Monday, July 2, 2012
All The Fun of the Fair.
"Mummy is that you?"
"Yes - where are you?"
"Where are you?"
"Who's phone are you using?"
"A police man's."
"Let me speak to him."
That's how one of the more stressful thirty minutes of my parenting life ended yesterday. The nine year old broke all the rules and took off with her friends at the county fair. I was never really afraid - I knew she had taken off to do something they found more interesting. I knew she was with two friends and I knew she wouldn't go too far.
The encouraging part is that she did what we have discussed and found a person in uniform. She also remembered my cell phone number. BUT she still lost all privileges for taking off in the first place.
I try really hard not to buy into the fear culture. I like to believe in the good.
BUT when your child is missing - however briefly - it's hard not too slide into panic. It's hard not to have one hundred media images flash through your mind. I worked hard to stay firm in my belief that all would be well.
It's also hard not to get incredibly angry at your child - as soon as you know they are safe. She took off because she was bored listening to adults chat. She took off because her friends did and she went along with them. She took off because she's nine and she knows very little of the big wide world and it's dangers.
In some ways I was glad she had the experience. I think a lot about the difference between my childhood freedoms and today's children who live under a helicopter of guardianship. Even if you want to give your children a longer reign, the law often says you can't. I wish my child could be at the fair with her friends and check in with me for lunch or more money for the carnival games.
So why the loss of privileges? I felt I had to. I felt it was my parental responsibility to chastise her poor decision. I felt she needs to learn to stand next to me while I chat with friends for a few minutes. I need her to remember our family rules no matter what her friends say. Also, if I was being really honest - having her handed back to me by a police officer (who was charming and in no way judgmental) caused a dent in my mommy pride. If there's one thing I've learned over the past nine years - mommy has to appear to be in charge at all times.
My hands were tied, at least that's what I'll keep telling myself.