If you know me at all, you know the thing I am best at is worrying. Sure, I’m good at crafty things and can perfectly line up googly eyes. I can make boxed macaroni and cheese like a boss, and I’m even really great at folding towels. But I’m best at worrying. I’m absolutely certain I got this from my mother; she worries about everything. Even if she has zero control over it, she’ll worry about it.
I’m an almost 40 year-old adult with four kids and I worry a lot. I worry about our finances. I worry about the play-doh my preschooler just ate and I hope it comes out soon. I worry about the dinner I made because I’m at least fairly certain I forgot one, probably two, key ingredients. I worry that chicken isn’t cooked through and my whole family will die and then I’ll go to prison and I don’t even like the color orange and what if I’m in a cell with someone who snores?!
None of it is rational and if I don’t squash it, it becomes a runaway train on which I envision my friends are interviewed on Dateline about the time I killed my family with under-cooked chicken on accident.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
My husband and I have real problems to worry about and every month I cry it out and hope the next month is better… but it never is. We can’t catch a break at all but we do our best with not letting our kids see it.
Before you say I shouldn’t let my kids live in a fantasyland, we absolutely aren’t. We don’t hide things like finances from them. They understand bills and working for a paycheck, budgeting, learning to prioritize spending, learning to say no to things we want but can’t afford, etc. I had that growing up and I felt like that helped me as an adult, and I want that for my kids, too.
I worry about my health, and my husband and I talk about it a lot. I worry about how I will manage now that my parents moved away and I no longer have them nearby. What would we do if my husband lost his job? Or got hurt? How are we going to plan for future expenses for the kids?
As adults, we all have a never-ending list of things to worry about, but as a parent, it feels like that list quadruples, doesn’t it? It feels like we have to be ready for everything. It’s like the game dodgeball and you have to be ready to block a ball from any direction. The difficulty is learning when to shut the worry faucet off in front of your kids.
I think we see kids as these resilient beings who can bounce back from anything. They have their whole life to live and by being kids they shouldn’t have a care in the world. Except they do. They know when mom and dad are stressed out and worried. I’m a big believer in being honest with your children at all times and there is a way to do it without scaring them. So this winter, when it became obvious that we no longer could afford the house we were in but also my ability to move around in the house was becoming an issue, my husband and I sat down to make a decision.
Bring in the troops
I always refer to our four kids as the troops because sometimes when I take all four kids somewhere, they all seemingly follow me in a line and I feel like we’re walking into war. At Target, usually. I also tell our children that no matter what happens, we’re a team. We work together for each other and sometimes that means we make sacrifices for the good of the group. Sure, a three and four-year-old don’t get that, but as they get older they will.
My parents moved to Florida to help with my grandparents and while I am sad that they aren’t here to help me, it ended up being bittersweet. Because they moved their house became available, which is smaller than our house and financially a better fit for us. Downsizing to a home significantly smaller for a family of six has not been easy. We have all had to get rid of some of our things and make some real changes in our routine (six people and one bathroom isn’t something I’d recommend) but we know this is better for all of us in the long run.
We’ve been upfront with the kids why the move needed to happen, how they can help, and have asked for their input and ideas on other changes we could make. You would be surprised at how helpful they can be if you just give them a chance.
The difference between good worry and bad worry for kids is whether they can help any of it. Can my kids fix our financial issues? No. Can they help us downsize so that the move doesn’t end with us all crying and tripping over boxes of stuff we have no room for? Yes. We tell them not to worry about the money, that’s our job, but their job is to be responsible with their things (don’t be careless with a phone because we can’t replace it, for example), to be grateful for each other and what we have, and do their best.
All I’m saying is that worry can be okay. Sometimes we need to think about something in our heads from all angles before we can do something about it and kids are no different. Learning to compromise, knowing it’ll be okay to change course when you have to, and knowing you’ve made a mistake and have to fix it are all far more important skills I can give them than the latest and greatest shoes or phone. Worrying can certainly eat you alive if you don’t have an outlet to talk it out, but I am always surprised that even my scariest worries may have simple solutions when I open up about them with my family.