“I am a parent, therefore I worry.”
Or maybe it should be “I worry, therefore I am a good parent.”
Either way, we parents tend to worry a lot. I can really attest to that because I am not a worrier. I never have been one to fret about things much. But then I had kids, and while maybe I’m not the champion parent worrier, I have definitely learned what it means to worry. Because I do worry about my children, and I worry about them a lot. I worry about what they eat (or don’t eat), I worry about school, I worry if they have good friends, I worry about their safety, I worry that I’m somehow not doing enough for them in any number of areas, I just worry. The list could get really, really long if I actually sat down and wrote it down.
But am I really worrying about the right things? Are you?
In Christie Barnes’ book The Paranoid Parents Guide she really peels away the layers and gets right to the heart of what we should really be worrying about as parents. And what’s more, the actions we should take to prevent our worries from becoming realities.
Now, we all know that worry is based in fear. So where is all of this parental fear coming from? Barnes says that it comes from several sources, most notably our nightly newscasts. Whenever there is a kidnapping—the kind where a perfect stranger snatches a child—it is broadcast over and over again until we feel like it is a daily occurrence, that children are getting kidnapped at alarmingly high rates and that we must protect our children from this danger at all costs. There is a reason we all know the names Kyron Horman, Elizabeth Smart, and Polly Klaas.
Barnes writes that kidnapping is the number one worry amongst parents. I admit to being worried about it and teaching my children about “stranger danger” and insisting they hold my hand or stay very near to me in public places because I am afraid someone might steal them. Yes. I worry about kidnapping.
But should I be worrying about it? Barnes says no. Even though the kidnapping statistics seem extremely large, the truth is that stereotypical kidnappings (the stranger involved ones we worry so much about) account for only 115 kidnappings a year. So it is highly unlikely that my child is going to be snatched up by a sinister stranger while I am inspecting melons in the grocery store.
So what should I be worrying about? Car accidents, for starters. Automobile accidents are the leading killer of children in all age groups, and most of these deaths could have been prevented by simply making sure our children are buckled in correctly and paying attention to car seat safety guidelines. I think maybe because we drive on a daily basis, we stop being afraid of it. Nothing usually happens, so we become just a little less vigilant about the things we really should be worrying about. Just yesterday, I saw what was most certainly a first or second grade girl sitting in the front seat of a car without any sort of booster seat. The law in my state says that children must remain in boosters until the age of 8, and I’m pretty certain that most cars have heavy warnings to not seat young children in the front due to the dangers of being killed by airbags. I’m sure her parents didn’t think it was any big deal to just let her ride in the front seat sans booster the few blocks to the school. However, anything could happen on that short ride and it could have been prevented.
Barnes goes on to debunk many other top parental worries and help us learn how to prioritize and do something about our fears as parents. The last half of the book is spent discussing the top dangers for each age group and what we can do to prevent them from coming to pass.
Now, you may say, “I could just look all of this stuff up online whenever I’m worried about something, couldn’t I?” and yes, I suppose you could. But Barnes has sifted through statistic after statistic and report after report and has determined what is real and what is sensationalism. She has put it all into one easy reference guide that can be a go-to source just as easily as Google could, and it has more concise and reliable information. I highly recommend this book for any parent that has ever worried about raising children and all that entails. Which is all of us.