It seems that with the birth of a child, parents seem to get a heavy dose of the "worry hormone."
How else to explain the long days and nights obsessing about whether the newborn is breathing as she sleeps (remember bending way down into the crib to hear the soft baby breaths?); whether the toddler will fall down and crack his skull open; whether the kindergartener will freak out on the first day of school?
As the child grows into adolescence, then into the teen years, the worries move to another, more relentless level: Will she be motivated to keep up her grades? Will he survive his first love? Will she care enough about herself to eat well, sleep well, live well?
It's so exhausting.
And, even if things are going relatively well, if family life has achieved some fragile state of harmony, worries creep in from the headlines: Will someone pull a gun at her school? How can I explain the Clinton-Lewinsky mess? If lying is acceptable in the White House, why not in our house?
The simple truth is that worries cloud our relationship with our children. They prevent us from seeing the people they are becoming.
Need some proof? If your son comes home from a soccer game and tells you he scored the winning goal, do you start worrying about his performance in the next game?
If your daughter proudly tells you she's saved $100 to take on vacation, is your first thought that she will probably lose the cash long before she can spend it?
Why can't parents just be proud of their kids' accomplishments?
Our family recently lost a grandfather, an event loaded with sadness and worries.
While dealing with our own grief, it was hard not to obsess over how the children would deal with theirs. The death of a grandparent is, after all, one of life's most difficult events.
But during those difficult days, it was the grandchildren who taught the adults how to live in the moment, and appreciate what is real, not what is imagined.
The grandchildren, 12 and 13 at the time, asked to take part in the planning of the funeral. They were clear on their need to be a part of the ceremony. They stood tall and proud at the wake, next to their grandfather's casket, greeting friends and family, many of them total strangers. They accompanied their grandmother, standing on either side of her, up to the casket for that last horrible moment to say good-bye. And they, despite their age, served as pallbearers because they wanted to take that last walk with their grandfather to his resting place.
There was nothing to worry about, they told us over and over. This is what they wanted to do; this is what they should be doing.
At that moment, we saw clearly what a wonderful young man and woman these two had grown into. And for once, we stopped worrying.