What if...Everything Turns Out Great
They are terrified. Will they wind up like their pregnant friend and her husband, who set their alarm for the middle of the night to feed a doll (you know, for practice)? Will they be zombies like the mother and father they meet at a baby shower whose child has zapped their energy? Will they have to trade their cute car in for a minivan? And what about the foosball machine? Will the crib take the place of that?
Maybe they're not ready to have a baby after all, they think.
The show made me realize: I don't know if I'm ready to be a mother, either. Granted, I already have three children. But, believe me, this feeling of being ill-prepared never stops.
Am I willing to trade in my Buick for a minivan? In that case, yes. The minivan has been my dreamcar since age 17. It's a smooth ride, and I really don't understand the bad rap.
As for the pretend feedings, well, crazy is as crazy does. And the energy? It's overrated. The last time I had extra energy, for instance, I used it to tap my pen on my desk really fast.
These worries wash away soon enough. You realize, for instance, that waking up in the middle of the night is second nature. You've already been doing it for 9 months to go to the bathroom 800 times.
And anything else that changes your life, well, you put on your big girl panties and deal with it.
But once the baby is born, the worries switch to the child.
He is obsessed with arranging toy cars in a straight line. Is he autistic?
He's 10 percent in height and weight. Is he a midget?
He's in the 1000 percentile in size. Does he have that disease that Andre the Giant had?
And when they start school, it's all over. You pretty much have to schedule 8 hours into your day just for worrying. Might as well quit your day job because you'll be up all night.
What if she has attention deficit disorder? What if she doesn't have attention deficit disorder? Why is she acting like that then?
What if nobody plays with him at recess?
What if she overhears the girls talking about a birthday party...and she never got an invitation? In fact she hasn't been invited to a friend's house all year?
Soon, you get involved in school activities. Now, you have 100 kids to worry about.
What if he has to leave his friends and move to California because his mom is getting married?
What if a kid tells somebody, "We're best friends," and the other boy answers back, "No, we're not?"
Many of these worries are beyond your control, of course. Other times, you think, if I had parented differently, that wouldn't have happened.
Yesterday, J.J. had a friend over.
He shared his cars and trucks. He shared his bug shaped instruments. He shared his trains.
Then, as soon as I left the room, he pushed the kid onto the floor. The poor little boy was crying and his mom was so sad for him.
J.J. went in time out, of course. But I thought, am I raising him to be a brute?
Because, as you probably know, my boys wrestle a lot. J.J. recently perfected a Three Stooges move in which he throws Richie into Johnny and they fall like dominos. They think it's funny.
But now, he's pushing down a kid who was just standing there minding his own business. Not funny.
Maybe I've let them go wild. As a mother up at school once said about another lady: Her children are like dandelions. They're not raised. They just grow.
For instance, my kids jump on the couch. To me, it's normal behavior. Until a few years ago, I did it myself sometimes. It's a good cardio workout. But now, come to find out, normal people don't let their children do this.
What if they grow up thinking anything goes?
All these worries are enough to drive a mother crazy. You can become scared of your own shadow. You can assume that what works for one family should work for yours. You can wonder why your children can't sit still when you know darn well that hyperactivity runs in the family.
But, you know, there is a flip side to fear. It's not fearlessness, which is unattainable if not dangerous.
Because most things could go either way.
It seems only fair, after considering what could go wrong, to imagine what might go right.
So...I hope that the girl who doesn't get invited to parties knows the preciousness of friendship when she finally finds it. And she will find it. Everybody has a friend out there somewhere.
I hope the boy who plays on his own never joins the crowd. It's big enough already.
I hope small kids don't feel too small and big kids don't feel too big. I hope all kids feel just right.
I hope the boy who moves to California becomes a movie star. Or a surfer. Or whatever makes him really happy.
And when things go wrong for these kids, as things always do, I hope that they look on the flip side of fear and see hope.