Close Your Eyes and Leap
As the lovely green Elphaba sings in Wicked, sometimes you have to trust your instincts, close your eyes and leap. Parenthood is a lot like that. I’m always amazed at our animal kingdom friends who just know what to do when becoming parents. Clean. Feed. Hunting lessons. The first thing Mommy animals do is cut the umbilical cord. Bird parents push their babies out of the nest and force them to fly on their own. I think that’s the last thing humans do. At least that’s true for me. Today, my son started the first day of his senior year in high school. Ever since he got his driver’s license, he’s been gnawing at that cord. And as much as I’ve been trying to give him his freedom, I can’t help but want to wrap that cord in industrial strength duct tape.
For almost two decades, we’ve been cleaning, feeding, teaching — maybe not to hunt — but to walk, talk, work hard, be kind to others, be aware of stranger danger, learn good manners, stay clean. At some point, I think kids wriggle out of our arms and just take off on their own when they’re ready (unless they are the kind of offspring who still live in our basements at age 40, drink beer and play video games all day). And we have to trust that we have done all we can without an instruction manual to groom them into good human beings.
I think we have done okay. Last week during Hurricane Irene’s descent upon the east coast, our local high school was designated as an evacuation shelter. The first thing our son did was to call the Red Cross to see how he could volunteer to help at the shelter. And today, our daughter said she saw a new girl at school sitting by herself at lunch; so she went over to say hello and be a friend. It’s moments like these that make my heart swell and help me to forgot about all the times when they leave wet towels on their bedroom floor (daily), or put an empty milk carton back in the refrigerator (sometimes).
When my son goes to college next year, I will do my best not to be one of those helicopter parents who hovers, albeit electronically, waiting to catch him if he falls, or trying to guide his every move. My parents were great at letting me find my own way. In fact, when I got my first car, my Dad handed me the yellow pages (no Google back then), and said “Go get yourself some auto insurance.” My plaintive response: “But I don’t know what to do.” Stern Dad retort: “Look up auto insurance companies, call them and ask questions. You’ll figure it out.” It was painful push out of the nest, but he was right; I did figure it out. And my kids will figure out the answers to life’s questions as well. I need to trust my instincts and realize that they are both ready to defy gravity and leap into adulthood.
But if they want to call, email, IM, text or Skype from time to time, I’ll be right here.