Theory of Parental Panic

I’m a bit of a nerd. Hold on, before you say anything…I know I may give the impression of a rugged, suave, confident man-about-town daddy blogger but by day I am far more ordinary,  doing stuff with computers and numbers and graphs and Powerpoint.

the nerd curve

The “Nerd” Curve

As my “nerdness curve” graph shows, I’ve had less nerdy moments since I started working in marketing but the problem is my colleagues, who tend to be painfully hipster-esque. Their “on trend attire and attitude only highlights and magnify my nerdness resulting with me being more nerd-like than before.

But I digress…

For those of you keeping up with the Illiterate Infant’s latest antics, you may be aware that there’s been some toddler health issues here. Not the end of the world, but we did end up in hospital for a few days.

Over this period I’ve had a bit of time to contemplate fear and how the amount of fear you have for your kids tends to ebb and flow over time. In a moment of hot shower clarity (not nearly as exciting as it sounds) I came up with my soon-to-be-patented parent to child-incident fear relationship model that I’d like to get your feedback on.

The Illiterate Infant Fear Curve

The Illiterate Infant Fear Curve – patent pending

Basically (why do nerds always start to talk about nerdy things with the word basically?) you have your fear scale down the left, ranging from asleep, through Hip Dad and helicopter dad to shitting yourself Dad. The various events of your children’s life across the bottom.

What it shows is that basically (there I go again) as my daughter has gone from ovum to toddler, my degree of fear has steadily climbed. Sure it drops but never back to the level of  those simple days when I first brought home the first little lady.

I still remember confidently walking around with her in one hand, flinging her into the crib for her night-time sleep. A bit tired myself, I lay on the bed next to her listening to her make those noises that all little children do when suddenly, there was silence. The noises stopped. I remember sitting bolt upright and looking over at her in a panic, leaning over and putting my hand under her nostrils and the relief when I felt the tiny puffs of air hitting the back of my fingers. Bloody kids!

And so it continues. Things settle down a bit, you move the little one into her own bedroom, you high-five your partner, congratulating yourselves on evicting the noisy border from your room. Your smarter this time though, you have a baby monitor so you don’t get anxious. You lay at night listening to baby noises through the monitor then… the noises stop again! Up the fear level goes before falling slightly below helicopter daddy.

And it goes on. Miss E gets a scooter so she can play with the neighbours kids. One minute you watching her tentatively move her self forward. The next she’s got one leg sticking out to the side, fanging (for those international readers – to fang is to move at outrageously fast speeds) down the driveway towards the busy road at the end. Bursting through the helicopter dad region you climb into shitting yourself territory before settling down again, a little more nervous than before.

There’s other events, first fall from climbing equipment, first time catching them climbing the kitchen draws like a ladder, first time falling off a trampoline. Each moment adding to the base fear that seems to grow continuously as your kids age (or age you). It seems that whenever you get your fear rate under control they are off giving you a heart attack again.

And then… The little $%#@’s go to hospital.

So what do you do? Do you live in a constant state of readiness for the next scary moment   (tiring), let them learn their lessons (not really applicable at this age for health – and frowned upon by my Mrs Illiterate Infant) or just accept the fact, however hard it is that your kids are designed to make you shit scared… a lot.

Also, what have been your moments? Are you the relaxed, ice cool parent or a nervous wreck? Does the second or third or fourth child make a difference? Is it worse for boys than girls? Is it the same for Mums and Dads?

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18 Responses to Theory of Parental Panic

  1. I’m generally fairly relaxed… Until I’m not, and then all of a sudden I’m an over-worrier ;-)
    I think you’re onto something with these graphs. Perhaps you could design one that starts with “first wake-up due to illness” at the bottom and “stoic, strong, empathetic” up the side, moving onto “hundredth wake-up” and “go the $%#@ to sleep”! Can’t think what the middle ground is for those ones right now…

  2. iSophie says:

    I am the level headed one in such situations. My hubby sounds very much like you and freaks out very easily. He is actually pretty useless in critical situations, but he at least knows it and will leave the room when I tell him too. (We have had too many hospital visits for our liking, one that was almost fatal, it’s on the blog if you are ever feeling like a dreary read, “Our Darkest Days”) It sucks. But panicking and freaking out doesn’t help the child at the time. I always stay strong, cry later. #teamIBOT

  3. Zanni Arnot says:

    I am a fairly cool parent – wouldn’t call myself a hipster by any stretch. But Husband is on the high end of shitting bricks parenting. He worries about everything. Even our book cases are screwed onto the wall. There’s always logic, but it’s sometimes more fairy tale than logic. I think I am cool, because we need a balance otherwise we would be wrapping our kids in bubble wrap in case they fall over.

  4. I’m generally pretty easy going, some would say too easy going (like my Mum an MIL who started freaking out when I started giving Punky chunks of food to about 2 weeks after started solids!) and I’m not too worried. The junky things that scare me so far is blood (I hate the sight of blood) and the road, because we live on a main road with a 70km speed limit and I’m terrified she’ll run on to it and get hit. Most of that fear stems from having seen a little girl get run over when I was a Lo and its a hard image to shake. But apart from that I’ve been lucky that my “She’ll be right” attitude has remained fairly well intact so far!

  5. mumabulous says:

    I loves me some nerdiness and am completely down with depicting intangible ideas graphically as you have done. I do think the fear factor is amplified for the partner who is at work most of the time. Being with the kids has a desensitizing effect. Great post as usual II.

  6. kirstyrussell75 says:

    I think you should totally patent that graph – looks pretty much bang on the money to me! Hoping things have calmed down now in the II household and that the fear factor has returned to normal.

  7. Cath says:

    Oh, that’s good!

  8. Lianne Penfold says:

    Having 4 children I was pretty relaxed by number 4. Number 1 is officially an adult but I don’t worry any less, unfortunately, especially as he has a large motorbike. Had a lot of hospital visits with him over the years due to asthma and a couple of stitching episodes but nothing huge. However I have had two FEAR moments that stand out – both with my oldest daughter who is now 15. When she was 3 she lost her footing in a public pool and went under – I was not within arms reach and I am now the helicopter bubble wrap nazi pool parent.
    About 2 years ago, same daughter jumped out of the car and horror of horrors her mobile phone fell from her pocket into a little drain. She lifted the metal grate an inch or two and got her hands stuck under it – could not move it and she was panicking. I left my body and lifted that extremely heavy grate off her – until then I’d heard but never really understood the strength you get to save your child. The fear factor kicked in later and luckily she had no nerve damage.
    Numbers 3 and 4 aren’t really old enough to be doing too much damage to themselves yet but I’m so glad I get to live those years all over again!!

  9. Beth says:

    I could relate quite well to you and your graph for our first child – and seemed to go at about the same rate as you… When she hit eight or nine years of age, I think I dropped back down to probably about the “hip mum” level (surely they have some common sense by then???) However, she is almost high school age now, talking about wanting to ride to school next year, and I am hearing stories from friends about their slightly older daughters’ issues with boyfriends etc etc (and I caught her ctrying to go down a large slide at the park on her roller-blades – obviously my assumption about common sense was wrong!) – definitely climbing back up quickly on the graph.
    Our second child, a boy, we were a lot more relaxed when he was younger – after all we had managed not to kill or maim our daughter!
    But sadly we lost our third child, another little boy (to a genetic condition) There was nothing we could have done,it was not due to anything we did/didn’t do, but it dramatically changed how my parenting fears worked. Our fourth child (another boy) has just turned two, but I have found myself pretty much at ‘helicopter parenting’ or ‘shitting bricks’ since I fell pregnant with him… the doctor is on our speedial, at one point I did drive times to the local hospital via various routes to see which way would be quickest if we ever needed to get him there (none of which I ever did with his older siblings) – this time around there is an awful lot of fear involved. As he is the most adventurous of our lot, and a climber to boot, I think I may be shitting bricks for quite a while!

  10. Totally makes a difference, the third time around I am SOOO much more relaxed (or tired) that I just have to roll with it! It’s a case of “what’s the worst thing that can happen!” Em x

  11. The moment of the most fear, was when I nearly went into prem labour at 26 weeks. That was hardcore and terrifying, because you really have no idea.
    Followed closely by watching them undergo a general anaesthetic. That’s not fun either. I think you learn to relax a little; otherwise you would just never cope

  12. I think it depends on your temperament, on whether you’re more optimistic or pessimistic. Maybe it depends too, on how much reason the child gives you to fear? I’ve had a lot more scares with my girl, who in her two and a half years has had a heart murmur, severe allergic reactions, really bad croup, asthma, and convulsions. Whereas my boy is one and a half, and has been on antibiotics twice (I think)?

  13. Rory says:

    Man I’m with you. Yesterday my 1 year old was standing next to the car banging on the door and I had to move her incase the handbrake came off, it came out of gear and then started rolling.

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