01 January 2005

Single...With Children: As The Sun Sets, Worries Rise

Single With Children: Worries creep
up as the sun goes down

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 03/10/04

I was born an insomniac. My mother swears I never quite understood the concept of an established bedtime. My circadian rhythm seems to have been set before I made the scene, and in spite of a few earnest attempts, I just can't seem to change the clock that ticks inside me.

I've tried chamomile tea, warm baths, warm milk (yuck!), yoga, an evening walk, reading, counting sheep, counting ceiling tiles, counting stars, even counting how many things I've tried counting.

Regardless of how hard I try, there are just some nights that I can't seem to find the switch that turns off my brain.

Of course, I don't always count. Sometimes my mind goes places it would be better off avoiding. The worry clouds creep in. If you're a parent, you already know there are a gazillion things a day that make suitable objects of anxiety. It's usually child-related concerns that make me the most alert when I should be sleeping.

Just last night, I found myself wondering if my son's grade-point average will be high enough for admission to a good university and how in the world can I get him to study more diligently? Have I met all the friends he spends time with? Would he open up to me more if I was his Dad rather than his Mom? Will I have enough money in my bank account at the end of the month to buy him some new clothes? Is his emotional growth going to be stunted because I can't tinker under the hood of his car and have long discussions about the function of auto parts?

I try to spend as much time worrying about my daughter, even though she's 20 years old and living in her own apartment. That in no way precludes me from burning a lot of midnight oil worrying over her future.

Is she really happy? Will she settle down and figure out what it is she wants to do with her life? Is she doing OK financially? Would it appear as though I were prying if I made an innocent inquiry? Is she eating properly? It's Saturday night and it's 1 a.m.: Is she safely home, and if she IS home, are her doors locked?

Sound familiar?

Who are these people that swear they can close their eyes the second their heads hit the pillow? Why doesn't my head work that way? I know some of them, and they are fantastic parents, but for some odd reason they will not divulge the secret of their slumber success.

If I allow myself free rein, I could easily waste the time I spend in my bed each night by filling each hour with questions or concerns and forecasting events in the far off future that will probably not come close to occurring.

The only short-term byproduct of this sleeplessness is that some mornings I have to use a little more concealer under my eyes and increase my caffeine intake. I wonder if there's a correlation?

Lately, I find I'm wearing out the Serenity Prayer. Most of the time, it quiets my mind for a while. It reminds me that there will be things I cannot change, things that I can, and if I nurture my faith and keep in touch with God, he's promised to give me courage and the wisdom to know the difference. I just have to remember to ask.

The other day I found the most wonderful quote. I actually copied it on an index card and placed it on my bedside table.

On those nights when my mind begins spinning out of control, I can reach for it and, hopefully, view all of those worries about my parental performance from a more realistic perspective.

Even though it discusses another kind of seemingly monumental endeavor, that of writing a novel, E. L. Doctorow's wisdom lends itself my penchant for projecting too far in the future; "Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Now when my mind starts getting silly and churning out nonsensical forecasts, I must remember that I can only see as far as the present. Period.

As long as my compass is pointed in the right direction, I really don't need to fret too far in advance.

With or without my worry, tomorrow will take care of itself and, as rapidly as time seems to fly these days, it will get here soon enough.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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