Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Ah, one of the most popular photo poses in our household: the chokehold. That always used to kick me into scared-mommy mode, but no one ever passed out. Another example of needless worrying.

My all-time favorite bumper sticker, the one I think is worthy of marring a new bumper’s shiny surface simply says: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Words to live by….. as long as you’re not a parent. We sweat everything! EEEEVVVERYTHIIIIIIIING! Nothing is too small. And rightfully so because nothing is too small when you’re a parent. Being responsible for a teeny, squishy, still-has-an-actual-hole-in-the-head-for-months, impressionable human is, like, the biggest, most important, hardest job a human can sign up for. Sea-Monkeys seemed challenging? You’re growing an actual person. It’s daunting. Anyone who claims to be chill about his or her role and who says, “Everything’s going to be fine! I’m not worried!” Well, I say shut up. You have to be lying and if you’re not, well, then I would have something very choice to say about you as well as the horse you rode in on except that I just discovered my 15-year-old niece is a regular reader. So, I will show some restraint and only think it in my head. It’s a nasty, nasty thought.

Anyway, early on everyone’s first worry is about the Apgar scores and rightfully so. No one tells you this, but they do figure into whether or not your kid will be considered real college material or end up stuck at Arizona State University. Every one of those early weeks doesn’t just bring new milestones to watch for, it brings new possibilities that something could go catastrophically wrong. You worry if they’re rolling over on time, if that unsightly professorial bald ring on the back of the head is ever going to fill in with hair, if they’ll lose all that crazy back hair.

As No. 1 was attempting to make her grand entrance into the outside world, we were crazy panicked because she had been stuck for two hours. I’d heard terrible, scary stories about forceps deliveries, but in the 21st century, doctors Hoover them out. Still, sucking out a baby with what is essentially a vacuum hose seemed fraught with peril. We did it. Everything was fine.* I should have agreed to it two hours earlier before I developed whiplash symptoms from all that useless pushing that hurt way more than sending a baby through the high-powered flume ride regular exit.

At the newborn checkups, we discovered she was losing weight, way more than a baby should. Nursing issues. I had another meltdown at the idea of giving my baby something not mom-made and was instead processed in a factory. Which may or may not contain melamine. Yeah, she is, without a doubt, the smartest, most driven of all of our kids. Perhaps they should have sucked down some of that poison.

Then, when she was 2, her grandpa — as grandpas will do — was swinging her in circles by her hands, making her giggle. Later that afternoon she was cradling her right arm like a broken wing. Her dad was tiling in the bathroom, but it was apparent, this kid needed to go to the ER. We were so concerned that both of us went, leaving No. 2, a baby, with grandma — and strict orders not to let grandpa touch her.

While we fretted in the waiting room, hunger overtook hurt and my husband ran out to grab No. 1 some food. By the time we saw a doctor, her dislocated elbow was fixed — she’d reset it herself by reaching into the paper bag for fries. Our bathroom tile didn’t fare as well: Squares popped off the walls throughout the night.

That was just the first two years. I won’t go through all the rest — the biting at preschool (my kids have been both chompers and chompees), allergic reactions, all the angst over best friends who were suddenly not best friends and therefore revoking birthday party attendance privileges.**

Rough stuff. All of it.

And if you think you’re going to lose your mind over picking the right preschool and kindergarten and at each point on down the educational line, wait until you get to the college admissions process.*** Just when you’ve patted yourself on the back for doing a real whiz-bang job building up your kids’ confidence and making them play sports to learn about triumph and defeat and teamwork and thinking they’ll realize this in the non playing field situation called life…Guess what? It won’t translate. They’ll still feel wickedly bad about themselves and like they’ve failed with each college rejection and waitlist.

Everything comes out fine in the end. Yet still we sweat the small stuff every damn step of the way because it’s big stuff at the time. That’s just what we do.

Bottom line: Disappointment is always… disappointing. But it doesn’t have to be crippling. Besides, getting turned down by a college isn’t as bad as, say, getting infected by a virus that turns you into a zombie, which is actually my second favorite bumper sticker. I love those zombie families. They really seem to have it together.

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*Well, everything was fine but didn’t especially look fine. My baby had a conehead for days. Totally could have guest starred on “SNL” back in the day. Without prosthetics.

**Did you know the biggest insult in a 5-year-old’s world is to say, “You can’t come to my birthday party!” Well, it is.

**Read this book well before your kid starts applying for college. A good two years before, at least. Provides great perspective on what has become a very skewed, out-of-control process. Look at that? Now I’m giving summer reading recommendations. Hard to believe I don’t get more traffic.

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