When Maggie was younger and we were facing life and death things all the time, we had a hard time relating to the everyday problems in life. When folks would lament over traffic jams or having to host a holiday meal, we were very poor listeners. We were too distracted. Steve and I had a catchall saying for how we dealt with this in those days, which was, “They need more to worry about.” Today we don’t live on the edge of the cliff like we did then and can partake in the normal ups and downs of life like everyone else.
Now I find myself witness to a phenomenon that screams the opposite. I know and encounter several people who exaggerate a child’s circumstances to make things look much worse than they really are. Instead of saying “they need more to worry about,” there are people to whom I want to say “You have nothing to worry about. Be happy for that.” Can anyone explain to me why some parents want to exaggerate the issues their child faces? To make a situation seem dire when it is not? What could possibly motivate them?
Before going on, I want to differentiate this phenomenon from parents who have a hard time dealing with the issues their child DOES face, (even if I would trade them in a minute.) That is completely understandable. Parents can handle only what they can handle. Any issue a child faces -- from being teased at school to an isolated medical problem, or a chronic situation -- is difficult on the parents. When a parent in this situation says to me, “I shouldn’t complain to you, look that you have to deal with,” I tell them my situation has nothing to do with theirs. It is not a contest and there is no measuring of grief or concern.
What I’m talking about are people who exaggerate or simply lie about their children, or children they know. Perhaps others have not witnessed this, perhaps it’s some strange reaction elicited because of my life with Maggie. Perhaps these people are trying to relate. I cannot explain it, but I see it regularly.
If they are trying to relate, I can tell you it is not working. It makes me want to run in the other direction. I have the exact opposite mentality. My glass is half full. Maggie’s glass is half full. And, as I told a friend recently the reason the cup is only half full is that I already took a big gulp and enjoyed every drop. We put the best possible spin on everything and proceed accordingly. Sometimes that is hard to do, but it’s just the way we roll.
I get that everyone does not share this attitude, and I probably drives a lot of people crazy. I get that depression and concern are part of this life for all parents and some can handle things better than others can.
What I do not get are those who take news and deliberately ratchet is up several notches to alarm themselves and others in the child’s world, perhaps even the child him/herself; or worse, those who don’t even get any news but simply decide a problem exists when it does not. These people I want to shake and tell them to thank their lucky stars they do not have real problems. I don’t shake them, in fact I generally raise one eyebrow and then ignore them. It’s easier. If that doesn’t work I give them this one line and go about my business.
“Don’t look for trouble. It will find you.”