Why is it, my daughter could be operating a prostitution ring at college and I don’t know, nor do I worry, but she’s home for a week and I am stricken with anxiety that, God forbid, she walks across the street and twists her ankle?
Or maybe she’s missing classes because she’s a mule for some Columbian drug lord? Who knows, really, what goes on in college? When she’s at school, more than 2,000 miles away, I don’t give a thought to what she’s doing.
Nor am I sitting at home fretting for her safety. Is she going to class? That’s great. Not going? Well, she must have been up late studying. Didn’t show up for work? No doubt, she was under the weather. No one’s been able to reach her for days? Probably wants her privacy. Frankly, I don’t know and I’m not losing any sleep over what she’s doing and how late she’s staying out.
Yet, now that she’s home for the summer, I am a basket case of frazzled nerves, every time she crosses the threshold of our humble abode, and steps into the treacherous world. I immediately start to imagine all that can go wrong. Suddenly, the relatively safe neighborhood in which we reside, becomes roach motel—crawling with a bevy of no-goodniks, unsavory miscreants, sleazy scoundrels and wannabe snipers. The seamier side of society has thrust itself upon my doorstep, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re all standing in the way of my daughter’s wellbeing.
So maybe I don’t know what risks she’s taking on a daily basis in college—bungee jumping, tightrope walking, or just streaking across campus—but here, when it’s right under my nose, it’s all I can do to avoid ultimate panic mania. Yes, I have become the kind of mother that would have driven even myself crazy. The kind that lurks in bushes, keeping an eye on their children at a “safe” distance, with their, ahem, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel—just to ensure said child arrives at their destination in one piece. Two blocks away.
And I have my own mother to thank for passing this baton on to me. When I was six, the only way I was allowed to cross the street, so that I could play with my friend, Beverly Lepinsky, was to stand on the curb in front of my house and yell for Beverly’s mom.
“Mrs. Lepinsky!” I’d shout. Nothing.
Beverly’s mom would peer at the kitchen window. Her job was to watch me cross to their side of the street. Looking both ways was my mantra, and this little ritual, of crossing by myself, was supposed to make me feel all grown up, knowing that my mother had entrusted me with my life.
But I knew better. My mother didn’t trust me with anything, let alone my life. Once I opened the door and stepped out of the house, she would tiptoe right behind me and hide behind a tree, ready to pull me back from the curb if I didn’t look both ways or if I didn’t wait for Mrs. Lepinsky to show her face at the window. I’d hear a sound, a footstep, and turn around. But my mother must have been a cat burglar in another life for I never did catch her in the act. Drats! I swear my mother had a bullwhip that caught me at least twice, when I was on the brink of stepping into the street in front of an oncoming car.
Well, my mother was on to something. Anything to keep me safe, and here I am, living proof, that her strategy worked. Which is why, when it comes to my daughter, I’m following in my mother’s footsteps. Only I’m not sure I want to be that kind of mom and I have to admit, my daughter isn’t six years old anymore.
So, I’ve decided. From now on, I’m sending Henry out to do my dirty work. He’s had lots of experience lurking and leaping into bushes, so he’s perfect for the job of keeping my daughter out of harm’s way. That is, until she goes back to college. Which is when I can safely say,