Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Safety Queen Lets Go

From the moment that our oldest son was placed, warm and purple, on my naked belly fifteen plus years ago, I became an anxious mother. Not that I wasn't anxious before--I've always been anxious (it is only after finding the right anti-anxiety cocktail that I realized that it was possible to sit down and feel a foreign thing called "relaxed")--but there is something about caring more than you thought possible about another human, loving every atom of every cell of every square inch of that small body, knowing that you would throw your body in front of your child to block Voldemort's curse, to make a girl keep on her toes.

So I became The Safety Queen or Madame Paranoia or simply the fun sucker in the crowd.

But I always knew that there were adventures in store for the children, when they had the sense to keep from ingesting round objects and the monetary savvy to use a calling card. So I'm not surprised that my fifteen-year-old son is hiking The Three Sisters Wilderness with a friend and the friend's father for five days, but those who know me are flabbergasted. I'm the mom who won't allow sparklers, who doesn't let children under ten blow up balloons, who asks total strangers if they weird uncles, exchange students or guns in the home (30% of Oregon homes do) before allowing my child to visit.

I knew I would start letting go when they were ready. Sometimes I'd offer freedoms and they would reject them, not ready to cut that particular apron string. Sometimes I'd push them, because they were ready--yes, in this city, a fifteen-year-old can take the light rail. Other times I'd just wait until they asked.

Loving kids is letting go, little by little, until they can ride on their own (surprisingly for a safety queen, I was good at teaching how to ride a bike). I just held tight onto them longer than most parents, who are happy to push them out the door onto trikes, scooters or the questionable supervision of others far earlier than I was willing. Strangely enough, once the risk is decided upon--the wilderness hike, the walk to the movies with a friend, the use of public transport to and from a volunteer shift, the playdate at a new friend's house--I don't fret about it. What will my worry or pacing do for my child's safety? Nothing.

So I'm not fretting about my teenager. I'll be glad when he is back. I miss his frenetic presence, the way his personality fills a room, but this adventure isn't something I can offer.

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