Friday, September 10, 2010

The art of parenting a worrywart


In the 18 months that I waited for The Kiddo's arrival (from the first adoption paperwork to the Chinese nanny putting her in my arms) I imagined a lot of trials and tribulations about parenting. I thought about the baby barf, the exploding Spaghettios, the temper tantrums.

Control freak that I am, I developed a plan for every eventuality that I could imagine. The one thing I did NOT plan for?

Worrying.

No, I'm not talking about a mother's worrying. That is The Mother's Lot, and I accept the old truism that being a parent is having your heart walk around outside of your body.

I'm talking about The Kiddo's worrying.

She has always been a worrywart. In a weird way, that makes my job easier. She worries about everything, from getting into trouble, to making bad grades, to what people will think about her clothes. And yes, she is only nine. And no, she does NOT get it from me. (OK, the clothes bit, maybe.)

Earlier this month, her school let loose its annual cookie-dough fund-raiser. Last year, I had no faith in The Kiddo's ability to sell $14 tubs of cookie dough, but I had underestimated her worrywart ways. She wanted that Mega Party. And she was going to get it.

She got it, and a ride in a limo, and a special lunch. So this year, when the fund-raiser got underway, I saw that they had sweetened the pot. Now if you turned in $50 worth of sales early, you were entered into a drawing for a stuffed animal.

She needs another stuffed animal like she needs a hole in her head, but she had the sales. So I let her -- and lo and behold, the child comes home with a stuffed starfish named Patrick that is nearly the size she is.

The next drawing level was $100, and she had that many sales. But The Kiddo was completely uncertain about whether she could count her previous sales or if she had to start from scratch after the first drawing. I told her, her father told her, a family friend told her, her aunt told her, all of us told her that it was cumulative sales.

The Kiddo worked herself into a complete froth. She didn't want to enter the drawing if she wasn't absolutely SURE that she was eligible. I asked, "What's the worst thing that could happen?"

Ten minutes later of boo-hooing, and I realized afresh that personal humiliation was a BIG deal for this child of mine.

We finally got her convinced that it was cumulative sales, and she went to bed. At 11 o'clock, though, she was still awake, still worried. "Mommy, I don't want to enter the drawing," she told me.

I prepared to go back over old ground. But first, I asked a wise, wise question. "Why not?"

"Because I might win, and my friend really, really wanted the M&M stuffed animals and if I win it, then she wouldn't get it."

Facepalm. "Okay. Don't enter. Go to sleep."

This morning, when I was driving her to school, I tried to talk to The Kiddo about reducing her worrying. What, I asked, would help her not worry so much?

"Oh, that's easy," she said. "I just need to know everything."

I did a quick double-take in the rearview mirror as I headed for the Daytona 500 we call the morning drop-off line. "Everything?" I asked.

"Well ..." Her face scrunched with concentration. Even in this, she wanted to get it exactly right. "Not everything, everything. Just all the answers to all the questions that I need to ask."

Boy. I wouldn't worry, either, with such knowledge at MY fingertips.

6 comments:

Kelly Breakey said...

Sounds to me like you guys aren't doing to bad a job at this parenting thing. Keep up the good work.

Linda G. said...

As a bit of a worrywart myself, I sympathize with your kiddo. Good thing she has such a great mom to help her navigate her fears. :)

Jessica Lemmon said...

No doubt! I'm a planner, and a worrier - I empathize on all fronts!

Lickety Splitter said...

Hey, I can totally appreciate your daughter's need to know "everything." My friends have often said that I should get a job as a journalist or a detective based on my need to know. Not saying that I'm nosy, cuz I'm not. Really, I'm not. I just need to everything about what I NEED to know. Your kiddo is a kindred spirit in my book ;)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

OMG I have one of those worriers. Even worse than The Kiddo, I'd wager. But I have a book (for her and you), written by a awesome author and Mom-of-a-worrier Rachel Vail:

Justin Case: School, Drool, and other disasters

My worrier loved it! :)

Jeannie Moon said...

I'm a worrier and I can totally relate. But she came up with the solution for the worrying!

"I need to know everything." That's perfect. I wish her luck. She's probably going to own us all. In the meantime...I'd better get on it, I have a lot to learn.