Tag Archives: letting go

Training Wheels

My oldest daughter, more affectionately known as the woman-child, recently adopted a hamster—which is all well and good I suppose. She’s away at college so, theoretically speaking, the whiskered beast won’t add appreciably to the chaos that lives and breathes here. To date, we house a pampered dog, a self-absorbed cat and, ironically, five smelly hamsters—which is plenty, given that a number of children and house plants also reside here, making demands and a profusion of noise as a matter of course.

Well, not the plants so much.

At any rate, the aforementioned co-ed is a fairly responsible twenty-something who has waited a very long time to welcome a pet of her own—to feed and water said creature without fail, to scrub away stench and eradicate poo with glee, to know the horrors and complexities of cage assembly and the sheer panic of “misplacing” the dear rodent in question. But, in all fairness, she couldn’t be happier or more eager to embrace the notion that such a tiny (and admittedly adorable) being is now entirely dependent upon her ability to perform such tasks. There’s something to be said for delayed gratification, methinks.

However it has come to my attention that a certain couple of somebodies (namely Heckle and Jeckle) have a problem with their big sister’s new role as a bona fide pet owner. It seems that someone’s panties are officially in a bunch over the matter of obtaining (or not) parental consent for the purchase of the abovementioned hamster.

Once the news broke (i.e. the furry beast was deposited upon the coffee table for one and all to behold), the vociferous rant conversation unfolded thusly: “Does MOM know you got this!?” one of my soon-to-be-ten-year-olds shouted with indignation. “Yeah! You can’t just walk into a store and BUY A HAMSTER without Mom’s permission! She’ll freak! She’ll absolutely FREAK when she finds out!” my other soon-to-be-ten-year-old barked, visibly outraged by her sister’s alleged failure to follow family protocol.

“Hellooooo, I’m 22. Okay, almost twenty-THREE and Mom will be perfectly fine with this. You’ll see,” my oldest defended, almost comically.

Indeed, I was perfectly fine with it; but I was then faced with a thorny task—that of explaining to my fourth graders the

particulars that encompass perhaps the grayest of parenting areas: when, how and under what circumstances should we relinquish authority—great or small—to our children, especially to those on the cusp of adulthood. In doing so, I found myself wrestling with the intangible nature of age as it relates to maturity, struggling mightily to define the indefinable and ham-handedly muddling through the whys and wherefores that drive nearly every decision that ultimately leads to the conferral of independence.

Somehow (perhaps because the gods were smiling upon me that day) I managed to field the barrage of unanswerables to a satisfactory degree. That said, Heckle and Jeckle seemed reasonably content with the outcome of the Great Hamster Debate, and with my rudimentary manner of defining what constitutes the fringe of adulthood. Translation: They were slightly enthralled to learn that one day (albeit not particularly soon) they’ll likely be carrying iPhones and able to adopt a herd of llamas, with

or without my blessing.

However, this exercise in frustration got me thinking about the process itself, about the supreme challenge of knowing when and how much to surrender in the way of sovereignty, about what an inexact science it truly is—as if we, as parents, needed one more reason to second guess ourselves. It’s not enough that our grasp on the vestiges of control is tenuous at best; we must also deal with the uncertain nature of when to give it up. Naturally, the training wheels are the first to go, then it’s our presence they no longer require as they careen around the block, oblivious to the fear we routinely invite. Finally, it’s out into the world they rush, headlong, eager to make their own way and to cast aside the likes of training wheels.

Nevertheless, I’d like to think I’m on the right track, no matter how inordinately awkward I feel at times, doling out freedom in embarrassingly small chunks, gauging success one child and one liberating event at a time. It’s like loosening the reins or fishing in a sense; only the goal is not to reel in the prize, but to gradually—in fits and starts—release more line, enabling said prize to strengthen and to govern its own path in the waters of life. Inconceivably, we are then called upon to snip the line and watch in wonder from afar, which is perhaps the most difficult task of all.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (lamenting the finite quality of childhood).

Copyright 2011 Melinda L. Wentzel


Comments Off on Training Wheels

Filed under The Natives are Decidedly Restless, The Woman-Child

Smother May I?

My oldest will turn 22 tomorrow. That said, I feel slightly older than dirt or rocks or something decidedly ancient. Ugh.

Someone hand me a machete. Some scissors. Nail clippers. Anything! Puuuuleeeeez! I am in desperate need of said sharp-ish devices so that I might finally, and for all eternity, sever the apron strings that bind me inextricably to my eldest daughter, now 21.

To be clear, she is not to blame. It is I. I am the foolish one—the insanely overprotective, nurture-obsessed fusspot-of-a-mother who simply won’t let go of her woman-ish child to save herself. It is entirely possible that I need therapy. Admittedly, I have issues. Serious issues with mothering. Or more correctly, smothering.

Just last week, in fact, I gave the poor kid some money and asked her to run some errands for me, ones that would involve d-r-i-v-i-n-g somewhere, p-a-y-i-n-g for things and actually i-n-t-e-r-a-c-t-i-n-g with people. Imagine that. At any rate, from the moment she left until she returned a short time later, I was filled completely with a host of irrational fears, some of which involved the very real possibility of being abducted by aliens, being whisked away by a man in a monkey suit and, of course, being suddenly stricken with dementia—in which case she’d wander the earth interminably searching for that which she couldn’t remember anyway.

Naturally (and as expected), I also obsessed over dreadful car crashes she might have, navigational nightmares she could experience and the legions of unsavory characters with bad teeth and mismatched socks she was sure to encounter during said perilous journey to town. Never mind all the road trips to urban destinations she’s made without the benefit of mapish entities (i.e. the countless times she’s made me DERANGED WITH PANIC for not having enough sense to take along a fricking MAP of metro D.C.). Grok!

Further, I became gravely concerned that she might not remember to pick up the book I so desperately needed for comic relief that day (Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay), she would forget to count the change to make sure it was right and by some strange twist of fate, her ability to string coherent sentences together like, “My Mom ordered this book. I’m here to pick it up,” would be lost forever, leaving her at the mercy of bookstore employees who would then send her packing with an obscenely pitiful piece of literature just to clear the aisles of derelicts and whatnot.

Needless to say, none of the above mentioned horrors came to fruition. But that is not to say they couldn’t have. Because they could have.

I’m just saying….

To be sure, I sent my dear child out into the big, bad world armed with that which I deemed necessary for survival: a Ziploc baggie with enough cash, a detailed list of the stops I had planned for her (complete with street addresses and suggestions for where to park), coins for the meter and a reminder that she should call with the least little question or concern—like forgetting how to breathe, for instance. It’s a wonder I didn’t hand her milk money and tell her to look both ways before crossing the street—something my husband swears I whispered in her ear on the day she left for college.

I did no such thing. At least not that I can readily recall.

It’s true. I have issues with letting go and must fight the urge each and every day to position a safety net beneath her wherever she might venture. She’s not two anymore, despite how vividly I remember that period in time. The way she twisted and twirled her hair (or mine) when she grew tired and longed to be rocked. Her well worn thumb planted securely between those pouty lips. Those blue-gray eyes, framed by a thicket of lashes—lashes that lay like petals on her sweet face only yesterday.

Indeed, only yesterday.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (feeling wistful these days).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel


Filed under Leaving the Nest, Love and Loss, Me Myself and I, Mushy Stuff, The Woman-Child