Parenting and Stress

Stress is the worst. It causes your hair to change colors. It causes you to feel so sick to your stomach that you can't eat and yet, somehow, gain weight at the same time. It makes you want to haul off and slap someone whether they deserve it or not—and let's face it, they deserve it.

Before I was a Dad the only stressors I had in my life were picking a lunch destination, remembering my wedding anniversary, wondering when my high school band would reunite (Optimus Prime 4-ever!), hoping the college video of me dancing to N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" never surfaced on YouTube, keeping my softball on-base % high enough to satisfy SABREmetric fans and watching the Cincinnati Reds bullpen implode.

That was it.

I wasn't worried about much because, quite frankly, I didn't have much to worry about. Most everything else seemed fairly trivial. I led a fairly easy life.

Now that I'm a Dad, my whole life is a giant hairy ball of stress. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed, all I do is worry:

Did I set the alarm early enough to get the kids to the sitter's and me to work on time?
Did I already snooze the allotted three times?
Did I actually wash my hair or just imagine that I did? I honestly can't remember.
Did I brush the kids' teeth?
Did I brush my teeth?
Is it OK that I'm the type of Dad that would let them stand in a bucket?
Is my wife walking around in a bra because she's into me or because our 4-month-old just spit up all over her shirt?
Should I take that slap as a "our 4-month-old just spit up all over her shirt"?
Is eating that Dorito off the floor a lesson to my kids not to be wasteful, or is it just disgusting?
Am I caffeinated enough to make it until the kids' bedtime?
Do I have enough Doras recorded on the DVR? Any space left for "The Big Bang Theory"?
Did I post any recent pictures of my kids on Facebook?
Are the pictures getting a reasonable amount of "likes"?
Will they get hurt? Can I keep them healthy?
Did we make a birthday card for Aunt Jennie?
Does the baby need a diaper change?
Did I make something for dinner that isn't named macaroni and cheese andthe kids will actually eat?
Did that guy just see me rocking out to the Tangled soundtrack? Oh my god, did he notice that my kids aren't in the car and that it's just me?
Do we really need to stop on the side of the highway or can she "hold it" until we get home?
Will my kids get into good colleges?
Will I be able to afford their weddings?
Am I really cut out to be a parent?
Am I setting a good example for my kids?
Does the Karate Kid Crane Kick really work?
Will my kids grow up to be good, smart, kind, happy, respectful people who will take care of their old man when he starts to lose his mind?
Did I kiss them goodnight?

At any given moment of the day, I'm worrying about at least half of these—usually more. But you know what? I wouldn't trade the worry for anything in the world. A close friend without kids once told me there are two nuggets of truth every parent offered him about becoming a parent: 1) It will drastically change your life forever and 2) It's the best decision you'll ever make.

And they are right.

I couldn't imagine going back to my stress-free life. I certainly miss hanging out with the guys playing epic games of Halo, and then coming home and bragging about it to seduce my wife (only to find out that Halo-domination doesn't rate highly on her list of turn-ons—I will never understand women). And I try to sneak out occasionally to relive the stress-free "glory days." But the best stress relief is a good hug from the people who count on you day in and day out to carry the burden of stress so they don't have to.

That makes all the stress in the world worth it.

Of course, it sure wouldn't hurt if I received an e-mail from my college buddy Justin assuring me that the N'Sync video has been destroyed, set on fire, and buried at sea. Or, at the very least, edited to include the disclaimer "We were drunk."1

1 We were also drunk when we watched the all-day marathon of O-Town's "Making the Band," when we bought those sweet Hawaiian shirts and anytime we used the word "gnarly." I swear. You wouldn't believe how many Zimas we could pound.

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