worry is like a train

There is not much I can say about parenthood that hasn’t been said. It’s busy, it’s a caper, it’s thankless, a coalface, a joy. It’s nothing you can understand until you’ve done it. And you can get all the worry you want.

I’ve come to think of worry as a steaming train that turns up at the railway station of my mind. It blows vapour into my face, I’m hot, can’t see properly, the noise is incredible, somebody shouts all aboard, my worry pulls out of the station and there’s peace. But it’s not a peace I can live with for long because I am, after all, at a railway station and there’ll be another worry train sometime soon.

A couple of months ago my middle boy, Karate Boy, who has ADD, after taking his medication for three years decided he didn’t want to take it anymore. Ritalin was a prison. Karate Boy needs his medication. It helps him focus. But I understood. It hurt to let him go off it and watch him go downhill, but I had to. I spoke to his teachers, the school nurse, the Vice Principal and we chose to stick with him, be there for any fall-out, and see what he did. Karate Boy hit bottom but while he was there he learnt something and decided he’d go back on his medication.

‘I’m doing it for you, Mum.’

As thrilled as, if this was all about ownership and choice and being older, a big boy, I wanted Karate Boy to do it for himself. Maybe it was his way of saving face. Maybe he’s selfless.

‘Good on ya, matey. Thank you,’ I said and the worry train pulled it’s slow way from the station.

I have three sons they are all brilliant and all give me cause for worry. I suppose if I wasn’t worrying – you could it caring – I might be doing my parenting wrong, that maybe there was some love missing. A bit like how I value the tears I cry over my sister. How I’d rather be in grief, having stinky days and missing her like Hell means I love her.

My sons are my best buddies who sometimes give me the shits.

The eldest, Big H, has trouble getting all his homework done. I get emails from his teachers and they don’t lead to happy discussions.

‘It’s only four subjects, Mum.’

Four subjects he’s behind in.

‘How many subjects do you have, Biggie? Not twenty. How many?’


I don’t need do to go on, you get the rest of that conversation, right?

Is that a train whistle I hear behind me?

Stephen King Junior got a new computer because I had to get him off mine. If he was tooling about on the net I could have kicked him off easy, but he was making stories, sentences and sentences, pages and pages. At least one of us was writing. I put my husband on the job. Now SKJ has his own laptop – way more flashy than I would have got him – and I have taken all his documents (over thirty in three months) off my laptop. So SKJ looks good, he’s progressing, making art, but his schoolwork is suffering, and his Maths…well, he takes after his mother in that area, too.

Is that a ticket booth? Do I buy a return ticket or a one way?

Karate Boy is on a new medication at the request of his doctor. He’ll be at high school next year and his doctor doesn’t want him having to take a tablet in the middle of the day, it’s conspicuous and other. I get it. So we’re road-testing Concerta. Karate Boy has been brilliant taking it, his focus is good, but he’s been feeling sick with it. We’re giving it a couple more days…and maybe this time Karate Boy is with me on the station.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I worry.

I’d love to worry less. I’m told living in the now helps you worry less. I like the idea of the now and I can do it for minutes at a time if I concentrate, but if let my grip slide, I start concerning myself with the next and the then.

How I feel about being in the now is how I think of washing the floor. I move furniture, vacuum, I fill a bucket with hot, hot water. Mop. Up and back, up and back. I get sweaty, and I sing because eighties music is made for housework. I’m done. I stand there leaning on my mop, the floor is glistening, but I hear voices, here they come. I take one last look at my clean floor. Satisfaction. It’s momentary but I’m there for it. I notice.

Worry can cause paralysis.

It can punch holes in your thankfulness and make paying attention unusual.

I’m not much use to my sons if I’m extrapolating.

And I’m not much use to anyone – my boys, my husband, my life – if on my station waiting for a train that may never show up. I’ve gotta trade-in my train ticket for a mop.


think i’ll worry like this from now on

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