When magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman asked, “What, me worry?” he obviously didn’t know what he was saying. There’s a whole list of reasons to worry: the economy, the election, the war, crime, our children, our jobs, our overloaded schedules.
Of course we’re going to worry! After 10 minutes reading the newspaper or listening to the news, who wouldn’t be afraid? Who knows who our next president will be, and whether our country will be in good hands once the election is over? The newscasts regularly announce we’re in the throes of a recession. Headlines report shootings and burglaries all the time.
The trepidation really hits close to home when it comes to our children. Naturally, we can impact national and international events only so much. But even in our own little worlds, our efforts go only so far and whatever power we have is limited. The challenges kids face, the decisions they make and the behaviors they choose that could impact the rest of their lives are theirs and theirs alone.
Meanwhile, we’d like nothing more than to protect them from the pain they’re bound to experience. We wrap our arms around them. We dig into our experiences to advise them wisely. We hope they’ll do what we want them to.
Yet we can never be totally in control so we’re frustrated. Try as we’d like to whistle our kids — or anyone for that matter — into straight lines like Capt. von Trapp did in “The Sound of Music,” other people are more likely to instead march in no particular order to the beat of their own drummer.
The thing is, any reasonable person knows you can’t make anyone do what he doesn’t want to do. Real life isn’t like childhood playtime when each of us was in total control of what outfits Barbie wore and what our stuffed animals did. As adults, we need to remember we can only do so much to impact our little corner of the world. Whether we’ve done any good depends on others’ reactions to our actions. Things can go awry through no fault of our own or they can blossom beautifully without our input.
In life, we must balance patience with being proactive, concern with belief in each other’s abilities, and worry with faith and hope.
Perhaps in that balance, we’ll realize our fears mustn’t overtake us. Then, we can get to know our inner Alfred E. a little better.