Overprotectiveness & Letting Go: How Do You Deal With Worrying About Your Kids?

Before my first son was born, I worried—the way, I think, most pregnant women do—about something going horribly wrong. I worried at every checkup, every test, every poke and prod that might reveal some unthinkable problem. I worried when I had spotting, then full-on bleeding; I worried when my baby moved a lot (is he moving too much?), I worried when he was still (is he ... still alive?). I became downright morbid at times, sitting in bed all saucer-eyed over books that told of nightmarish births where babies choked on cords or meconium or whose hearts stopped for no reason whatsoever.

I was thinking about this lately, how the worry never goes away. Even after they're born, even after they grow into sturdy little people who no longer seem like delicate will o' the wisps.


In fact, it seems like the older they get, the more terrifying things there are to worry about about. School shootings, for instance. Drugs. Bullies. Molesters.

You can't drown in the worry, though. You can't live a life ruled by fear of what might be. And yet you have to take steps to protect your kids. You have to keep them safe from harm, as best you can. Where do you draw the line?

I read an article here at The Stir a while ago, a heartbreaking story about a freak accident that killed a 3-year-old boy. His family had taken him to the beach, and with no warning, a giant tree trunk slid down a sand dune and crushed him to death.

There's no way you can prepare for something like that, right? How can you go through life worrying about rogue LOGS that come out of goddamned nowhere?

Yet one of the first commenters seemed to think otherwise, saying that she'd never be so unsafe as to take a 3-year-old to the beach.

As for me, my children absolutely love the beach, and it's never occurred to me that there should be an age limit for taking them there. What seems crazily over-protective to me obviously makes sense for some other mom, though, and who's to say what the right choice is? We all do whatever we can to ease the monsters that live in our heads.

I remember an incident that happened during my first pregnancy that scared me deeply, that made me afraid to relax and believe for one second that things would turn out okay. An experience that, despite my usual dismissal of superstition, bothered me, kind of a whole lot.

It happened when I traveled to Japan on business. I was about 16 weeks pregnant, and we had gone to a temple where you could exchange a coin for a tiny rolled-up paper fortune, an omikuji. When I opened mine, it read, “The person you are waiting for will not arrive.”

The person you are waiting for will not arrive.

“I don’t like my fortune,” I said immediately, and my companions showed me how you could tie your bad fortune to a post and leave it behind you. I did that, with shaking hands, but I saw those words when I closed my eyes that night, and I didn't forget them for a long, long time. 

One of the reasons I have no desire to revisit the pregnancy and infant stage is because of all the anxiety I experienced during those times. It was slightly easier with my second son, but oh, I can still remember the heart-pounding fear that would grip me whenever I had the slightest inkling that something might be wrong.

I don't feel like that all the time anymore, and I haven't for quite a while. I'm greatly comforted by my sons being older and less fragile-seeming, I don't jump and startle and assume everything is a sign of doom.

I do, of course, think about the terrible things that can happen to my kids, because what mother doesn't? But I can't imagine choosing to avoid entire life experiences on the chance that something could go wrong. I can't believe that every visit to a beautiful beach is a fatal accident waiting to happen, because if I did believe that, I would crush my own happiness to death. I would dip below the surface in a sea of my own fear, and I would drag my children down with me.

I remind myself that I can’t guarantee my boys' safety. I can’t insulate them from every possible harm in the world. There’s something necessary about truly understanding that, about taking on that burden in order to give perspective to my responsibilities.

It's not an easy thing to think about. But as painful as it might be to face that truth, the alternative—that I have the power to save them from anything that comes their way, if only I can anticipate it—seems deadly in its own right.

How do you deal with worry and protectiveness when it comes to your kids?

Image via Linda Sharps

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