The Worry of the Child

Parental Bird

Parental Bird

No one tells you about the worry when you have children.

The talk is of love, light, blessings- and so much of raising children contains these items and more.

The worry is the secret no one discloses when you hold babe in arms. People will “ooohhh” and “aaahhhh” and those who are parents will hold their lips in a sealed line and not reveal the legacy.

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

Growth. Development. Illness. Injury. The uncertainty. What is right? What am I supposed to be doing here? How poor can my parenting skills be and still be “good enough”?

You pray- “Please God, give me a resilient child, because I am pretty sure I am going to mess it up.”

You send your toddler off to preschool. The child looks at once so young and old to you as they run from your arms on their small legs in through that door.

And they will spend hours apart from you. Being free from the moment to moment contact does not free you of the worry.

The movement into school. More hours spent from home. More interactions. More possibilities. The child’s hopes and dreams begin to form, as you question, “Am I doing enough?”

A “graduation” marks the transition to high school- a sense of newness and hope ensues – while you also stand silently watching your child mingle amongst friends, looking SO MATURE.

And you can’t help, even while you hold a smile, to worry about what the future may hold. They are so much more on their own now, but they carry the mark of your parenting. Will it be enough?

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

Sleepless nights. Anticipation. Comparison. Prevention strategies. Proactive approaches. Coddling. Discussions. Hugging. Books. Holding. Seminars. Prayers.

A game to keep the child in your care safe.

The worry…no one talks about the worry.

You begin to understand this has been a secret all along.

The time between thoughts- when you are falling asleep, when you see them walking off to school, the time before bed when they disclose their heart ache and concerns- is when you understand wrapped in all the love, joy, and hope, the stone of worry has hung about your neck simply because you are raising a child.

I was reading an article in The New Yorker describing Edward Hirsch’s elegy for his son. And his words were the ones that alerted me to the silent secret so many of us hold.

How endless the worry can be.

My stepson is having some difficulties now and Lord, I tell you, I am weighed down.

Like any parent, I want to change it all for him, you know? I want to wrap it up, make it do-able, heal the wound and ferry him safely across to the other side.

They say worry is a waste of time.

I would say worry is the secret, silent, companion to all who parent.

The image is a play on this idea. I was thinking of a “Mama Bird” that must push here young out of the nest to fly, but perhaps even with their flight, she is never free. She continues to wear the weight of her heart and love for them around her neck.

It also plays with a reverse on the idea of an albatross around the neck and the image of a phoenix rising (the color of flames behind the bird.) Through our children, we are transformed and rebirthed in literal and metaphorical ways.


17 thoughts on “The Worry of the Child

  1. First off, I’ll send up prayers for your stepson and the struggles he is going through.
    Secondly, man, you all but made me cry! You are right, though, worry is the silent secret and it eats me up inside. I can not worry about so many things. I can announce that I am not going to let my worry about tomorrow rob the joy from today, and I can release a lot, but never, ever, ever when it comes to my son. I worry that I’m being the mom he needs, that I’m paying attention to him, or even the fact that he’s at cheer practice today and I’m worried that he had enough food for lunch!! πŸ™‚
    Just keep praying and let him know you are there for him.

    • Thanks so much for your words and prayers, Kate. I am so glad you can relate! No one told me that being a parent results in almost constant worry- even when you are trying not to! Your son is so very blessed to have you. You can see it in the man he is becoming.

      • Thanks for your kind words – All I can do is pray that I’m the parent he needs and try my best not to be consumed by the worry. πŸ™‚
        He laughs at me, but when I drop him off at school, I sit in the car and watch and wait until he goes through the doors. Unlike so many parents who drop and run, I want to see him enter the school – because up until that moment he is still my responsibility, and how awful would I feel if I didn’t stay and watch and he was kidnapped!! Seriously, that is what my brain goes through every day!

      • Oh, I can so see this, Kate!! Something I have leaned with parenting is that we carry our children with always in our psyche- don’t we? πŸ™‚ I will think of you on those days I drop off my stepson.

  2. I know you know this, Kimberly, well. Not only are you a mother, you are a human. When coupled, these are two significant element to culture worry. Many of us feel for you and want only the best possible outcome for your stepson. And we will hold strong intentions for both of you. Please consider, too, how important it is for you to not worry endlessly… to practice extreme self-care, so that you can have the strength and reserves to be there for him as his future unfolds.

    As I was reading and empathizing with you, I couldn’t help but wonder about the unspoken “worry” in and with the elderly and infirm. How are they coping with their struggles and where are the books that tell us what to do for them. In their case, they are (rightfully) worrying and many of us don’t know how to act or help.

    This is a deep and significant matter. One that was and is important for you to pose. Thank you for doing so. I am hopeful that you can release (to a comfortable extent) and be at peace while in flow.

    • Beautiful, beautiful point about the combination of mother and human leading to worry.
      And blessings to you about the “extreme self-care”. I know you will understand when I write this- I NEEDED to hear that. So thank you.
      I like that you took this a step further. (Not that I am surprised considering how I see you do this all the time on your blog) about the concerns for the elderly and infirm. Wonderful point.

  3. I hear you Kim, I hear you…I see you posting more about your family lately and I know the worries are big right now for you. I know for me it comes in waves. And it’s true, we know nothing of this existence until we become a parent…we have control but we so do NOT have control. It’s a constant struggle. And yet, we know that to worry leads to nothing productive. So we fight it and continue on. I see your list of strategies…and I see the same list running through my head when those “worries” creep up… Just feeling with you today Kimberly. Keep on my strong friend.

    • Oh, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I like what you say about it coming in waves, because that is what it feels like. It feels so calm and “ok” for a bit and then it is one wave after another.

      I smile as I read your words because I feel a kinship. thank you.

      • Oh you are so welcome. Your art and words help me weather a few of those “waves”, some of them quite tsunamic (if this is even a word) in nature.

  4. Hi Kim,
    I don’t have any children and I am often completely intimidated by the idea, so although I do not know the worry firsthand, I can only imagine. I give you major respect for all of the efforts you make and share with us here.

    By the way, the image of the bird is awesome!! For some reason, I really love the beak πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for sharing your art and some of your inner world with us here.


    • Thanks for loving the image of the bird. I see it as being able to take flight, despite a weighted heart. I really thank you for commenting on the post even if it does not relate directly to your experiences.

      We all walk our paths, don’t we? πŸ™‚

  5. Oh, I have to agree with this…and as they get older, the worry does not dissipate, it shifts to new concerns, new types of worries…It seems to be the flip side of love. Kim

  6. Your post hit close to home. Our family has also gone through some good but difficult changes. As any parent, I want to make it all better. Trying to fit in is quite difficult now a days especially when the child is beginning to develop their own likes and wants. I know, understand its a process, its a part of growing up but oh how I worry. Endless worries about the choices we make as parents.

    Your not alone. All we can do is love them and trust that we are doing the best we can.

  7. My mother-in-law once told me long before I had kids, “Watch out, once they are born, you never stop worrying about them.” (Her eldest was in his 40s at the time!)
    When my own boys starting going out into the world, I would request a guardian angel to watch over them. Packed up with snowboarding gear on the roof, I’d imagine one hanging onto the roof rack, hair flying! Another squeezed into the back seat amongst the boots & gear. Whenever I felt that nervous flutter, I’d imagine them in protective care. So far it has worked!
    The other thing I remind myself is that they are on their own path and sometimes they will take a bump or two, the learner curves in life can sometimes be steep. Trusting that they are fulfilling their personal agreements with their Creator keeps me from getting too crazy.

    • thanks for sharing this Eliza. I smiled about your mother-in-laws comment. I like the idea of picturing a Guardian Angel with them. And, I do know, that we all walk our paths- there is just such a temptation to smooth out those steep learning curves!:)

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