As kids go back to school this week I got to thinking, is there a magic cutoff period when our children truly become accountable for their own actions? Is there a moment when parents can become detached enough from the lives of their children and feel nothing because it is “their life?” Can it be that parents are sentenced to a lifetime of worry? Just a few years ago I had the full range of kids: from diapers to dating to driving. I worried about them all but they were all very different worries.
When I turned thirty I had my first child and as many people probably do I thought “holy crap how am I going to take care of this precious child?” I remember the first time I had to watch one of my children get strapped into the paapoos board to get stitches in his chin. I asked the nurse, “When do you stop worrying about your children?” She replied, “When they get out of the accident stage.” I found that hard to believe.
Then there was the time, I sat on a little chair in a classroom and heard how one of my children talked too much, disrupted the class, etc. I thought oh well the world always needs professional waste haulers! As if to read my mind, the teacher said, “Don’t worry. They all go through this stage, and then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy them.” Again, I found that hard to believe.
Now with two in high school, I spend my time waiting for the phone to ring, the car to come home, and the garage door to open. Someone said, “They’re trying to find themselves. In a few years, you can stop worrying. They’ll be adults.” Once again, I find that hard to believe.
While most people have this steady progression of worries, I sit here today a 48 year old man with all these worries going on at the same time with children ranging from five to almost eighteen. The odd thing for me is that I get a sense that my kids worry about me. They see their dad struggle at things physically and I know what they feel like because I had the same worry about my father who had a physical handicap. In fact, one of my children recently, said to me, “Where were you? I’ve been calling and texted you three times. Was he worried? Probably a little but I knew it was more because he wanted something.” One day they will call simply for the sake of wanting to talk with me.
Let’s face it, we all have worries, but how well are we handling those worries when it comes to our kids. I think if you asked my wife she would say I don’t worry enough, but that is because she worries too much…we make a good pair!
The way I look at it, the Lord provided me with four miracles to parent for him while on this earth. Their names are Dan, Jake, Evan, and Katy. I worry more about doing his work in a way that would make him proud than worrying about my kids scraping their knee or bumping their head. Am I being a good role model? Am I showing respect and love for their mom? Are my actions following my spoken words? I am not perfect, none of us are, but I consciously try to do the best I can every day. With unconditional love comes responsibilities and yes some worries, but not sweating the small stuff has eased my stress level immensely. My hope is that by the time my children leave home, I have provided enough guidance for them to make proper choices in life and for them to know that my guidance, love, and support will never stop, and yes neither will my worries as a father however minor they may seem.