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Five Things Parents Worry About That Don't Matter
Harry H. Harrison Jr.

There are times I think that when an obstetric nurse hands the rapturous parents their beautiful newborn child, another nurse should be sticking a 20-year prescription for Xanax in Mom's purse or Dad's pocket. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating medicinal, mood-altering therapy for the frantic parental reasoning and heartbreaks guaranteed to follow, but . . . well, maybe I am. Because today's parents tend to become unhinged by things that - follow me closely now - have nothing to do with raising a child to become a successful adult. For instance:

1. Sports. Well, here, medical and talk therapy are highly recommended because while mom is dying inside if her daughter has competition to make the team, or has committed an error that causes a loss, or is flagrantly fouled, and dad has painted his stomach and chest in the pink and blue of the team's colors, 6-year-old Heather is more concerned about what's for snacks at the end of the game. And while club and high school sports are even more demanding and dads push their kids to work out harder and send them to sports camp (forget the fact that they like guitar better) hoping and praying they can be starters, the reality is that very, very, very, very few kids will be good enough to land a scholarship. So instead of screaming at the refs, arguing with the other team's parents, and chewing your child out for a poor performance, remember that while sports is a great way to get healthy, develop character, and learn to handle competition, the game itself has no influence on whether she becomes a product manager for Apple at 25. The bottom line is sports are good for kids, but terrible for parents' health.

2. Popularity. It's hard to tell who exactly is the "in-crowd" today, but all parents are concerned with is whether their kids are in it. And if they're not, it's because of mean girls, bullies, religious hatred, being in the wrong part of town, and so on. But here's the deal: it doesn't mean squat. The fact is, a lot of the popular guys from my high school are dead from drugs, and some of the most popular girls have had too many husbands, boyfriends, and babies to count. Popular or not, everybody has to deal with life. The point of high school is to learn and make your grades, so you can have vice presidents sucking up to you one day.

3. Labels. Some moms are so nuts about this that they cut off labels like "Seven" and "Juicy" and "Neiman Marcus" to sew them on their daughters' clothes.  Some even paint the soles of their daughters' shoes red. There are teenage boys would rather go naked than wear jeans with the word "Gap" on them. The truth is, if we and our kids are more worried about the labels we wear and drive than who we are as people, in 20 years or so our kids will have one label they can't shake: loser.

4. Suffering. Today, the thought of our children "suffering" brings both moms and dads to their knees in their own suffering. Our children's suffering is why we badger teachers for higher grades than the 0's our kids have earned, it's why we do their homework, why we hire them lawyers for that little shoplifting incident, and why we agree a summer job is a bummer and fund the grand or two they need to stay happy. Of course, when adulthood and its attendant suffering arrives, they are totally unprepared to deal with job interviews, upset spouses, keeping credit cards in their pocket if they don't have enough money in the bank, and working all night to meet a deadline. Because they weren't allowed to suffer in childhood, they are miserable in adulthood.

5. Sororities. This is totally a mom thing (though I've known a few dads who broke out in hives come pledge time), but really, an almost 50-year-old woman breaking down in tears because her daughter wasn't offered a bid by the Tri-Delts? Tears? Heaving, snot-slinging tears while searching for a Valium or two? So are we telling our daughters that if you're not a Tri-Delt you are nothing? You're better off dead?  No woman has become a successful hedge fund manager, or a better mom, or a kinder wife because she attended four years of Tri-Delt parties.  Thank goodness our kids quit listening to parents when they are about 16. We seem to get crazier as they get older.

The bottom line is this: childhood is too important to be wasted on the stupid stuff. It's a fun time, it's a magical time, but it's also the time we train our kids for the adult world because if we wait until they are 22 to try and teach them responsibility, well, the battle is over and our Tri-Delt daughter has lost. If somehow we can teach our kids to be honorable, hard-working, kind, compassionate, grateful, inquisitive adults by the time they are 18, we've done our job. And our panties are a lot more comfortable not being tied in a knot.

Harry H. Harrison Jr. is a New York Times best-selling parenting author with over 3.5 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and featured in over 75 local and national radio stations, including NPR. His books are available in over 35 countries throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia, and in the Far East. For more information visit  Permission granted for use on
Tags: Anxiety, College, Education, Health, Raising kids, Stay-at-Home Mom, Stress, Students
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