Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I read this article today about worrying about children. It turns out that people are worrying about all the wrong things. Here are the top five things parents worry about, according to the article:

1. Kidnapping
2. School snipers
3. Terrorists
4. Dangerous strangers
5. Drugs

Here, on the other hand, are the top five ways children get hurt:

1. Car accidents
2. Homicide (usually committed by a person who knows the child, not a stranger)
3. Abuse
4. Suicide
5. Drowning

The premise of the article is that people are spending a lot of energy worrying about crimes that are actually quite rare, and not enough time doing something about the more common problems that they could prevent. The best thing parents can do is insist that their kids wear helmets and seatbelts and then stop worrying.

The list of things to worry about obviously varies depending on where you live. I know people whose children have been kidnapped here in Haiti. Kidnapping is something I have spent some energy worrying about. But the point of the article is a good one. It is easy to watch scary TV news and assume that the awful thing that happened to that person is likely to happen to you.

You might think that going through the earthquake would make me a more worried mother than I was before. After all, something that I had worried about actually happened. I have always worried quite a bit. My husband used to say that I should work at the Worst-Case Scenario Store, a place Garrison Keillor talked about on the radio. I have a very vivid imagination and I read too much.

However, I find I worry less now. I don't even go check on my children every time I wake in the night (though I still love watching them sleep and sometimes go downstairs to do that for a while). I think the main reason is that the earthquake reminded me of how little control I have over what happens. Worrying seems pointless in a way I always understood intellectually but now get at an emotional level. Why use my energy that way? If some terrible thing happens, my worrying will have absolutely no effect on the outcome. How much better it is to spend my time enjoying the life I have today!

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