There I am, in good old Webster's:
Worry-wart: n. One who worries needlessly and excessively
Excessively? Maybe. Needlessly? Well, it depends on whose opinion you're asking. If it's my husband or any other sane, relaxed human being, the answer you will be given is most certainly, yes. But, reader, let me ask you -- when you're married to a (some might say, overly) relaxed and sane human being, there is almost a double need to worry, right? After all, the logic goes: If you're not going to worry at all, I'm going to have to worry for the both of us.
At least, that's one way to look at it.
If my kids' childhoods were anything like my childhood, there would be nothing to worry about.
Aside from the kidnapping, carjacking and random violence of Los Angeles in the early 1970s, my childhood was relatively safe. Plus, I barely left the house -- a poorly coordinated book worm, I wasn't going anywhere, except maybe to get up and turn on The Brady Bunch or crack into another riveting library book. Paper cuts were my only threat.
My kids -- thanks to an adventurous father (and a terrified, though willing mother) -- have already ridden on horses, boats and motorcycles, they've snow skied and inner tubed, camped and hiked and been taken for a ride by a tractor. Then, this weekend -- as if my tender, neurotic heart hadn't already withstood enough -- they learned how to shoot a BB gun.
That sound you hear? It's my heart dropping into my shoes.
But what's a mother to do? Their cousins shoot. Their uncle shoots. I was pushed to the brink -- either they learn how to do it right and safely, or I'll spend the rest of my life standing in their way. And you know how that goes: One day I'll open one of their closets while they're at soccer practice and 43 firearms will tumble out.
I just have this inkling that, as a parent, that which you staunchly oppose happens anyway, and sometimes worse than you could have feared. Wasn't that the whole storyline of Footloose? I don't want to forbid anything, at least anything that can be done with caution and smarts and isn't hurting my kids or anyone else's. (Hopefully it's obvious what qualifies for this status.)
So, they went to shoot the BB's with a promise from their dad and uncle that they would be brought back BB gun-educated and unhurt. They were, thankfully. What also came back with them was the story that Finn, my four-year-old tough guy who runs around "shooting" everything in sight with his index finger, had absolutely no interest in shooting for real, BBs or not.
It was Reese, my seven-year-old daughter who morphed into Annie Oakley, cocking her own BB gun and nailing whatever her uncle and dad put in front of her (tin cans and little rocks, nothing living, of course).
Thank goodness, it was a non-event. Everyone came back with their pupils intact. I accumulated yet another in a series of worry lines around my mouth that are giving me the distinct appearance of being, well, a worrier.
Under the Webster's "worrywart" definition, there are also some synonyms available: Fusspot. Fussbudget. Wet blanket.
Not sure I mind those. What I do mind is the secondary definition: Someone who spoils the pleasure of others. That right there is why I will push myself to mull over each of these decisions as they come, and not simply spoil the good time. Instead I will ask and I will evaluate: What is the risk, what is the gain, can we make this as safe as possible, can I control my own love/fear/worry to do right by my kids?
Motherhood itself turns out to be a moving target: Just when you think you have it all figured out, the game changes.
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