The Fear of “What If?”

It’s possible that the longer that John and I go on being parents, the worse we get. Now, I can hear you all protesting already, but hear me out.  In the beginning, when you bring a new baby home and are suddenly faced with, you know, keeping it alive you try really hard to make sure you don’t mess it up. And as the kids grow and hit new milestones you continue to try really hard not to mess it up because, “WHAT IF?” Those are the two scariest words ever when you are a new parent.

But life happened and John and I went back to doing what John and I do (mainly activities that involve an avoidance of early mornings executed with spontaneous but poor planning) and we discovered that most of the “WHAT IF?”s are actually not so bad. I’m pretty sure my kid ate part of a dead shrew once… she was fine. Another of my girls wore the same dress for a week, child protective services did not take her away from me. I have experienced forgotten water bottles, snacks, diapers, wipes, wallet, shoes and underwear not to mention winter jackets on a Northern Wisconsin trip in December.

And you know what? It was all fine.

Inconvenient? Yes.

Fine? Absolutely.

Does this make us look like stellar parents? Probably not. Are our kids learning to take extra responsibilities for themselves because their mom is never going to actually remember to pack anyone a snack? I sure hope so.

This brings us to John’s company sponsored trip to the zoo this last weekend. Parents still in the “WHAT IF?” stage would have done a fabulous job of planning the day. Free zoo pass, multiple free animal shows to watch, free food over the lunch hours, free face painting… JaneIt was going to be awesome!


-John and I let all our kids have sleepovers the night before.

-Which of course had us leaving much later than we should have in the morning (and yes all the kids were tired and grumpy).

-Which meant that we had to feed them on the way to the zoo.

-Which of course we didn’t plan for because of the free food at the zoo.

-Which meant that when we got to the zoo they weren’t hungry and because patience has never been my strong suit, I encouraged us to go see animals and come back later.

-Of course we lost track of time and missed the food.

-Of course we lost track of time and missed the animal shows.

-Of course we ended up having to feed the kids on the way home because they were starving.

-And, of course, at one point we looked wistfully at a family with coolers and snacks and water bottles and a child being pulled in a wagon and wondered why we didn’t do that.taiper

But I know why we didn’t, we’ve lost our fear of the “WHAT IF?”

And now I can tell you, What if you go to the zoo completely unprepared over tired and miss almost all the “good” stuff.

Well…Jane Clara and a lion

You’ll still get to be eyeball to eyeball with the big cats. Watching the giraffe run will still amaze everyone. There will still be contests to see who can find the animal in each exhibit first and the kids will still have to pull the two of us away from the octopus.  You will spend too much on a snack, or two, it’s true. And there will be whining kids. (But isn’t there always?) You will discover that everyone would actually rather see the velvet peeling off the caribou’s antlers than watch the sea lion show anyway and you’ll teach your child that tapirs are not the same as armadillos. Your lack of handy wheeled device to carry all your nonexistent snacks will have you zipping in and out of all the exhibits and when a tired little girl says she can’t walk anymore, you can sympathize with her tired legs and skip to the next animal house together.Me and Jane (Clara too)

Yes, we’ve lost most of our fear of those two words, for certain we would be better prepared parents if we carried a bit of that fear with us still but I think we are doing just fine without it.

26 comments on “The Fear of “What If?”

  1. N. says:

    It still sounds like a great day at the zoo, despite all the missed stuff! Worrying too much about the ‘what-ifs’ keeps us from actually being present in (and enjoying) the here and now and that’s never good.

    P.s: Not being bothered with the what-ifs doesn’t make you bad parents, not by a long shot!

    • Jessie says:

      I wouldn’t say I’m a bad parent… I just am not always a very prepared one and we have a tendency to mooch off prepared parents snack food. A lot. Because they offer and I never remember, not because I plan on it. Because planning… not a thing I do! 😉

  2. The parenting life IS a zoo.

  3. Even if you had food and all the other contingencies covered, wouldn’t there still be a what if? I just find that it always finds a way to sneak in there.

  4. Jesska says:

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  5. jenanita01 says:

    Bringing up a family is always unpredictable, not so much ‘what if’ more ‘WTF’ if my memory serves. You all look very well on it, I have to say!

  6. Bee Halton says:

    Looks like you had an awful lot of fun 🙂

  7. barbtaub says:

    We pretty much treated Child #1 like the scratch pancake–the one you try out the griddle with and then decide if you have the temp and consistency right. Teach your baby to read? Play the violin at age 2? Chess at 3? Poor #1 suffered through all of it.

    Then we figured it out. The kids were ALL going to learn to read. And play chess, and do nuclear physics/programming/compose/speak a foreign language. When they were ready.

    And the corrollary? They were going to be damn fine self-defense cooks, too, so that macrobiotic vegan diet was off my ToDo list as well. I went back to the microwave, and all four of my kids became talented cooks.

    I don’t know if there is a moral here, but if so I think it’s that our kids didn’t grow up because of us. They did it in spite of us. And they did it really well.

  8. Woebegone but Hopeful says:

    There’s something very unnerving about ‘Perfect Plan’ parents.
    I’m sure their kids have difficulty coping with the rest of the world and all its foibles.

    • Jessie says:

      It is a bit unnerving. Don’t they ever get distracted and forget? Don’t they ever decided they’d really rather just read one more chapter of their book and then run out of time? How do they plan and focus like that!?!

  9. says:

    aw, what a wonderful post. You had me laughing all the way to the big cats, the octopus, and the giraffe. Just think about the wonderful memories they will all reminisce over as adults when the family gathers for … a sleepover at your place with their kids!

    • Jessie says:

      Recently it came out that my brother never remembers going on vacation as a kid without at some point being freezing cold. My girls are probably going to reminisce about going places and always being hungry because we never packed any food! 😀

  10. Sharon says:

    I think you wonder or think about nonexistent problems. You and John are at the top of my list for wonderful parents of 3 energetic, fantastic girls even if Jane wears the same princess dress for a week!! They are friendly and polite, and I would take all 3 home with me any time. No one says parents have to be perfect!! So what if you don’t have enough snacks and someone is hungry? They don’t look malnourished to me

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