Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where's the damn manual?

Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. You’ve heard that before, right?

Well, I’m pissed about that. Seriously – I bought a simple pair of tweezers the other day and a 4 page manual came with them. Why not one for children?

Oh fine, I know why. I’m just saying that most days, parenting decisions are a crapshoot. And the only thing better than a manual?

Well, it’s when your very own parent calls you out of the blue to say, “I know it’s hard, but you’re doing the right thing with your daughter.”

You see, Watermelon had 3 friends over this weekend. They hung out and swam and then they all wanted to go get ice cream at the local gas station.

Now – yes – we live in Podunk. And yes, it’s a small, safe town.

But it's not safe enough for me to let my 12 year old ride up to the gas station, across two county roads and one highway. I mean – I wanted to let her go. I wanted her to have that fun with her friends.

What I wanted more was for the parents of the other 3 girls to not allow them to go either. That’s what I really wanted.

Watermelon knew I’d say no. She told them she couldn’t go. She was a little sad but a part of her gets it too. She heard me just the other day worried about the neighbor girl who I’d seen alone, down the county road, with her earbuds in…miles from home – after our other neighbor said he’s almost hit her with his car coming over the hill.

So her friends went and Watermelon stayed home and that was that.

Until about 4 hours later when my mom called. She said, “I couldn’t see all their faces but there were 3 of Watermelon’s friends all the way down by the school on their bikes when I drove by a bit ago. One of them was texting, with her head completely down, on the main road, driving wobbly because she was texting. How scary.”

(I doubt their mothers knew that’s where they were. The school is NOT by the gas station.)

I said, “Yah. They were here earlier. Watermelon was supposed to go with them…but we didn’t let her. She’s a little sad about it and I feel bad because I’m making her miss out on that.”

My mom said, “It’s dangerous. They’re so young and so beautiful and those are major roads. I know it’s hard but you’re doing the right thing.”

Hmmm. Wow.

I doubt very much if my mom’s mom ever said anything like to her. It might be one of the first times mine has said it to me. It was a relief to hear those words…almost like she handed me a manual or a passing grade on a test.

I always swore I’d know the kind of parent I’d be as far as letting my kids go do fun things. My parents were very paranoid and didn’t trust anyone and therefore, there were very few things I was allowed to do or go to. Because I was a girl – it was even worse.

And now I constantly feel that pull between letting go and holding on to the fear of what ifs and keeping them close. The decisions suck. I wish no one had to think about what could happen to your child when you’re not around. I wish it was cut and dried and I wish that I always knew she’d come back safe. I wish I could let go of some of the paranoia my parents unconsciously put in me…though it serves a purpose now.

I mean, let’s be real. I wish there was a damn manual…because I never, ever imagined I’d be the person in anyone else’s life who denied them ice cream with their friends.

Next time, I’m making Rambo say no to her. For me, saying no to ice cream is just against my internal moral code, you know?


FitBy40 said...

Sometimes I feel like a 'helicopter' parent because I hover over my kids all the time. I don't care, I'm the one responsible for their well being and if anything happened to one of them, I'd be the one at fault for the rest of my life! I wouldn't have let her go either. Being a push over though, I would have offered to drive them all there!
I watch my kids like a damn hawk, even at the playground when I'm just a few feet away. There's too much that can happen to them.
Good job mama!

jennxaz said...

I remember being amazed that first day home from the hospital that they let me take him...seriously!

I think I would have fallen over to hear a complement like that from my mom...she is always on me that I am not strict enough.

But I totally agree..I would not have let my little boy go either!

Katy said...

That is so sweet that your mother gave you a compliment on your parenting. I love reading your stories about your family. I don't have kids (yet), but I love the relationship you have with your girls and hope to have that someday as well.

Cheri said...

Yup....that is something I connect with my mom on too. We also have a difficult relationship...but as a mother, I often have moments where I suddenly have a flash of new appreciation of how hard something must have been for her, and I also am so grateful when she gives me that unexpected compliment.

Angela Pea said...

Um...next time, hop on your bike and go WITH the girls. That's what I do. It is, after all ice cream.

I wouldn't have let my kids go either, neither sons nor daughters. Back roads in our Podunk are full of crazy drivers and in a contest between a bike and a bubba truck, the bike loses every time.

MandaPanda said...

Well done.

Elizabeth said...

Nice job!!!

If by chance, you do stumble upon the user manual please send my way......

RockBand Barbie said...

Both of my kids are grown and I am still looking for that damn manual :)

LuckyEight16 said...

I think that is really the biggest compliment. It also helps when you're feeling bad or are not sure about a decision you made. I wouldn't have let my kids go either.

LDswims said...

I'm proud of you! That was exactly the right answer and that Watermelon even kind of understands speaks to your parenting.

Love you!

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

I'll tell you my mom's favorite expression "BETTER YOU CRY NOW THAN I CRY LATER!" Mine are 16 and 14 and aren't allowed to do much. I know we walk a fine line between protecting and overprotecting. I worry that my kids have led a rather sheltered life, but they're safe. I think we've instilled good values in them and they aren't going to become rebellious punks because of it. I just might have to push them out the door when the time comes for them to fly the coop, though!

Carla Birnberg said...

you rock.

Steph said...

I agree with Angela...rather than keep my daughter from doing something fun with the rest of the girls and feel left out, I would have hopped on my bike and ridden with them or said, "Come on...let's all go. Hop in the truck girls!"

Laura Belle said...

Ahhh, I like this story! Good for you mamabear!

And she knows that you do this because you care. she knows.

heart you!

Tully said...

I don't have kids, so I have no idea about anything, but I think it's fantastic that you raised a daughter who 'gets it'. It goes to show that when she is older and not asking for permission, she will know what's right and wrong and what's safe and unsafe- such an important lesson for girls!