Parenting is a field of landmines full of anxiety triggers, and no matter how old your kid is, those triggers will always be there, no matter how irrational they may be. We're all slightly terrified that our newborns are going to roll over in their sleep and suffocate themselves, that our grade schoolers will get lost or abducted on the half-block walk from the bus stop to home, that our teens will . . . well, that list is so endless that we're not even going there.
With so many real issues in the world today, it's time we let go of the unnecessary fears we all harbor as the human beings responsible for our precious offspring. Here are seven common parenting concerns you should give up today.
- During pregnancy: I won't bond with my baby. No matter how much you love or hate pregnancy, how disconnected from or close to your own parents you are, and how overwhelmed or excited you are by the prospect of becoming a mother, I guarantee you will eventually bond with your baby. It might not happen immediately, but it will happen, and even before it does, you'll still feel a hardwired urge to care for and protect the tiny creature.
- During pregnancy: I won't be as good of a mother as my own was. This one was big for me because my mom is pretty much a saint and my favorite person on the planet. At 13, I wrote in my diary that she was my best friend. What 13-year-old girl says that about her mother? She's the toughest act to follow, but after becoming a mom myself, I realized I didn't have to. I am a different person, and therefore a different but equally good parent.
- Newborn stage: I will never sleep through the night or have time for myself again. There's a reason so many of us can barely remember our child's newborn stage: it's like a sleep-deprived trauma we've purposely blocked out. But it's also just a stage. Your child will eventually sleep more, your arms won't always be filled with a baby, and you might even miss it. I mean, I don't, but you might.
- Newborn stage: My baby will suffocate, stop breathing, or suffer some other spontaneous death that I could have prevented. Of course, we want to protect our babies and put them in the safest environments possible, but after you do that, you've got to give this one up. Babies, however small and fragile they might look, are actually pretty sturdy, and that doctor-approved sleeping environment you're putting them in isn't a death trap.
- Toddler stage: My child will cause themselves grave injury unless I watch them constantly. Most toddlers seem to lack the self-preservation gene, running into traffic, climbing every possible surface, and putting anything they can in their mouths. So, yes, they need supervision, but they're also fast as hell and destined to have a few scrapes and bruises, so don't beat yourself up about them. They all heal.
- Grade-school stage: My kid will get abducted, lost, or otherwise harmed while I'm away from them. Modern parenting has pretty much abandoned the free-range kid (I mean, my grandma kicked my elementary-school-aged mom out of the house at 8 a.m. and rang a bell to call her in for dinner nine hours later, and she had only a vague notion of where she was all that time), but once your kid enters school, there will be times when you won't know where they are. They will survive on the walk from the bus to the classroom, and they'll make it to your neighbor's house two doors down for that play date. Giving them a longer leash not only makes your life easier but also gives them a sense of independence and confidence.
- Eternally: I am irrevocably screwing up my kid. This one is inescapable, but you're probably not — at least, not more than any other parent on the planet. But maybe save up for a few therapy sessions anyway.