So Parenting Is Just Doing Things You’re Scared Of Over and Over?


My son, Lou, is 3 years and 7 months old, and he still sleeps in a crib. The on-paper reason is simple: He hasn’t tried to get out. While all around the world toddlers his age and (much) younger careen out of their confined spaces, he sits quietly in his, singing to himself.

But there’s a bigger reason that, this close to 4, we haven’t made the transition to the toddler bed: I’m scared.

I’m mostly scared of losing sleep. I cannot imagine a world in which Lou is physically able to leave his bed and come into ours and he chooses not to. And there are other fears, like that he will sleepwalk and fall down the stairs, or somehow become impaled on a loose object in his room. There are so many things to figure out, and I’m overwhelmed by my own fear.

It’s not just the toddler bed, though; I’m scared in parenting a lot. I was scared to stop swaddling. (Me: “Let’s wait.” My husband: “We legally can’t.”) I was terrified of starting solids (and, when it turned out Lou had food allergies, justifiably so). I was nervous about potty training, and put it off until just a few months ago — and please don’t ask how it’s going (as I write, this week’s fourth load of pee-soaked laundry is in the rinse cycle). Even swimming lessons seemed like a logistical hurdle too great to handle. When we did sign up, we were late on the first day because I had my period and we had to stop for tampons, and when we got there I couldn’t find the pool door. We made our entrance mid-lesson, me wearing only a bathing suit and winter boots, frantically saying excuse me to the fully clothed adults watching their kids and spouses blow bubbles.

Which brings me to ask: Is parenting just doing things you’re scared of over and over and over until it’s time for college? Or, more accurately… forever?

I found growing up kind of terrifying. I had a great childhood — idyllic in many ways — but I still had to do things like join new schools, attend summer camps, and play sports. I was always nervous before these moments, sometimes so nervous that I did embarrassing things like make my mom stay well past dropoff, or refuse to carpool to an away game with the rest of my soccer team so I could stay safely in my family’s car. A lot of this was typical shy-kid stuff, but there was also a hum of real fear. I worried that the next thing I had to do would be disastrous in some way, and preferred to take the safe route whenever possible.

Then I became an adult. By the time I got pregnant at 34, I was married, had a career, and rarely found myself at the precipice of some new activity rife with complicated and intense social dynamics. The big transitions were behind me, and things were finally, in general, un-scary.

But no more.

When we become parents, we invite chaos back into our lives. Sure, we’ve jumped through the hoops of childhood and adolescence and made it to the other side, but in an instant all that progress is rendered moot. It’s back to square one, only this time the stakes feel higher, and we have even less control.

I know not everyone feels this way. Case in point: My husband. When I asked when he thinks we should transition to a toddler bed, said “I dunno, whenever!” But I have to believe that there are other parents like me, parents who look into the future and see obstacle after terrifying obstacle, right up through grandparenthood.

In the next few years, Lou will start kindergarten. We’ll sign him up for more extracurriculars. More likely than not, he’ll be teased or do some teasing (or both). There will be illnesses, and maybe even trips to the ER. We’re in for all manner of scary things, from the gigantic to the perfectly ordinary. So it’s good to remember that as I grew up, I got less freaked out by * gestures widely * all of this. By the time I hit high school, I was walking into new classes with ease, holding down a bakery cashier job, and even talking to boys without too much trouble. Every milestone that Lou has met has been ok, too. He eats large quantities of solid food, pees (mostly) in the potty, and spent swimming lessons clinging to me but smiling big. So far, we’ve managed ok.

Still, I think he’ll stay in the crib for a while. Why not? Getting him out seems scary.

Jana Pollack is a freelance writer, editor, and creative strategist with over a decade of experience in digital media. She previously worked at theSkimm and at BuzzFeed, and has bylines in Romper, Insider, and Jenny Mag, among others.



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