David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

All Those in Favor, All Those Angst

Insanity is genetic, I am told. Craziness is inherited from our children.

That our kids can discombobulate us as much as we befuddlize them is not news. Nor is the fact that our progeny inherit our best and our worst qualities. Like madness, apprehension, uncertainty, and unease can roll both downhill and uphill from one generation to the next.

Is there a distinction to be made between that which it is sensible to worry about and problems of our own creation? Is our anxiety occupying one seat on the bus or is our disquiet driving the entire bucket of bolts?

Compared to the wealthy family up the hill, your life is quantitatively worse. Agreed. Simple arithmetic confirms that those folks have more stuff—cars, acreage, cubic feet in their freezer. That they also may have immeasurable sadness—a family member in rehab, infidelity, infirmity—is harder to assess. 

Our parental anxiety may be exaggerated and displaced thereby. An email from a highly rejective college suggesting that, like 19 of 20 other qualified applicants, your child too must attend Arizona State University rather than UCLA should be distinguished from a letter suggesting that the rent is due and you must decide whether to buy medicine for your sick toddler or have your entire family go live in your car.

Comparisons are odious because they aren’t helpful. Henry VIII would have traded half his kingdom for a course of antibiotics for which you and I grouse about coming up with a $20 copay. That the people living in the mansion on the hill have a concierge doctor who comes to their house is hardly the point. Eight hundred million folks across the globe have NO access to life saving medications of any kind. When our children get bit by a mosquito we give them a band aide and another s’more. When their children get bit by a mosquito their kids get malaria. (The Against Malaria Foundation distributes live-saving treated mosquito nets.) Could it be argued that we’re doing okay, that we have a lot for which to be thankful, that we should maybe stop fussing? I like my salad dressing on the side as much as the next fellow. But I’m trying to distinguish the waitstaff’s mistake from being forced to emigrate in the middle of the night.

Clearly, it is in someone’s interest to make us feel uneasy all the time. Are we more likely to contribute to political campaigns if we feel the country is going to heck in a basket? Are we more likely to buy stuff if we feel like we can only be happy if we have as much useless stuff as those folks up the street? Are we more likely to be more productive at work if we are crazed that it’s the end of the world as we know it, the sky is falling, we’re all going to die if we don’t get this project done. Are my kids more likely to stay up all night writing five pages on the relationship between Nietzche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and Melville’s Moby Dick if they are convinced that there are only a few dozen colleges in the country worth attending?

Don’t sweat the petty stuff (and don’t pet the sweaty stuff) is good guidance. Insanity is not the only thing we inherent from our children. Modeling care, attention, and graciousness can allow our kids not to be obsessed with the fact that some other kid ran a mile faster, has a bigger car, or got into a more elite college. Never mind that the smartest kid–the impossibly smartest kid in the room, a room full of other smart doctors–in the University of Florida’s 2020 medical school class was an undergraduate student at ASU. ASU admits 85% of its applicants.

There is nothing to be said for mediocrity surely. But is there everything in the world to recommend chasing the gold ring heedlessly down the road to nowhere? Modeling a little calm, a little complacency, and a little gratitude will allow our beloved children to achieve just as much with much less worry.



One thought on “All Those in Favor, All Those Angst

  1. Cat Jennings

    Academic currency makes parents do less than useful things. Be glad your child reached maturity with a healthy mind and body, they can usually get the rest done.
    Thank you, nice piece:)

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