It’s Normal to Worry This Much, Right?
Tales From a Chronic Worrier,
Guest Post by Beth Schulman
I work hard at being a devoted mother, teacher, sister, and friend. But, I often fall short, despite my good intentions. It’s tough balancing all our roles in life. The one role I’ve perfected throughout my life is the role of “worrier”.
My worries started the day I began Kindergarten. I got pulled out of class to meet with a speech therapist once a week. I couldn’t pronounce my g’s or j’s and forget about the sh, ch, th sounds! I worried every time I opened my mouth to talk. “Would the other children be able to understand me or would they just laugh?” When the Speech Therapist would take me into her closet classroom (yes, her classroom was an actual closet!), I’d worry about all the sounds I couldn’t master. And then, when I’d return to my classroom I’d worry about the 30 pairs of wide eyes staring back at me from their seated rows.
Throughout my early childhood, I worried about my parent’s divorce, my mother’s new boyfriend, my inability to memorize the multiplication table, my easily tangled frizzy long hair. The list goes on and on!
As I grew and became an adult, I was able to speak clearly (those speech classes in the closet must have done some good!) and no longer worried about being understood. I still sometimes used my fingers when multiplying, but mostly I just used my cell phone’s calculator. I discovered Keratin treatments, and my hair issues were no longer a concern.
Then I became a mother and the worries came pouring down on me like a constant soaking rain. “Why did my baby cry from 4pm to 7pm every night? Why wasn’t he talking, crawling, walking yet? Should I give him nuts? Whole milk or Skim?”
The worries continued when he started school. Would he make friends? Learn to read? Remember to use the bathroom?” I would complain to my friend, who had teenagers at the time, about all these worries. And every time I complained, she’d say the same thing, “Little children, little problems, big children, big problems.” I wanted to slap her hard every time she uttered those words. She clearly didn’t understand what I was going through. My worries certainly didn’t seem little. At that time, they felt enormous.
Now that I have teenagers, I understand what my friend was trying to tell me back then. Instead of worrying about whether my child will have a friend to sit with at lunch, I worry whether he will have the good sense not to get into the car with a friend who is driving drunk.
I’ve always had the belief that if you really love someone, you naturally worry about them. What I’ve come to understand as my children have gotten older and more independent is that my worry often casts a shadow over them. They internalize my worry to mean, “I don’t trust you and I’m afraid you’re going to mess up.”
The truth is I do trust them. I trust that they’ll make mistakes, just like I did when I was their age. I trust that they have the grit and resilience and fearlessness necessary to get up and keep moving forward. So instead of wallowing in my worry, I’m going to celebrate their spirit and embrace the unknown. I’m sure I’ll still have moments when worry will come knocking on my door but I’ll invite it in for only a brief visit. As my children enter the next chapter of their lives and I begin the next chapter of mine, I will shed my role as faithful worrier and just try being faithful.
Ms. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years. Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997. Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book.
“This dazzling and moving memoir is a roller coaster of loss and transition, held together by the reminder that love and family run deeper than we ever imagine. Written in gorgeous prose, this ultimately uplifting tale will have you savoring every page.”
Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance