One of the biggest challenges that every mother faces, is knowing how much free rein to give her children. How much independence is prudent at each age and stage of development? As conventional wisdom knows, every child is different. It seems as though, there are certain children who never let their mother out of their sight and no matter how much “Cling Free” you spray on yourself, these offspring stay overly-attached. But, there is, inevitably, one child in every family, that seems to seek any and every opportunity to shake -off the shackles of their mother, and strike out on their own prematurely. In our family, that child is Alex….
Like all my babies, Alex was in no special hurry to join our family . I didn’t think that much of it at the time. 10 days after her due date, they went in after her. She emerged dazed and confused. But to be fair, it was probably all the Demerol they gave me, crossing the placenta. As I, too, was dazed and confused, for a few years…
When Alex was 3, (By then, I thought I had my wits about me) we lost her at Chuck E Cheese. We took our eyes off of her for one second and she was gone in a flash. After we searched the premises high and low, we contacted the Manager and he put the place on “lock down”. That’s the Chuck E Cheese version of an Amber Alert. No one can enter or exit the establishment, until the missing child is located. By this point, we were frantic, to say the least. We had really scoured the place. At some point, while employees, managers and other parents were searching for the 2nd and 3rd time, in all the areas we had previously looked, Jimmy decided to expand the dragnet to include the private birthday party rooms. He carefully scanned the faces of all the happy little Party Guests sitting at the long rows of tables, enjoying their pizza and birthday cake, until he found Alex’s face. There she was, sitting by the birthday girl, wearing a cone-shaped party hat, tooting on her little party favor, joyfully celebrating the birthday of a TOTAL STRANGER. We didn’t know whether we wanted to hug or strangle the party child’s mother, who, handed her a goodie bag and assured us that they had “really enjoyed having her!”
(Parenting tip: If a random toddler shows up uninvited to your child’s party, someone, somewhere is probably searching for her!)
When Alex was 9 years old, a friend and I took our kids on a “Mother-Kids Road Trip/Adventure.” We thought it would be educational for the children, if we took a detour over to see the Hoover Dam. We had heard how extremely dangerous the Dam area was and had agreed to be hyper-vigilant with the kids, due to the unprotected, steep drop-offs. While I took the two older kids to gaze out over the miles of breath-taking, treacherous beauty, holding tightly to the hoods of their jackets, my friend took her daughter and Alex to the Port-a-Potties set up nearby. After everyone had “done their thing,” we drove at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic down the winding mountain road. About 15 minutes had passed by, when my oldest child noticed her sister was missing.
(Parenting tip: Always take a “Head-Count”or employ the fail-proof “Buddy System” if you:
A. Have more than one child
B. Have more than one thing on your mind
C. Have noticed your child is pre-disposed to WANDERLUST)
It took us an unbearable amount of time to get back up the mountain in heavy tourist traffic, to find Alex shivering, crying and mildly traumatized, still sitting in front of the Dam Port-a-Potties. I thought I would never recover from that incident and have, perhaps, overcompensated a bit in my parenting style, as I made a vow to myself, that I would never lose Alex again!!
Which explains why last Friday night was so exceptionally traumatic for me…
Jimmy and I were sound asleep when my cell phone rang at 1:30 am. As every parent knows, any phone call in the wee hours of the night is rarely good tidings. The caller was Alex’s boyfriend, who, “didn’t want to alarm me” (TOO LATE – I am awake and alarmed) He went on to explain that somehow Alex had gotten separated from their friend-group around midnight and he hadn’t seen her since. The “Buddy System” had failed us. I was immediately beside myself to think my little girl was wandering the streets of New York City, all alone and not answering her cell phone. (Jimmy and I were understandably never in favor of Alex going off to law school in New York City. But, because, at age 25, she is by legal definition, an adult, we found that we couldn’t forbid it.) A few minutes of sleuthing confirmed that Alex’s cell phone was left at her apartment, which explained why she wasn’t answering. I couldn’t decide if that made me feel better or worse. I immediately called the police. Perhaps I’ve watched too much “Law and Order SVU,” but I launched my own concurrent investigation “Law and Order SCU” (Silly Children’s Unit) In a moment of inspired maternal brilliance, I logged onto our bank’s website to see if it could help me track Alex’s whereabouts…
(Parenting tip: No matter what age your children are, always keep their debit cards linked to your bank account. You’ll be surprised at how easily you can track their every move, through timed and dated debit card transactions!!)
I was instantly relieved to see that she had purchased a subway ticket shortly after she went missing, and then, because she got lost in New York’s complicated subway system, a transaction 30 minutes later, showed a payment to a taxi cab company for a ride home. She was found within the hour!!
(Parenting tip: “It’s so damn easy, when your feelings are such, to overprotect her, to love her too much – hold on loosely, but don’t let go, if you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control…” Sound parenting advice from 38 Special in 1981, still applicable today!)