It’s rumored that I need to have a little more faith in my children as autonomous creatures—at least when it comes to being levelheaded, resourceful and not remotely interested in summoning the fire department unnecessarily. Although, maybe it’s just that the opportunity has yet to fully present itself. I can’t be sure.
At any rate, for a very long time now, and almost reflexively, I have viewed my brood’s emergent ability to handle situations completely on their own as largely deficient, characterizing their fledgling methodology for dealing with life’s inevitable difficulties as irreparably flawed. Shame on me for not believing in them more and criticizing less—for dooming them to failure even before they can imagine success.
Everything from tying shoelaces and crossing the street to shepherding expensive instruments and irreplaceable flash drives to and from school has been met with unwarranted skepticism and/or a healthy dose of catastrophizing, which I’ve pretty much perfected at this juncture in my parenting career. Never mind entrusting them with tasks like walking our neurotic little dog (the one inclined to hurl his smallish body into the path of oncoming cars) or remembering to snugly latch the lids of hamster cages, lest the wily beasts escape. Suffice it to say, I have issues with control, punctuated by a host of irrational fears and an unwillingness to fully embrace my children’s ever-increasing level of maturity. As a result, I’ve doled out independence in embarrassingly small chunks.
So when it came time to broach the subject of staying home alone, with nary the suggestion of parental supervision, I became consumed with a quiet sense of dread. My dear progenies, who have longed for freedom seemingly forever, couldn’t possibly function without me hovering over them, issuing a barrage of directives for the duration: “Keep the doors locked. Don’t let anyone inside under any circumstances. Answer the phone, but don’t suggest that you’re HOME ALONE. Find a pen and actually take a message. Write legibly. On something besides your hand. Furthermore, don’t even THINK about cooking anything. Or shampooing the dog. Or Face-timing your friends who are probably home alone, too, toying with the notion of climbing onto the roof because that seems like a perfectly rational thing to do. Yes, I climbed onto my roof as a kid. That doesn’t mean you should. Also, the security system will be armed, so don’t go outside.”
Despite my reluctance on the matter, I recently caved and allowed Frick and Frack to hold down the fort. Alone. For several consecutive hours. Oddly enough, no one died or had been abducted by aliens. The dog bore no visible signs of trauma, the house was fairly intact and there were no bicycles on the roof. However, upon entering, I noted that our newfangled security system had been curiously disarmed. Naturally, this led to a discussion, one that unfolded thusly:
Me: “So why isn’t this thingy (read: the hi-tech-alarm-gizmo-I-don’t-pretend-to-understand) beeping?”
Frick: “I disarmed it.”
Me: “Why on earth would you do that?!”
Frick: “Because it was beeping. Annoyingly. Plus, I knew the police and fire department would show up any minute if I didn’t.”
Me: “Oh, right. And why was it beeping?”
Frick: “Because Sadie went outside.”
Me: “I thought I told you guys NOT to go outside…or to even open the door.”
Frick: “Yeah well, she did. She thought she heard your car.”
Me: “Okay, why is this (key holder) box empty?”
Frack: “Because I lost the key.”
Me: “You lost the key. Terrific. Why would you even NEED the stupid key?!”
Frack: “Because Taylor wouldn’t let me in.”
Me: “Why wouldn’t you let your sister back in the house?!”
Frick: “You told me not to let anyone inside, under any circumstances. But I had to. She kept banging on the door and it was really annoying.”
At this point, I had no words. Nothing I had conjured in my deranged little mind had prepared me for what apparently had transpired. In any event, I found comfort in the knowledge that my brood had, indeed, demonstrated responsible behavior. Sort of.
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Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel