2008.04.16 There's plenty to worry about

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

A friend recounted the story today of a recent restaurant incident in which her toddler developed digestive problems while at a restaurant. It was quite a mess, especially away from home.

I told her it reminded me of when Ben was about a year old and we had set out for a vacation to the north....

No, don’t worry. I’m not going into the details of that messy episode on a sidewalk in Lansing. You’ll have to ask for details if you’re really curious.

But I do have some things to say about childhood. The stories above might be classified under parental fears. What I found recently starts earlier: a list of fears ranked from childhood through parenthood.

The list appears to be a joint effort by Jan Pettit and Ray Federman). One of those two—or both of those two—must have come up with this ranking.

Here are the top five: Fear of the Dark. Fear of Separation. Fear of Abandonment. Fear of Wicked Step-Parents. Fear of Pee Accidents.

When I first read that list, I felt a little uneasy. I knew those things. I understand them. There must be remnants still lurking within.

At the top of the list, Fear of the Dark is actually expanded to Fears in the Dark, such as the creature under the bed or the man in the closet.

I can’t recall an excessive fear of the dark, but it was there. I was always aware that something might reside under the bed.

You know, I still think about that from time to time, although I’m not sure what I think might be under there. It’s no longer a fear, just the thought. Would someone actually hide under there amid the stored paper towels and toilet paper? This house is really lacking in the closet, pantry and storage area department.

How about a space alien? I don’t see that on this list. Are we alien-lurkers in such a minority?

Think about it; what really could be under a bed in wait? Nothing, or, you might say, most anything.

Let’s move on.

Fear of Separation. It seems like parents worry about this more than kids. Kids just wander off, then fear strikes when they realize that the man walking next to them in the store is not their father.

The Pettit/Federman list suggests fear of getting lost in a crowd—either accidentally or on purpose—and the fear of getting lost in the woods.

Fear of Abandonment: parents dying, parents divorcing, one parent moving, parents remarrying. And what about parents moving and forgetting to let you know the new address?

Next on the list—Fear of Wicked Step-parents—stems from the parents dying fear. That was a real one for me as a youngster. I knew who my godparents were and I liked them just fine, but I wasn’t ready to move to another city and live with them.

Fear of Pee Accidents? If I had that fear, it’s been too long ago to remember. That one should probably appear again later on the older adult list.

The list doesn’t stop with childhood. Next comes Fear of Bras: needing one, not needing one, anyone looking closely enough to know.

Fear of Menstrual Period: fear of getting it, fear of not getting it.

Fear of Embarrassment: wrong clothes, wrong hair, wrong glasses, wrong body, wrong mother.

There are some odd twists ahead. Fear of Getting Pregnant is listed in the teen years. Fear of Not Getting Pregnant comes later, right after the Fear of Having Married the Wrong Person.

Fear of Rejection (by friends, by boyfriend, by college) appears during school days; but it makes a return years later: Fear of rejection by lovers, by bosses, and again by friends.

Here comes Fear of the Dark once again. This time it focuses on dark parking lots, deserted streets, and, once again, bedrooms.

So now, in the married years, along with Fear of Not Getting Pregnant comes the first Fears of Mortality and then the Fear of Childbirth.

Finally there’s the Fear of Losing a Child with an extensive list of things to worry about, such as crib death and falling down stairs and kidnapper and thin ice and a bad heart and poor judgment and heartbreak.

That’s odd, there’s no mention of abduction by space aliens.

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