The Evolution of Worry

The Evolution of Worry-6574The Evolution of Worry-6580The Evolution of Worry-6608

My worries seem to be shifting as my children get older.  I wish I could say I worry less, but a better description would be that I worry differently.

I do believe that in many ways I am getting better, and that my younger ones benefit from my past experiences with their older siblings.  When Silas declares that he hates Mass and never wants to go again, I don’t panic and start having thoughts along the lines of, “Oh, where did I go wrong?  My child hates Jesus!”  Followed by a way over his head lecture on why you shouldn’t say you “hate Mass.”  No, Silas declaring that he hates Mass might result in a raised eyebrow, maybe just the twitch of an eye.  Mostly I just ignore these dramatic statements.  What he means to say is that he finds Mass boring, and it’s hard to sit still.  I too struggle with sitting still.

When I spot Silas and Job playing in the murky water in the little plastic pool next to the house, three minutes after I have gotten them dressed in clean outfits (for the second time that day) I don’t really think about the muddy laundry or the dirty footprints that will result.  Instead, I try to focus on feeling thankful that they are spending quality, non-violent time together.

My worries are far more tangled up with these older children of mine.  Suddenly every decision carries the weight of their entire futures.  Rather than worrying that my little ones are going to destroy my house (they already did) or are on the highway to sociopathy, I’m worried that one bad decision on my part could wreck my older kids’ lives.  All it would take is one false move on my part, one bad decision.   You can understand why all those little things that used to worry me don’t matter quite so much anymore.

So when Larkspur asked if she could go kayaking with her older brothers, I didn’t struggle like I did years ago when she wanted to go snow tubing with her brothers.  I ran it by Jonny, who thought she would be fine.  We made sure that her brothers were on board, knowing that she might end up needing some help.  It turns out she did, and Gabe came to the rescue with a strap that Jonny had tucked into his kayak for just in case.  When we returned a couple hours later and watched Gabe paddle her back to shore, I thought of all the good in these kids, all the potential that I don’t have the power to destroy with “one false move.”  This life, this raising of children, there is too much that is out of my control.  So I will do my best to make reasonable, loving decisions, and I will try to relax.  But let’s face it, I am always going to worry.


  1. This post has been sitting in my inbox for awhile now. I wish I would have read it earlier this week! We just had our first daughter, and I find myself worrying about EVERYTHING. I guess reading facebook articles at 3 AM while nursing doesn’t help . . . Last week I was paranoid about a potential spider infestation, this week about whether or not wifi is safe to have around our baby (thanks facebook article)–we live under a cell phone tower, so we can’t escape that for at least a year . . . and then I started to read a good parenting book, but then I feel like a failure if I don’t follow it perfectly. I finally had some time to meditate on scripture and talk to another mom friend. It really helped. My poor husband was trying, but I think I just stressed him out. At the end of the day, I think I needed a lot more sleep than I was getting this week. Sleep makes a difference, as much as I hate to admit it. I am also trying to reconnect with my childhood self that loved the outdoors, was not afraid to go barefoot, and swam in the rivers and lakes without a second thought!

  2. Erin @ Wild Whispers says:

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes. From a mom who just worried her way to a college acceptance for her homeschooled/unschooled/artsy/immature/so mature/amazing/pain in the butt/man do I love her teenager, Yes. You’ve got this. I’ve got this. We’ve all, with the Grace of God the Father, got this. Blessings and so much love, Ginny.

  3. Adding my voice to say thank you, Ginny. This post struck a chord with me. I have one child, a 15 year old boy, and certainly share the sense that the worrying changes in nature as he grows older. I work in a k-12 school and spend a great deal of time listening to parents who worry and I offer the same bit of advice every time: no one grows up without making a mistake and so as parents we must give our children time to explore, to try out their decision-making skills, to learn from experiences and make better decisions the next time out. I know it’s good advice but golly can it be hard to hold on to when things get rough! The strength and happiness of our children will come from the communities we create for them and the support we find for ourselves as parents. Thank you for being such a vital part of my community!

  4. May I please have a bottle of Silas’ smiles? I am a little bit in love 😀

    About the serious stuff : worry is good, letting go is good too, it’s all about balance, isn’t it? And trust too, I guess.

  5. worriers never stop worrying, however I think we get better at feeling worried and find ways to soothe ourselves. My children are 25 and 22 yo and I still worry about them. I always chant “everything I worry about never comes true” that makes me feel better (and so far it’s been true, whatever I’ve thought up never occurs). I pray (a lot) and figure that covers just about everything.

    You have a lovely family and you sound so happy and content. That is what it is all about 🙂

  6. Great post, nodded my head all way through
    My two eldest, nearly 21 and 17, give me all kinds of worries but so different from life with the littlest at nearly 8
    Don’t sweat the small stuff
    Happy days xx

  7. Richard says:

    You didn’t say why Larkspur needed help and I can only speculate that she must have cramped-up with all the upper-body exercise. I suppose Jonny knew this might happen and probably did some worrying in that department for you and that was the reason to include the tow-strap. I am not married nor do I have any children but, if I did, I am sure that I would worry about whether I was a good parent and doing the right things also. The fact that you have seven children and you have made it this far and still have not pulled your hair out must mean that you are and have been doing a pretty darn good job of parenting! Thanks again for sharing your life stories and photos with us.

  8. You have more wisdom than you realize Ginny. “He is mindful that we are but flesh.”

  9. I hear you!!!

    I pray and I pray and I know God loves these children so much more than I can even begin to.

    I think about the words my Mother has told me more than once. She says, “I often feel like my children turned out, IN SPITE of me.” I know what she means. I often feel the same way as I mother. BUT, my mother was a terrific mother and I appreciate all she did, all she’s done, and all she still does.

  10. Love this. You know, it’s kinda helpful to have friends (even internet friends 😉 that are just a few years past where we are now. I appreciate the perspective and see myself growing in the same ways. Thank you!

  11. kim schildbach says:

    I have a 20 year old and now I KNOW I messed up!!

    Clearly I shouldn’t have been given this job.

    Luckily I have a great boss who forgives me each time and holds me in his hand when I cry (GOD).

    I think none of us have any idea what we are truly doing and we all worry a lot. Parenting gives us multiple times in a day to mess up but also to regroup and attempt to do better. Seems like your decision to let her go worked and will be chalked up on your “good decision” side of the board.

    I hope that if we keep loving and praying that within it all (the mess ups and the worry) we will provide a wonderful childhood for our kids. Please God, Mother Mary and ALL the Saints let it be so!



  12. My three oldest are in their twenties and I worry about them, but am far more at peace. My husband and I know we made mistakes, but that we did the best we could. They are not “messed up” but making good choices and still asking for advice. I think the best thing we did was develop a good relationship with them so that they respect our opinions and even enjoy our company. Mu husband especially worked at this, working at home so that he could be an influence in their lives and not a distant stranger. I am so happy to see this and their strong relationship with their dad has been one of the greatest joys in my life. It makes parenting a whole lot easier.

    We are both so much more relaxed with our younger kids. Although, we don’t want to get too relaxed. I’ve seen families where because the older kids turned out alright, the parents assumed the younger ones would follow suit, just because, and that assumption came back to bite them with a vengeance. Because the baby of the family tends to be spoiled (it just happens), we’ve realized we’ve got to more vigilant about curbing our youngest’s drama when he doesn’t get what he wants and keep the other kids from giving in to him. My parents practiced benign neglect with the youngest in our family who became an unpleasant, demanding, bossy and selfish person and has caused endless drama in the family. I don’t want to inflict that kind of sibling on the rest of my kids.

    One more thing – about Silas’ hating mass. Have you tried to sit near the front where he can see what’s going on at the altar? (I’d be bored too, if all I could see in front of me was a see of heads and hear some disembodied voices.) I figured that if I made the effort to get the kids good seats so they could see some secular performance (even if it is just a puppet show at the library), I should exert even more effort to help them experience the most important thing the family does all week – worship God and partake of the Eucharist. I think we kind of lose sight of that sometimes in the commotion to just get everyone dressed and to church on time, but I think it is really worth the effort to make it a priority.

  13. Alice R. says:

    You are right. Healthy, confident children, or even kids who are struggling, cannot be undone by a rare bad decision on your part. There will be plenty of bad decisions on everyone’s part, and a path that’s lost can always be found again.

  14. Aloha Ginny. I don’t always post a comment, but this post moved me so much I just had to share. But before I do, I just want to say thank you. Thank you so much for posting what’s on your heart and being so open with us. I learn so much from your musings. I am really blown away by how generous the online community is.

    Well, about your post… I have been reading the book Free to Learn, by Peter Gray and although I am only on page 37 – it has really been resonating with me. He is an advocate for a bit of freedom in children’s play (without parents hovering near by or intervening, as long as it is a safe environment and situation) both same- age play and age-mixed play. This quote came to mind as I read your words about Gabe towing Larkspur, “age-mixed play is qualitatively different from same-age play. It is less competitive and more nurturing” (Gray, 37). What wonderful lessons are exhibited in that picture! For Gabe, as he takes came of his younger sibling and for Larkspur as she learns to imitate her older siblings and then to seek out help when needed. To have her understand that her brothers are there for her. They are learning so much from each other Ginny… so many rich lessons that they’ll use for the rest of their lives.

    I don’t have older children, just my one little boy who is about to turn one. But oh to me it looks like you are doing so well. And your children are thriving. I think there will always be a bit of worry. And that’s alright. Because being a mother means to worry, and to love, and to laugh, and to cry, and to grow. Oh the journey! How wonderful, and painfully beautiful.

  15. Carri Kuhn says:

    I can so relate, especially to the part about “worrying differently”. My two are nearing the end of the teens and there seems to be so much to stress over. A lesson in faith and trusting God’s goodness I guess!

  16. I hardly ever worried when my kids were little. I think most mothers, when their children are little, think that’s the hardest stage. You have gotten to the stage when you realize that was the easy part. I worry all the time now — almost constant anxiety, sometimes about my kids, sometimes about nothing I can put my finger on. It’s a miserable way to live. And my kids are half grown (half adults gone from the nest)! I’m glad to hear you’ve made a decision to not worry about some things. Face it, there are enough things we can’t control our worry about!

  17. Oh, yes. I have found that the majority of my mama worry is directed at my older kids, especially my 14 year old!

  18. oh Larkspur, those legs! And what a sweet brother!

  19. Ginny, I love your honesty! My children are all grown 33yrs-26yrs, and I continue to worry. Oh I’m through the teen and young adult( the hardest for me) worries and thank God for that. My children are wonderful adults, productive and happy! So why worry, I’m not sure-sometimes I wonder if I have spent so many years worrying that it is part of my personality.;-(. As a young adult entering motherhood I don’y remember worrying so much, people use to say I was so laid back….but then life events starting happening and I realized how vulnerable my absolute love for my children was. We lost a child very suddenly. I believe my husband is my rock and due to our amazing marriage we have weathered all the storms together . You have a husband such as this…we are very fortunate!

  20. Gwendolyn says:

    I loved the pictures of the kids. They are getting SO grownup…even the little ones. It’s funny, I just had a conversation with my husband about our grandkids. I didn’t want my daughter going to “bike night” late at night because if a deer came out on the road and something happened to her…what would happen to the grandkids with their father not living right and he’s not sure there is a God. It would change those kids lives forever. So I totally get your worry.

  21. Love this post. It’s true, the worry never, at least for me, does go away. The issues get larger but I have learned that you just have to have more faith that your older children will have the where with all to make good decisions. It’s a scary world but having teenagers or adult children really is a lesson for us parents of letting go while we keep that incredibly special connection and thread that is like a life line. Parenting is a real dance!

  22. I can really relate Ginny. I always thought I’d worry less as the girls got older. In a way everything seems to carry so much more weight especially in terms of their future etc… Of course their are things like driving as well. We live in a rural area so a car will be a necessity for our eldest soon and I’m trying not to panic too much about it 🙂

  23. Love and faith keeps you all together. Blessed be the ties that bind and you all have those blessed ties. It will all be well. How could it not with such a loving and caring family..and of course, there is chaos and crabbiness and scariness at times..but the deep down love is there…and you and your husband planted those seeds and with your faith nourished them.

  24. ” This life, this raising of children, there is too much that is out of my control. So I will do my best to make reasonable, loving decisions, and I will try to relax. But let’s face it, I am always going to worry.” That statement sums up my whole mothering experience. All I can say is you ARE doing the best that you can, you are there, day in, day out, loving those little souls and with God’s help they will grow into well adjusted, loving and productive adults. And yes, you will always worry, even it they are 32 years old with a child of their own. Loved today’s photos and how wonderful your boy’s are to help their sister. Much love.

  25. I hear you. I frequently worry about their teenaged snarkiness and sudden lack of empathy. Then weeks like this one, when younger cousins are staying with us, and I see them playing games that don’t hold their interest, splashing in a wading pool, and playing with swords and shields for hours on end, and I realize that there is a great deal of good in them. I just am not always (or even often) on the receiving end of that. Oh, and my youngest says EVERY single week that he hates church, and he’s never going when he grows up. (He’s prone to melodramatics so I don’t believe half of what he says.)

  26. I think Larkspur is starting to transition into one of your “big kids.”

  27. I don’t have kids (as you know ;-)), but I think that’s the parents’ lot. They are always going to worry. That doesn’t make it easier but I think just *knowing* that you are always going to have that undercurrent of worry makes it easier to ID and say “Oh, I’m worrying” and then think if you really need to worry or if you can do what you did with the kid “hating” Mass.
    I don’t know if that helps. 🙂

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