It’s written into the job description contract of parents – “Thou shalt worry yourself sick about your children”. The variables and nuances of this simple-looking statement together run into the thousands.
I took a quick straw poll amongst 50 of my friends, asking them to name their five major worries. I was amazed at how certain concerns appeared again and again – whereas some didn’t come up except in one or two lists. Here, then, is the sum total of what they told me:
1. Accidents and Injuries: What if my child is injured or killed? I cannot imagine life without her. I have child-proofed my house, but short of confining her within it, I cannot control her life. I cannot bear to let her out of my slight; the world is so cruel. Each day I hear of children being abducted, or killed, and I always think that this child has homework in her bag, and clothes in the wash, in her home. I worry myself sick about silly things – what if she trips on the carpet and suffers permanent disability? What if a drunken driver kills her?
That having been said, I make sure they wear helmets and knee and elbow pads when on their bikes.
2. Doing Well At School: These days, and education is important, and a Degree is almost the same as a bit of paper. My kids, I think, do not study as much as their peers; they always seem to be out of the house or glued to their pc screens. Surely they are not working to their full potential. I want them to get a good job, and if this does not happen, they will probably end up blaming me for not making them study harder. But what can I do; they always tell me I nag, nag, and nag.
3. I Think My Child Is Not Mature Enough: I do all I can for him, in order to teach him how to think for himself eventually – and perhaps, ironically, that is the greater part of the problem. Yet it gives me a kick when he asks for my advice, or at least my opinion. Life skills are acquired, but someone has to show them how to do budgeting and choose a wardrobe, no? At his age (12) I could cook a four-course meal for five – his idea of cooking is making instant ramen noodles.
4. Stranger Danger: No matter that the statistics say that abuse most often obtains within the child’s family or familiar circle, I m still afraid for my child when it comes to interacting with strangers. It’s not only sexual abuse that I fear – I also have this illogical fear of random drive-by shootings, or bullying by teachers or other social leaders. I have done my part by enrolling my child in a self-defence class. I have taught my children age-appropriate things with regards to ‘private body’ areas, but one never knows, does one?
5. Illness: I am worried that my child will fall incurably ill. I know that these days, medicine has made great advances, and conditions that used to be fatal are now medically treatable; however, I have seen several family members die young, and so this is always at the back of my mind. I do not want my child to become hypochondriac, and so I always make sure that any visit to the doctor is presented as a check-up, rather than clinically. I am also afraid that pressures of life will make him clinically depressed.
6. Bullying: The press always makes a fuss of incidents of bullying by peers when these result in a child being injured or killed. So you cannot blame me for being afraid for my kids. When we belong to a minority – race religion, social class, whatever – we are probably in a target group. Even if a child does not fit in socially, or has attitudes, ideas or looks that are different from the mean, the chances are that he will be picked upon. There is not guarantee that there will be adequate adult supervision in any group. Sometimes, there is not much difference between teasing and downright bullying, and parents tend to be accused to making a fuss over nothing, especially if the bully happens to be one of the favoured children in the group.
7. Poor Self-Esteem: I am reticent, myself, and so I sort of expected my children to be reserved to. However, I am seeing that this, in them, translates into having low elf-esteem. I am worried that this will keep them back in life. They are virtually ignored by the teachers in class, because they never put their hands up to volunteer an answer, even if it is plain, through their subsequent class-work, that they know it. All this I have found out in Parents’ Days because they are very uncommunicative. Bullies could find them easy prey.
8. Obesity: My kids do not like healthy food, and so in order to get them to eat so0me vegetables, I bribe them with fries and chicken nuggets, and this seems to work. However, I have noticed that they are gaining weight; they are not actually fat, but they are on the outside of the curve for their BMI. I am afraid that this will affect their health, their emotional state, and their standing amongst their peers. The fatter they get, the less exercise they feel like doing. I have bough them stationary bikes, but they are using them less and less. I do not want to make an issue of it, lest they become anorexic. I feel I have created this vicious circle myself. I know the issue is being healthy, as opposed to being too fat or too thin; but I cannot get out of this hole I have dug myself.
9. Substance Abuse: The temptations are great. Today’s children have money in their hands, and you cannot police their every movement, and how they spend each cent. Besides, they often have friends who are older than they, and they can obtain alcohol and cigarettes, if not actually drugs, through them. This problem is exacerbated because the media, despite everything, still presents drinking and smoking as glamorous.
10. Violence: I could not stomach playing more than ten minutes of some of the latest video games that my sons have bought. Exploding bodies, mega-round bazookas, strange creatures that eat humans for breakfast – no, it is definitely not funny. There are people who say they would rather know where their children are, that is, at home, playing games. But to these people I say that the child is only there in body – his mind, heart and soul are miles away.
Stories of an American couple's adventures in Italy
'Ghandi x' Nghid' (I have something to say) is a blog that focuses on current affairs and personal reflections - Andrew Azzopardi