As soon as I learn that someone I care about has a problem, I start worrying, and become almost completely incapable of focusing on anything else. And perhaps it is ineffective, in the most practical sense. Yet it is my way of being loyal and caring, and is often truly appreciated as such.
Here’s what brings this to mind. A young person I care deeply about shared with me yesterday that he had a long school assignment to complete in a short time and was very worried that he wouldn’t do a good enough job. Of course it worried me to see him so worried. At the same time, I was sure that the expectations he feared he couldn’t meet were his own brainchild. But I didn’t tell him that, since I knew from experience that it would only make him feel invalidated, alone, and uncared about.
Instead, I conveyed my empathy with his sense of being in a pickle. I offered to stay close by so he could ask for help, or a hug, if he wanted to. He accepted. And I think that just knowing I was there, worrying his worry with him, helped calm him and enable him to work steadily.
When he was ready to stop and go to bed, he asked for some “love,” by which I knew he meant snuggling him until he fell asleep. What a contrast to times when I had responded to similar problems with immediate practical suggestions and/or logical arguments as to why his worry was baseless. All that had produced was tears, anger, and a much more protracted and miserable night... throughout which my presence, not to mention my affection, was seriously unwelcome.
We all want to do what’s best for our children. We all try to do what’s best. And we all fail, despite our best efforts, with distressing frequency. My parenting scorecard, if I kept one, would be as full of marks in the “failure” column as anyone else’s. But last night was a parenting victory, as I see it. Why? Because I worried. And did nothing practical, or productive, instead of worrying. And my worry made the person about whom I was worried feel a little less alone and therefore a little less worried.
As the British say: Result!