young child sleeping


Is It Just Me Or Is Parenting Sometimes Terrifying?

Jun 28, 2022

What is it about 4 a.m.?

That’s the time my alarm clock shows, in ferocious red numbers, when I wake up from time to time. On some blissful early mornings I am able to go back to sleep.

Other times, the thoughts begin. I tend to run down my “work” checklist without too much angst. But the kids, oh the kids.

How I fret. How I stew. Is it just me, or is parenting sometimes a terrifying business? Here are a few of my 4 a.m. thoughts.

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Are They Breathing?

When my first child was a newborn, I hovered over him while he slept. Was his chest moving? Was he too still? Did he look pale? Sometimes I had to lay a gentle palm on his chest just to make sure. And the dreams  — oh, the anxiety dreams. It was scary business. Luckily, with my second I had more experience and she slept in her own room from the very first night. But I still remember the terror. I had to live through it and trust that everything was OK before I myself was truly OK

Are They Ready for the Next Stage?

Are they ready for daycare? How will they cope in kindergarten? Can they handle high school? They want to go away to college or university — is it safe? These transitions aren’t just tough on kids, they’re not a walk in the park for parents either. And just like kids need these changes in order to develop, so too do parents. It’s not easy when they’re three, 13 or 23 —  but I know we have to let them go.

Do They Have Kind Friends? Are They Kind in Return?

Encouraging kind and compassionate behaviours is always a goal. It starts with their very first playdate and continues as we hope they make great friends in school and activities, and form romantic relationships that are healthy and safe. It’s not fun to hear when our kids feel alone, or are treated badly by others. It’s also scary to be on the receiving end of the news — that our kids are not always as kind or inclusive as we want them to be. Modeling good and respectful relationships and asking questions goes a long way here.

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Are They Healthy? Are They Safe?

We are responsible for so much, especially early on, when it comes to our kids’ health and safety. Those 4 a.m. thoughts often wonder if I fed my kids enough vegetables and organic chicken to make up for the Monster Energy drinks and steady diet of pizza they now seem to consume. To think I was once worried about too much chocolate milk — now the concern is too much beer, or other substances. But like I told myself when they were little and like I tell myself now — everything in moderation. Don’t sweat the foodstuffs.

After one of my son’s classmates was killed in a horrible traffic accident when he was six, I’ve always had a paralyzing loop of fear around cars and kids.

"I have to choose joy because it’s the only way to truly live and love life."

The truck backing down the driveway and not seeing him on his scooter. The car that ran the stop sign just as my daughter was about to cross. And now that my son is older, I am worried about him driving. I know from friends whose kids now have their licenses that it is so hard to let them go without us. To navigate the traffic and the danger. But, again, I know we have to.

My mantras these days switch between two: “Choose joy” and “It’s probably fine”. I have to choose joy because otherwise I am wasting my life staying in the negative. I have to choose joy because it’s the only way to truly live and love life. And I tell myself “it’s probably fine” because, well, it usually is.

Am I Too strict? Am I Too Easy?

This one is all tied up in the fear.

I'm responsible for my kids’ health and happiness, but am I too strict — too controlling? Or am I too lenient — do I want my kids to have such great lives that I fail to set rules and boundaries? I’m sure to waffle between the two, but I’m learning when to let it go and when to say no. There is no automatic cruise control function for parenting.

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Did I Do A Good Enough Job to Let Them Go?

For the love of all things good and holy, if I am going to mess up anything in life, please don’t let it be this — parenting. What a responsibility to be the first lens through which these small humans view the world. Did I get enough of it right? Did I set them up for a great life? Will they be OK? I have to assume so. I have to go back to “it’s probably fine” and let them figure some of this out on their own.

So 4 a.m. comes and goes, sometimes in slumber, sometimes in wakefulness. I try to choose joy. I try to do my best and let go of the rest. But I think from time to time, most parents worry about our amazing precious children. We use logic to remind us of the odds, and scoff at the worrying. And yet, sometimes the thought crosses my mind:

Are they breathing? Are they still breathing?

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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