Parent of the Universe Proving Ground
Parent of the Universe Proving Ground
When the children were infants, I used to be afraid of TONS of things.
For example, babies get slippery when they are wet, and even more slippery when I introduced baby wash and shampoo. I was afraid I would somehow lather them up and let that slipperiness get the best of my nimble fingers, and then freeze in panic and somehow not remember how to use those nimble fingers to help them up so they could breathe again.
Children also have to consume some sort of food for their slippery little bodies to work right. I was afraid I would feed them too much and their little bellies would get all distended and my children would suddenly burst. Or, that I would feed them too little and their little bellies would again get all distended due to famine and that would induce the sudden bursting phenomenon as well.
And then came the whole movement thing that children tend to do. That sudden jerking – not related to epilepsy – that babies do. Or, the whole crawling, standing, walking thing, too. I was afraid that somehow my precious children would use this movement opportunity to injure themselves in some way.
It didn’t seem practical, though, to keep them strapped in the safe confines of a car seat, or bouncy chair, or the hermetically sealed Pack-N-Play when they were as old as, say, fourteen.
To counteract these valid and reasonable mother-fears, my mother-mind developed this nifty response called Maintaining the Illusion of Control. It has continued into their teenaged years and has served my sanity quite well. But with all these years of parenting bliss, my mind has reached the point of weariness. The Illusion of Control is crumbling and I have lost all my masonry skills. No amount of chocolate can help me now, I fear.
You see, my children have friends who are driving. Now, I have a whole new set of fears. And I need a new plan, a new method of control.
I could completely detach from them and let them be. Que sera sera. Except I am still in the running for the Parent of the Universe Award, so that approach is not practical. There is no category for Detachment. I. Must. Remain. A. Hands-on. Parent! (I heard the award is actually made of a lifetime supply of chocolate.)
And remaining a hands-on parent means that I must let go a bit and let the kids do some hands-on.
And that is why I handed the car keys to my newly sixteen-year-old son.
Picture this: The children are in the last-minute throes of Mad Scramble to the Bus Stop. Hanson is putting on his socks. I have had way too much coffee to warrant good judgment.
Me: So, I was thinking that maybe you should get some practice driving up to the bus stop. I think it’s probably about time.
[Suddenly, I understand out-of-body experiences here because I have obviously been replaced by a woman who is NOT a control freak. The real me proceeds to watch the scene while hovering, in mute horror, somewhere between my warm body and the kitchen ceiling.]
Hanson: I was thinking that, too.
Me: So, you’d better take the keys and get in on the driver’s side. You can warm up the car for us.
Hanson: Okay! [Boy grabs keys and slips out the door. My mute, hovering, horrified self is now mimicking The Scream painting by Edvard Munch.]
Outside, three minutes later …
Me: Why isn’t the car started? Why are you just sitting there? What’s wrong? Get in and start the car.
Hanson: I can’t move.
[My heart melts. I am certain in that instant, my son has received the gift of the weight of responsibility. My impatience turns to immediate compassion.]
Me: Now, darling, you can do this. It’s easier to back the car around than you think. I’ll be here every step of the way. We’ll do it together.
[Winning points in the Compassionate Mom category. I can already taste the chocolate!]
Hanson: No, Mom. I literally can’t move.
[Since my car is so old it is already paid for, the interior lights don’t work. And it’s early, so it’s still dark. The security light helps some, but it isn’t until I actually sit in the passenger seat that I can fully assess the situation.]
Hanson: I tried to get in but when I sat down, I wedged my knee under the steering wheel and now I literally can’t move.
Me: Just move the seat back.
Hanson: Where’s the seat mover thing?
Me: Oh my.
[I execute a cool yoga move to pull the seat release. Score more points for the Flexible Category.]
Hanson: Which one is the brake again?
Me: HELP. ME. GOD.
[Thus begins another out-of-body experience. Make a mental note to sue the pants off the child manual author.]
When we reached the end of the driveway, it hit me: my new coping mechanism. I was certain that there was a bonus category in the Parent of the Universe Award for The Most Out-Of-Body Experiences in One Day.
Maybe I have something new to fear – forgetting to supply my children with a detailed diagram, complete with definitions and labels, for every single mechanical experience they will face.
Maybe the lifetime supply of chocolate award is meant to induce a sugar coma that will erase the parenting guilt I’ve felt for all these years.
Maybe there is a consolation prize? Hey, a mother can hope, right?