Julie Levine's son.
Julie Levine's son.

It all turned out fine, so it looks like my worrying worked

When our kids were younger, there were a lot of things that I used to worry about.

I called the pediatrician in a panic many times — would our daughter give up her bottle? At 12 months, she still wasn’t sleeping through the night; would she ever? Was our son, who was an early talker, ever going to walk? Was he still going to be in Pull-Ups in college?

I worried our daughter would be saying “cwazy” instead of “crazy” well into adulthood because she had trouble with her r’s. I worried she wouldn’t be able to master complicated math because addition and subtraction were initially challenging for her. I worried when our son didn’t read as early as our daughter. I worried he didn’t like salad.

I didn’t take time away for myself too often when the kids were little, but when I did, I worried my hubby would feed them hot dogs with nitrates and sugary cereals, and I worried about how this would affect their growing brains.

There was the year I worried that one kid didn’t have enough friends, and the other one had too many.

When we let our daughter have an Instagram account and bought our son a Nintendo DS, I worried that they wouldn’t read books for pleasure anymore.

I worried they’d want to drop out of Sunday school after their b’nai mitzvahs. I worried the kids didn’t eat enough protein. I thought our son would wear Velcro shoes forever.

When our son was in seventh grade, we promised to get him his first (flip) phone. I took him to the Sprint store, but the salesperson was unable to access our account and told us we couldn’t purchase the phone that day. I was frustrated and angry and had a mild tantrum, embarrassing my son and myself. Later I worried my lousy behavior would impact him in some way.

As the kids got older, I worried I gave them bad advice, or too much advice, or not enough. I feared there were things I forgot to teach them that surely other mothers knew, but somehow I missed. There were times I said I was listening, promised actually, but completely tuned them out, and they knew it. I wondered whether they thought I was an inattentive mother. There was also that morning when one of our kids didn’t feel well, might have even had a low temperature, but I sent them to school anyway because I had a busy day.

But I’m happy to report that our daughter drinks from cups now and sleeps through the night. One of my favorite activities to do with our son is walk — he loves to walk all over San Francisco, and when I’m with him, I often have to pick up my pace to keep up. He’s been out of Pull-Ups for about 15 years, enjoys salad and hasn’t worn Velcro sneakers since second grade.

The fun the kids had with their dad while I was away far outweighed any adverse side effects of sugar and nitrates. I know now that a little junk food once in a while isn’t such a big deal. Besides, I’ve learned a lot about moderation since then, and when it comes to kids, you get more from them when you give in a little.

Our daughter’s favorite subject is math. Both kids are avid readers. And they’re both really proud to be Jewish. I think my son has forgiven me for my tantrum in the Sprint store; he eventually got his phone. I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten over any crappy advice I’ve given them. They have lovely friends.

Life in a global pandemic is not easy, and it’s been especially hard on kids. But I hope after many years, when this is all over, I’ll look back and feel the same way as I do now when reflecting on their childhood: That I worried too much — when, in fact, the kids were all right.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.