone I come across to know what I carry in my purse. It doesn’t mean I want a bunch of people at the airport to peruse the contents of my suitcase. And it definitely doesn’t mean I need to give up all my freedoms and right to privacy.

  10. Hels November 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    My question to such parents would be, “So, will you magically stop worrying on their 18th birthday?” And if the answer something along the lines of “By then they will be grown and will be able to take care of themselves” I will laugh in their face and ask “Will they? WHen they never ever learned to?”

  11. Becca November 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Great article, thanks for posting.

    What gets me is the whole ‘we must have these safety precautions because we want what’s best for our children’ argument. There are no many more aspects of ‘best’ than safety – including the freedom take risks (climb a tree, say), the input in upbringing to make sure that the child can calculate the risk (‘I’ve climbed a tree similar to this one, but I’ll just avoid that dead branch there…’) and the confidence that comes from making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences.

    My daughter, who is just 12, gets the train home from school ten miles away. The other day she rang me in a lather – had got the wrong train, to the wrong station. No problem, I said: just get the first train back the other way to your usual station, get off, and get a train home. She did -she called in to let me know where she was on the way – and she was really quite self-satisfied when she got home. I said to her, ‘What was the most important thing you learned from that?’ ‘Er… to get the right train home?’

    ‘No,’ I said, ‘the other important thing: that it can all go wrong and you can sort yourself out.’

    And has she been terrified of getting the train since? Of course not. Life is about risk, and growing up is about learning to deal with it, not having Mum and Dad deal with it for you at every single turn.

  12. lollipoplover November 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    I would never win in a worry competition. I have fears (mostly irrational- centipedes and clowns petrify me) but I’m also aware of what is dangerous and that even with a superhero cape, I will never be able to make my children completely safe no matter how much I worry. I might as well let them enjoy life and try to appeal to their common sense. I won’t keep them off of carnival rides, ever.

    A mom gave me the hairy eyeball last week when she asked where my middle daughter (11) was during an after school soccer game for my oldest (I had my youngest with me). I told the mom she was at home, making dinner. She was horrified that I left her there alone to “burn the house down”. My youngest daughter chimed in, “Why would she do something stupid like that? She cooks ALL the time and Mom sets off the smoke detector more than she does.” My daughter is a newbie vegetarian and was making veggie quesadillas using a George Foreman grill.
    I think she was just jealous because we were coming home to a yummy dinner and she wasn’t.

  13. Donna November 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    I don’t think free range parents necessarily worry less about their children. I worry about my kid all the time. Since I deal daily with really bizarre situations that actually happened, I may even have more crazy thoughts than some helicopter parents. What I don’t do is put my need to not worry ahead of my daughter’s need to live her life outside of a gilded cage.

    I think helicopter parenting is essentially selfish and lazy parenting. The parenting decisions are made based on what is best for the parents. All that is important is that the parents don’t have to suffer worry, fear, anxiety, guilt, or loss.

    I’ve recently been involved in a case involving a young teenager who suffered a serious head injury a few years ago. His life is shattered and his future is pretty limited. His family is in constant chaos because of his injury-related behavior. He pops into my head these days anytime my daughter climbs onto something and it would be so easy to just tell her that her feet can never leave the ground. But it wouldn’t be fair to her. Or even rational.

  14. Really Bad Mum November 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    @ Donna, I think we all worry, we worry because we love them ( we may not always like them, but we love them ) personally I have found helicopter parents egotistical, holier-then-thou fakes who look down their noses at you, I have found most of it an act they play 24/7. In a mummy group what greater insult and put down is there then the bad/lazy mother label? I have also seen the ones that use hovering and stuff to hide their dirty little secrets eg- marital problems, crazy-arse relatives in jail, going bankrupt, whatever their issue which can never be admitted and their whole focus is proving they are the worlds greatest parent and you are too far beneath them because your kid locks himself in an animal crate/cage and instead of helping free him you laugh and video him contemplate spending the night in there or figuring out a way to unlock it. ( he manage to do it after about 9 minutes hahahah)
    That what I have found with them anyway

  15. Really Bad Mum November 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Oh and can you tell I don’t like my helicopter ‘ my kids are perfect ‘ sister in law?

  16. Lin November 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    I so very much agree with your comment, Lenore. It is selfishness to let your fears be the main decider on how you raise your kids.

    And the other main argument the hoverers use against FRK is laziness. I’ve been annoyed when parents offered to pick up my child from school in the future after they discovered that I let her ride the bus to the library by herself one day a week. As if my only reason is that I can’t be bothered picking her up myself or paying for after school care.

  17. Papilio November 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm #


    Yes, that – that the parent kind of exports her own fear to the kid, instead of letting the kid be and dealing with it herself. “MY fear and therefore YOUR problem”. Neurosis-by-proxy.

    @Becky: I’d say yes…!

  18. Snow November 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    You know, something awful DID happen to my son when he was 7 years old. It was a sudden and horrible illness that almost cost him his life. Luckily, he pulled through, but it was touch and go for a while. You know what I did? I became even more free range than I already was. You never know what tomorrow is going to bring and it’d be miserable to sit around in perceived safety and not really live. My motto: I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead. (Jimmy Buffett).

  19. Really Bad Mum November 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Papilio don’t forget ‘ my denial of bad behaviour because being the perfect mother I have a child to rival god in perfection’ ( sister in law again, blah, )

  20. Elaine November 13, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

    I’m so glad my parents let us have our freedom. One of my best memories is a winter day in Michigan when I spent the day following tracks and just looking. I came home just as the street lights were coming on. I was 7 or 8 and I had very bad asthma at the time. My mother not only taught me to use my inhaler but let me decide what I was able to try. I think her attitude helped to to cope with my asthma much better than if she was hovering around all the time. Mum worried about me but didn’t let her worries infect me.

  21. Papilio November 13, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    @RBM: Sounds also very annoying, but more for you than for her kid I reckon…
    It reminds me of the cartoon in the paper today: woman in supermarkt (minuscule compared to your supermarkets) complains about how hard it is to raise kids AND hold a job AND have a social life, to which the main character Sigmund (psychiatrist…) replies, ‘The perfect mom doesn’t exist.’ In the next picture we see the mom under a bridge, all filthy and drinking too much. Her two kids, who looked about 2 and 4, stood by and watched, just like Sigmund, who told them: “For mommies it’s very hard to accept that.”

  22. JJ November 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    ” I told the mom she was at home, making dinner.”

    Did anyone catch the series Master Chef Junior on Fox? The contestants were 9-13 and the dishes they made were amazing. Beef Wellington, veal chops, etc. Most of them talked about how they made dinner for their families regularly, some since they were 6 or 7. Their skills were simply amazing.

  23. anonymous this time November 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    Amen, hallelujah, and RIGHT ON. This is what brought me to your book and blog in the first place, Lenore.

  24. Really Bad Mum November 13, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

    @Papilio lol I remember one Christmas my kids were being their normal one step from being sold on eBay selves and arguing over a box or something they both wanted ( one was 12 the other 7 I still have no idea why they wanted a box instead of the toys and stuff they got ) and I said to her isn’t it so annoying when they fight it drives me mad, she has 2 girls one 8 and one 5 she says to me ” oh they never fight ” then I look over to the pool and one is trying to drown the other by bashing her over the head and push her under water.. I just said ‘ oh you’re lucky, mine always fight ‘ then I walked away laughing lol

  25. Lin November 13, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    @Becca, the first time EVER my daughter took the bus, she got on the wrong bus. She finally called me after 30 minutes (her bus ride was only supposed to be 7 minutes!) but sobbed so loudly that I couldn’t understand a word and had to ask her to pass the phone to the driver. The bus company staff offered to take her home, but I decided to go meet her at the bus terminal. My daughter was still sobbing when I arrived. But thank the universe, the bus company staff were all sensible people who appeared to be totally in favour of FRK when it comes to riding buses and were very encouraging and comforting to her! And I was so very happy that my daughter had experienced that even when you are terribly lost and have no idea what to do, there will be nice people around somewhere to help you. And of course there’s always the mobile phone and mum too (though she has been riding the bus without phone lately because she keeps forgetting to charge it). But the main thing to realise is that there’s always a solution. That is indeed the kind of lesson that can only be learnt through experience and that will make our kids resilient and self-relient.

    And did I worry when I realised she was late and her phone appeared to be switched off? Hell yeah! Did I let it stop me from letting her go again? Of course not. She’s been taking the bus to the library every Wednesday for a year now. When I meet her there an hour later, I find her independently looking up books she wants on the library computer, finding them on the shelves and checking them out. She’s only 8, my girl. And I am so very, very proud of her.

  26. Eliza November 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    I remember a time when I let my daughter go to her first nighttime girl and boy teenage party by taxi (she was 12.5yrs old). That day I had injured my eye and after 3 hours at the hospital, I left with a patch over my eye and very bad vision,so I would not be able to drive her to the party
    at night. I didn’t want to her to miss the party, so I organised a taxi. When she arrived by herself, I got so many phonecalls asking me why she went to a party in a taxi. One Mum even suggested I should have kept her at home. What amused me the most is that these same parents who were lecturing me about the dangers of catching a taxi, were the same parents who did not offer to bring her home at the end, or when I asked them, made excuses why they could not bring her home. BTW taxi company were fantastic. They rang me when she got to the party and the driver stayed until she was inside. I got a phone call to say they have picked her up and the time she should be home. Driver stayed until both of us were inside. Taxi company rang again about 5 minutes later to see if my daughter was home safe. And to make the situation even better, as a teacher I got dressed up as a pirate for work. The kids loved it and were upset when I didn”t come to school the next day with the patch.

  27. Kathy November 13, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    Fantastic essay.

  28. Jessi November 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Some of the worst accidents my kids have had, I was standing *right there* and I couldn’t save them. Once my son reached for a crayon and overbalanced and fell, hitting the table with his mouth. That one was 6 stiches. He was 3, in his playroom and I was in view of him, and he fell and hit his face and required 5 stitches. My 2 year old was getting off a chair, I was headed to him to help him down and he fell and landed on his leg weird. No broken bones but it was an ER trip. Things happen whether you’re right there or not. And me being there actually made me feel worse than when things have happened outside of my watchful gaze. Because I could have just moved faster, predicted better, etc.
    Worry and guilt over a child getting hurt seems to just be part of parenthood. Better they learn and grow from it than be sat on and hurt anyway.

  29. Rebecca November 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Then when your kids get older it’s , “Oh I couldn’t STAND it if my kid went to college/got a job in another state. I’d miss them too much and what if something happened?” Like I DON’T miss my kid who is so far away? And, yeah, I guess if something happened while my kid was far away, I’d be freaked out, but I’m not going to cramp her her happiness and independence for MY worry gene. I actually asked my 22 year old, after seeing a facebook picture of her leaping off a cliff into the ocean, “You didn’t break both legs did you, and you just aren’t telling me?”
    In HS she went to Botswanna for 6 weeks. Was I a wreck- yes! While she was gone, did 3 teenage kids in our home town get into a major car accident and did one of them die? Yes. I figured she was probably safer in Botswana than home the year she and her friends were all beginning drivers. I adore my daughter, I worry about her and I am darn proud of her.(though i hope she never does any more cliff jumping)

  30. mystic_eye_cda November 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

    I’m starting to think that because we are so blessed that our lives are fabulous we’ve lost the ability to measure risk. I find this much worse in the middle class, clearly this doesn’t apply to everyone, everywhere reading this blog but it seems increasingly like in areas where it’s likely that most of us live this is becoming an issue.

    So many people are so obsessed that their child might be some micronutrient, or their calcium/magnesium balance is out of whack, or they have yeast overgrowth/adrenal fatigue/omg there’s so many of these and everyone has all of them because they have never had to be hungry. They’ve never been unable to afford food or unable to access it. They’ve never been that poor, that isolated, or part of a severe disaster. Many of them have never been sick, or had a truly horribly sick relative. And they’ve lost all perspective.

    Probably all of us could eat at least a little bit better, eat a little bit less junk – but if if every bite you and your family takes comes with a glass of worry then you’re nuts. Unless you’re in a situation where you can’t get enough food, or replace food if it spoils, or if a recipe doesn’t turn out then food shouldn’t be your primary worry in life. I honestly think middle class children or rich children are going to start showing the same problems as adults as those children who experience severe food insecurity as children.

    The same goes for safety – there really is a difference between a papercut and a brain tumor. We’re fantastically safe, yes I’m aware of the accidents that have happened here and elsewhere on amusement park rides, particularly the non-permanent ones. And the deaths, but they are still comparatively safe, it’s probably far more dangerous to drive to them than ride on them. Some of the graduated licensing here makes sense, limiting the number of loud distracting friends that can be in the car – but I think this should be more parental discretion and less law. And yes, of course it’s horrible if you leave your kid at a birthday party and something happens, it’s also horrible if something happens to your child at a family dinner when you’re there, or school, or daycare, or anywhere.

    (btw speaking of accidents that happen when you’re right there my toddler fell walking to me and hit his face on my knee and broke a tooth)

  31. pentamom November 13, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    Donna, I think you’re right. The issue is not “more worry vs. less worry” or “worry vs. non-worry,” it’s more like “worry as virtue” vs. “worry as background noise.” People want to make worry into a virtue and amount of worry into a love contest.

    I’ve gotten some surprised vibes even from friends these last two weeks that my oldest daughter was out of the country and out of touch, when I told them she texted me before she got on the plane out of the country, she’d text again when she landed back stateside, and in between, I wouldn’t hear from her — and that it didn’t particularly bother me. (She got back yesterday, BTW, but not home until December.) I think I’m perceived as odd because I don’t worry when she’s that far away from me and out of touch. (It was the Dominican Republic, for crying out loud — I’d worry a lot more if she went to Detroit.) But she’s twenty-two years old. I wish I could ask them, without causing hurt, when they think I’m allowed to let her live an adult life without my doing my “job” of worrying about her. Because that’s the logical question to ask, really — when she’s thirty? Forty? Fifty? Sure, if at some point she’s in a bad situation, no doubt I’ll worry over her coming through it all right. But the mere fact that she’s gone somewhere I can’t follow and can’t check in regularly — I don’t really see why I’m supposed to be upset about that.

  32. Nico November 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    I call it the sabertooth tiger syndrome. Parents don’t have to worry so much anymore about diseases, or big toothed predators roaming the streets or all those things parents to the beginning of history had to worry about, so now they fret about less than aesthetically perfect carnies, and things that aren’t really big issues.

    When my son was 5 weeks we had to put him in Grandma’s care for a week because we had to go away on business. Did I miss him? sure did. But he had a great week with grammie who perfectly well handled a minor ER visit with him and everyone was fine.

    We have to get a nanny for a couple days a week and I just don’t feel worried. Could things happen while we’re away? Sure they could. They could also happen when he’s with us and it’s just not reason to hide him away in a smothering embrace.

  33. Donna November 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    Pentamom – When I moved from Georgia to California many moons ago, I decided to make a vacation out of it and drove slowly cross country by myself (no cellphone either). My mother said that anytime she told one of her friends what I was planning, they asked her if she was going to let me do it. I was 28!!! She did not get similar comments (that I know of) when I moved to Samoa so apparently you can relinquish control somewhere between 28 and 41.

    I’ve also had people outraged that I didn’t inform my mother that I was flying to Dallas for a long weekend when I was 30 so I guess it goes both ways.

  34. Reziac November 13, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    Constant worrying doesn’t make you or your kids safer. It makes you a rabbit — an animal that lives in a constant state of fear.

  35. charlene November 14, 2013 at 2:30 am #

    I love this article, thank you for sharing it. My mom worried so much about us as kids that we were isolated and miserable. Now she is dealing with trying to let go of my 35 year old sister who takes advantage of her fears by sucking money from her and manipulation. As a grandma her fears are even more magnified. I have felt like she judges me as being the worst mom on the planet because I refuse to hover over my children. Last week she questioned why I would allow my daughter in girl scouts and my son in cub scouts… “Do you know if there are homosexuals in their groups?” Yet my sons confidence has grown 500% since joining scouts earlier this year. I understand she worries for my kids like she worried for me… It still makes me want to go to the extreme opposite of her worries.

  36. hineata November 14, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    This is so timely for me, LOL! I was having a hormonal day at work today, and found myself worrying, as the kids left, that I would get a frantic call from either of the girls saying the other one had had a bad cycling accident coming home! Pathetic…they bike lots, often have scrapes and bruises that they fix up themselves and it was a beautiful, windless (oh miracle of miracles!) day. And really, the boy, who suffers from teenage boy moronitis when it comes to biking (translation – I can ride wherever I like in front of whatever I like) is the one more likely to crash and burn….but I wasn’t worried about him.

    Was a total waste of time anyway, as worry always is – they turned up home five minutes after me, complete with icecream :-).

  37. hineata November 14, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    And would I stop them biking anyway? Crap, no, especially with the cost of petrol being what it is 🙂

  38. Jodie November 14, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    My mom tries that on me. “How would you feel if this happened to Kahlan?” Nebver mind that parents and children travel on trains all the time. If Kahlan was kidnapped because we were traveling on the train… She even had the nerve to ask me once, because my fiancé and daughter might have had to travel on a train without me, “what if someone sees him with her and wonder what a man is doing with a little baby? What if they think he kidnapped her?” Some people just look for things to owrry about and then want others to feel like horrible parents for not freaking out about the same things.

  39. Jodie November 14, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Um, I didn’t mean to paste that last comment. Is there any way to remove it? Sorry avbout that; it was a totally different window I meant to post in. What I meant to past was…
    I forgot to mention; me fiancé and I are both lind and Kahlan has survived very well with us for almost two years. She’ll be two in February.

  40. Emily Guy Birken November 14, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    I read this article yesterday and was thinking about bringing it to Lenore’s attention. It reminded me of some of the forehead-to-wall-worthy moments from when I was teaching high school.

    For instance, one of my 9th grade students earned a D on a paper. The next day, he handed me the essay back with a post-it on it that said I was to call his mother. When I did, she wanted to go through the rubric point-by-point in order to dispute the grade. I interrupted her and told her that I was happy to do so–with her son. She told me that it was inappropriate for me to expect that from a 14-year-old and that it would be something a college student could do with a disputed grade.

    I wanted to ask if she expected her son to magically wake up on his 18th birthday with the skills necessary to talk to teachers/professors/people in authority. Instead, I told her that the child’s grade was only between me and the child, and that he was free to make an appointment with me to discuss it. Otherwise, I was not willing to talk about a grade with a third party. Boy did that piss her off.

    I was appalled. When I was in 4th grade, I and everyone else in my class took a test to determine our placement for math class. I was placed in the regular class, instead of the advanced class, and I was sure that it was incorrect. When I begged my mother to talk to the teacher, she told me that every parent thinks her child is brilliant, and that the teacher would listen to me but would only pat a mother on the head. So, even though it was really hard, I talked to my teacher and retook the test. It turned out that I was right–my original score had been a clerical error.

    When I think that parents are running interference for their 14-year-olds when 9-year-olds are perfectly capable of handling issues, I shudder. What’s going to happen to these kids when they are over 18 or 21 or 30?

  41. Jodie November 14, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    I’m so embarrassed! I’m really sorry about that; it’s been a crazy morning.

  42. hineata November 14, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    @Emily – wow, how does mum think the kid is going to improve on his writing, with her going over it with you? Though I suppose that wasn’t her too priority- sounds like she was just after a better grade….

  43. Emily November 14, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    @Hineata–I bet you a Diet Coke that the mom in Emily Guy Birken’s story actually wrote the essay for her son. She’s asking the teacher to go over the rubric with her, purportedly so she can go over it with her son, but actually so she can do better on the next assignment.

  44. DeAnne November 14, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I really liked the essay, but I wonder where the compassion is for this mother who must spend a lot of time in obsessive worry? I have to believe that somebody who emotes this level of fear at a total stranger is not deliberately trying to judge you or make you feel bad, they must be so anxious that they simply cannot help themselves.

    Many comments seem to contain smug pats on the back “I’m glad I’m not stealing my childhood from MY kids” – but are not really productive. I appreciate all those who model free range living in their actions – but judgmental words, less so.

  45. C. S. P. Schofield November 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    I think I want to try asking these parents “Are you going to be happy, washing your child’s underwear when you are 80? Because if you don’t cut the apron-strings, you will be.”

  46. sylvia_rachel November 14, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I get that ALL THE TIME. It used to be because I let DD climb tall things as a preschooler, run to the corner store for milk as a 7-year-old, or take public transit alone as a 9-year-old; now that she’s 11, it’s because she takes public transit alone without a cellphone, because I don’t route all her IMs and email messages through my account to monitor what she’s doing online, and/or because I let her go trick-or-treating with friends and without an adult this year (that last thing came from MY OWN MOTHER, which made me laugh very hard on the phone because I was a year younger than this the first time I went trick-or-treating with friends and without an adult, and I can prove it: there’s a photo on my fridge. Her response was that we may have thought we were unsupervised, but she’s willing to bet the host friend’s mum was lurking somewhere making sure we were okay. And remembering how helicoptery that friend’s mum was, I’m not sure she’s wrong…).

    Do I worry what DD might be getting up to online? Yes, sometimes. But not enough to violate her privacy by reading her private correspondence. I remember being 11. It sucked (I was in year three of six years of very nasty social bullying), but it would have sucked a lot more if I’d thought my mum was going through my private stuff at home in addition to the kids at school doing it 😛 And you know what, when something terrible happens, DD generally tells me.

    Anyway, yeah, I worry, but I don’t think I’d be a better parent if I worried MORE. I’d just be even more neurotic, even more embarrassing, and even less fun 😉

  47. sylvia_rachel November 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Oh, also: I WISH I could get my 11-year-old to cook! And do dishes without being hounded!! She’s not afraid of it, she’s just profoundly uninterested. And since she’d be perfectly happy to subsist on cheese, crackers, apples, fruit from tins, peanut-butter sandwiches, and the occasional hot dog, she just isn’t very motivated, either.

    Although she does like to bake cookies.

  48. Papilio November 14, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    “I let her go trick-or-treating with friends and without an adult this year”

    Oh thanks for reminding me – it was Sint Maarten last Monday and I’ve seen the usual little groups of children going from door to door with their selfmade lantern singing to get candy, only the youngest of which with a parent. When I asked my mother this week how old my brother and I were when she let us go with friends/each other, without her, she didn’t remember, but guessed 7 or 8.

  49. hineata November 14, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

    @Emily – sadly you’re probably right! And I’ll leave the Diet Coke, but go a Mountain Dew :-).

    Must confess though, my teen boy’s writing sucks that badly at times that I wish I could write his essays. Not to help him out per se, but because sometimes his writing is an affront to the language, and I can’t bear reading it :-).

  50. Lisa November 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    YES. But let’s take it a step further. Not only should we not worry too much, we should actively teach our children how to be responsible and take care of themselves! Make sure they know how to swim. Tell them not to go off with adults. Ensure they have good situational awareness and basic understand of emergency procedures (earthquake, fire, whatever). We CAN and should empower our children to be smart, aware, and self-reliant adults-in-training. This is our job after all. And it will ensure a happier and more independent childhood for them.

  51. lollipoplover November 14, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    @JJ- I haven’t seen Master Chef Junior, but would probably love it. My daughter likes recipe books of all kinds and has been digging the My Daughter’s Kitchen series on kids learning to cook cheap, healthy meals for their families in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    With so much talk about childhood obesity and the crisis our country is in, it’s refreshing to see volunteers teaching young children how to cook healthy meals for their families. Treating kids as capable chefs who can contribute to their household. How refreshing.

  52. Michelle Pippert November 14, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    oh Lenore,
    I love you already! Your words were just what I needed today!

  53. Jennifer November 15, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Most of these reactions have nothing to do with benefits to the child. They’re all about the benefits to the *parent*. The parent will worry less. The parent will be less anxious. The parent will have less possibility of regret. The parent will be blameless, or viewed as more saintly/caring/responsible.

    In that sense, it’s about parents who love themselves to much to be willing to face down irrational fears in order to let their child grow and develop normally.

  54. Kristin November 15, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    I would go even one step further in echoing the author’s sentiments. There are existing laws and regulations that make it illegal for parents to raise their kids, or find a trustworthy, loving caregiver to raise kids in the spirit of this letter. Laws that prohibit the kind of normal childhood some of you may fear, some of you may embrace. But you do not have the freedom of choice in many states, and it is getting worse. I encourage all of you to consider this letter for a minute when reviewing policies, procedures, and regulations of these type of “let the bad guys dictate our laws and restrict our freedom” every child should have a right to experience, if that is what their PARENTS feel comfortable with. Laws do not give anyone the freedom of choice. If you as a parent are not comfortable letting your child do a particular thing, then maybe that’s something you might want to deal with personally. But I hope you change your mind when it goes to the point where fear determines law that restricts basic freedoms for all of us.

  55. Tsu Dho Nimh November 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m a worrier. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to my daughter when I wasn’t there.”

    And if it happened in front of your horrified eyes …

    Thinking back to a child whose parents wouldn’t let him take the snowboard lessons, because resort policy is simple:
    lessons = kids+instructors-parents
    If a child or parent is not ready for the separation, they aren’t ready for lessons.

    So they were teaching him on their own on a gentle slope by the main lift.

    He caught on fairly quickly to the skill of standing up and sliding down hill, but that hill has a definite slope towards the lift towers and they watched him sliding towards a full-face full speed collision with a huge concrete pier, as they were screaming OHMIGAWD,OHMIGAWD,OHMIGAWD” over and over.

    I don’t think being there was what they wanted to experience.

    PS: That slope has a deliberately ungroomed part … the child hit soft powder and face-planted. He came up grinning about the awesome fall, and his parents dragged him to the parking lot

  56. Rainey Daye November 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    I do have to point out something in regards to one of the comments earlier that said “if every bite you and your family takes comes with a glass of worry then you’re nuts”.

    Some children (and more every year it seems) have food allergies. Our son is anaphylactic to peanuts. He has even reacted (with hives and respiratory issues) when playing with cousins in the evening after they had peanut butter for breakfast!! I was right there with him when he started vomiting, breaking out in hives, and beginning to go into anaphylactic shock from a half teaspoon of peanut butter on an apple slice the day we found out about his allergy. So I don’t think it is completely unreasonable to worry about every bite your kid takes…unless it is something I have made myself with ingredients I have already checked are safe.

    That being said, we are now used to checking all food and taking food for him to various functions as a matter of course now…so while we are still cautious we do not hover. We know places/restaurants that are safe and places that we know would not be safe for our child…so we proceed accordingly. At his still young age of barely four, I do not leave him anywhere (like birthday parties) where food is being consumed just yet…but as he gets older and can advocate better for himself then we can feel more at ease about leaving him. But we still don’t really “hover” at functions that involve food. We more scope out the situation at the beginning, tell him what to stay away from, and then let him run and play.

    I would not say though that we hover…outside of our being cautious about his food/exposure to peanuts. I let him play in our backyard and run in and out of the house…just keeping a general ear out and occasional eye out for him. He plays all over the playground equipment at the park (and has since he was two…despite it being labeled for 6-12 year olds?). He is a cute and adventurous little guy and I want him to be free range as much as he possibly can…like I was and despite his food allergies.

    But I did want to mention that not all parents who worry about food are “nuts”…maybe they are just concerned that nuts can kill their child.