Helicoper Parenting from the Great Beyond

“Chere helice” by Nadar – Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chere_helice.jpg#/media/File:Chere_helice.jpg

I just read one of those “Letter to My Daughter after I’m Dead” things on Facebook.  Yet another reason I really need to start spending time doing productive things and not scrolling the e-universe, but those darn pajama-wearing goats keep bringing me back.  Facebook is like crack for the ADD mind.

Anyway, this letter was full of light and airy, yet very deep and meaningful, words of advice for the dying woman’s 13 year old.  Tear jerking, smile inducing.  You know what I’m talking about.  And my cynical mind, out in full force this gloomy morning, thought, “Give the girl a break, would you?”  I mean, she just lost her mom, and here comes her mom’s voice from the grave telling her to shine and smell roses and don’t think negative thoughts and avoid vampires (aka, boys who are bad for her).  It’s not enough that we parents hover when we’re alive, we now have to send our precious children letters after we’re dead, telling them how to live their best lives?

Those propellers are getting pretty loud.

In truth, this girl may be a perfectly lovely person who will go out and spread love and hope and run a charity for homeless dogs, and she may credit her dead mother’s instructive letter as inspiration to lead this life.  Or she may become a rebel, battle anorexia, be snarky once in a while, fail a test, quit cheerleading, have a bad boyfriend.  These are life’s realities.  What she really needs to know is that her mommy, wherever she may be, loves her.

Maybe the “Live This Life Not That” message in that letter is the way today’s competitive, over-achieving, hand-wringing parents know to show love.

SEND THE BUBBLE WRAP ASAP

The other day I wrote about wanting to bubble wrap my not-quite-grown-up kid.  I am seriously considering duct taping a protective layer around him for real.

We have seen a parade of bad-to-horrible injuries over the last few months, reaching a crescendo this past week with a series of blown ACL’s, dislocated shoulders, badly broken legs and broken hands at the races Riley’s team attended.  Then we learned that a young freeskier from our community was severely injured in a training run for Nationals and airlifted to Denver.  My heart breaks for her and her family, and my stomach does flip-flops at the thought of something this horrible happening to our own “baby.”

The irony is that my son didn’t think to tell me about this.  He had signed a card for her, he knew that she was undergoing extensive surgery and HE DIDN’T EVEN MENTION IT to me.

What do I make of this?  What does it mean when such a horrific thing happens and it doesn’t bubble up from him?  Is this a defense mechanism, developed from years of putting himself in scary situations, of watching friends suffer terrible injuries, some life-ending?  From facing milder trauma himself and wondering not if but when something worse will happen?  Or is this a typical 17-year-old-male-ism:  Why would I tell my mom about something that happened to some girl I hardly knew?  More than likely it’s the latter.

And so it goes.  My mom-ness freaks out, his kid-ness says huge bummer.  My mom-ness empathizes and imagines what-if’s, his kid-ness moves on.

Last night, for no particular reason, we watched some old videos from his growing up years.  Lots of violin recitals, baseball games, Christmas programs and kindergarten graduation.  I felt very much like Chevy Chase, up in the attic, tears streaming.  Well, ok, tears didn’t stream because we were having too much fun laughing at his cousin, then age six, who was killing “stupid bears” in their fort, but you get the gist.

We parents don’t video the scary times, the trips to the ER, the struggles in school.  We don’t record what goes on underneath the smiling facade or the times when we cross our fingers and toes and pray that he stays safe.  Those memories and feelings are indelibly etched into the undocumented pages of our life stories.  Their weight is hefty enough to counterbalance the fun memories flitting across the screen.  We would rather our next generation not know their heft until he feels it soon enough with his own child.

So, I smile at him and my dear husband as we turn off the videos.  I give him a hug, silently grateful for the warmth in his body.  I tell him he is a gift.  I quietly say a prayer for all parents.  And then I bring out the bubble wrap …

“Did You Leave Your Brain At School”?

Thus asked the man who rescued my son and his friend.  Our truck, a beast of a thing — 2500HD if you know trucks — was solidly stuck in soft snow up to its belly.  The Kid and his friend, en route from school last night, decided to take the side road and it didn’t end well.  This morning, some heavy duty road clearing equipment made a path so that the stranded monster could be extricated.  Nothing a couple hundred dollars and a mild headache could’t fix.

This adventure was quick on the heels of a warning from our county sheriff, who found the Kid and others doing doughnuts in a parking lot.  The snow was perfect, the Kid tells us, and my car is awesome at drifting.  Sigh.  I remember being in a group of kids who did doughnuts in the school parking lot, Tears for Fears beating through the speakers.  Different music, different kids, same games.

We knew these days of less-than-optimal choices would come.  So far, at least as far as We The Parents know, they have been fairly harmless.  The Kid has appeared appropriately shaken up by the outcomes and we hope that some sort of lesson is sinking in.

This parenting thing starts out with lack of sleep and a lot of effort aimed at trying to keep the little being alive.  It then tumbles through all the wondrous ups and downs of growing up.  Tantrums, play dates, victories and defeats.  Papers, exams, unfair teachers and unfair kids.  Injuries and illnesses, hugs and pats.  Then the child reaches this age of in between, and it’s more difficult than all that other stuff.  At times he is the adult he will become.  Insightful, wise, bright.  Then a raging teenager emerges, angry at the world, himself, you and the dog.  Then he picks up a long-forgotten gizmo and plays like a boy, a grin spreading across his face.  Then he goes 4-wheeling on a two track after two weeks of steady snowfall . . .

The Kid asked me last night, after the rescue, at what point a male brain stops being stupid.   Didn’t quite have an answer for that one.  Does it ever?  We’ve all read the studies about the developing male brain, and that it takes much, much longer to firm up than we once thought.  Alas, although testosterone filled teenaged boys are more prone to it, you don’t have to be male or young to make a stupid decision.  Any of us can leave our brain behind at any point.

And so, we tell him to try to think first, that it only takes a second or one wrong move for things to go upside down.  We know our words are mostly bouncing off, but hope a few sink in.  Mostly, we remind him that we love him, and wonder how any of us made it this far with all the dumb things we’ve done.