Fragility And My Free-Floating Anxiety Over Parenting
In life, worrying about the world's ending is not helpful
when trying to enjoy the moment or get dinner on the table.
By Reva Nelson
‘Xi hat, me worry?
I woke up at 3 a.m. in a cold sweat because I still
– hadn't yet planned my son's birthday party, which
was looming in a mere 11 days.
I was fully aware that, in life's grand scheme, it was trivial.
But there I was, in the middle of the night, awake, online,
researching venues and shopping for Star Wars gear. I fret-
ted about the place, the prices, the favors and the plan —
what the hell was I going to do with all of those children?
It was ridiculously, microscopically small stuff to sweat, but
somehow the pressure to get it right still woke me in the
On a scale of Jewish worriers —
where No. 1 would be the most
neurotic and No. 10 the least —
I'd put myself safely around a "5!'
Not the most obsessive worrier,
but there is always something I
can find to anguish about — at
least, just a little.
I remember the big
questions that kept me
awake at night when I
was pregnant with our
first child, Levi. What kind of
world would he (and eventu-
ally his brother) inherit? I
worried on his nascent behalf
about geopolitical instability,
global warming and terror at-
tacks.To be honest, apocalypse
was not on the short list, but
nearly everything else was.
Once I was busy with parent-
ing an actual baby, these anxiet-
ies moved on to new ones, also big and small:The
dreaded peanut; trying — unsuccessfully — to get
through Dr. Weissbluth's tome on sleep (Thankfully,
the same friend who lent me the book also gave me
a verbal summary of what I needed to know.); the
perfect stroller and parenting books.
I wanted — needed — to get everything just
right so that it would all go according to our grand
plan: happy, healthy, well-adjusted children who
would grow into happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults.
And, would it be so wrong if they decided to go to medical
My husband and I count our blessings every day for our
two beautiful, healthy boys. I am not all that superstitious
but let's throw in a "kaynahora"and a "poo-poo-poo"for
good measure. They are healthy. Robust. Earnest. Chortling
endlessly over their shared potty humor, then fighting
tooth and nail over toys and treats. They couldn't be more
boyish or more delicious.
But lately, I am all too aware of how fleeting and how
fragile it can be. It doesn't always go according to plan. We
have had a spate of very serious illnesses of friends' chil-
dren recently, and each one has brought this into sharper
and more painful focus: Our next-door neighbors, who are
dear friends, had a baby born with a rare chromosomal
abnormality that causes seizures and severe developmen-
tal disabilities. Levi's tee-ball teammate was unexpect-
edly diagnosed with leukemia. Another friend's daughter
developed a serious autoimmune disorder — seemingly
out of the clear blue. There is also the neighborhood friend
whose 14-month-old passed away from an aggressive
brain tumor. It's been a bleak year for some of our nearest
I can't pretend to make sense of these things; there
simply is no etyplOatio:2, But they make me keenly aware
Levi (left) and Izzy Kaplan. Their mom, Southfield native
Reva Nelson, has grappled with several friends' children
receiving poor diagnoses as of late.
of what really matters and the importance of seizing and
savoring every moment of joy. Right now! Not when I'm
finished responding to an email or washing the dishes in
Oddly, this consciousness of the moment coexists —
though far from equal — with less meaningful worries like
unsent thank you notes; my utter failure to get the boys to
eat vegetables; and my terror of lice. I aspire to be one who
rises above superficial concerns and day-to-day frustra-
tions, but I'm only human — and I still need to get party
In her heart-breaking and beautiful New York Times
essay "Notes From a Dragon Mom," about raising a child
with Tay Sachs, author Emily Rapp writes about her experi-
ence parenting a child who likely will not reach his third
She concludes:"This is a love story, and like all great love
stories, it is a story of loss. Parenting, I've come to under-
stand, is about loving my child today. Now. In fact, for any
parent, anywhere, that's all there is."Ry
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