Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Coolest Mom EVER!

Okay… I just might be the COOLEST MOM EVER!  For danged-sure…I’m the COLDEST!

I just wanna say (before beginning)… that 17 year-old boys are IDIOTS.

That’s all. Just wanted to put that out there.  J

So…my work day was winding down.  The phone rang.  My friend and co-worker handed it off to me.

The first words I heard?

“Hi, Mum.  I did a really stupid thing…”

If you’re a mother, you’ll understand the gut-clenching reaction I felt upon hearing those words.  On one level, I understood that Eli had called me and was talking to me…so he must be ALL RIGHT.

But on the other hand…all I could feel was ‘doom and gloom’. Had he been hurt?  In an accident? Arrested? WHAT???

Eli proceeded to tell me that he’d gotten ‘stuck’.

STUCK?  Stuck where?  Stuck how?  I’d given him permission to drive to school so that he could ‘stay after’ to finish a project that is due…tomorrow. But driving to and from North Anson didn’t involve any ‘getting stuck’ scenarios.

But see…he’s a boy.  I don’t profess to understand the hold that testosterone has on an adolescent male…but I know it DOES.  I’ve been the mother of ‘boys’ for almost 31 years and I’ve come to realize…they are idiots.

He’d taken his Explorer ‘off road’.  Just to see what it could do.  Understand…his rig isn’t an ‘off road’ vehicle.  But try telling that to a boy who has four-wheel-drive.

Oy!  I could go on and on (and on!) here…but I won’t. Suffice it to say…this wonderful (formerly believed-to-be responsible and common-sensical) young man got his rig stuck WAY off the ‘maintained’ road. Up on the side of a mountain. Beyond the plowed road. Beyond where Explorers are made to go. Without telling anyone where he was going.  Without wearing a jacket or boots.  On a day that didn’t see 10F in the full light of sun. Judas H. Priest! If things had worked out differently, my son could have died. So yeah… I was just a tad wound up.

I arrived home 15 minutes before sunset. I won’t be specific about the heart-to-heart conversation I had with my youngest offspring, except to say…a heart-to-heart was had.
But when all was said and done…Eli wanted to ‘go get’ his vehicle.

I was inclined to let it rot there until Spring. Inclined to let snowmobilers vandalize it, the winter weather assault it...I mean, didn’t he deserve to lose his vehicle, after behaving so irresponsibly?

But once I arrived home… once I’d seen for myself that Eli was okay…I softened up.  I couldn’t help it.  All I could think was… “Hey! I was a kid once, too….and didn’t I make mistakes?  Didn’t I screw up?”

The short answer is…YES.

In the end, I did what mothers like me do. I ‘came to the rescue’.  Oh, that’s not to say I didn’t want to hand off responsibility to his father…another male who should witness the idiocy that the ‘fruit of his looms’ was capable of.

But even while considering the idea of shucking ‘duty’ until Steven could get home and deal with it, I was feeling that strange sense of guilt and responsibility.  Steven works far harder than I do (or our son does.) To expect him to arrive home to (and deal with) a family crisis was unreasonable. Not at night.  Not in the total darkness.  Not when the temps were hovering at ZERO Fahrenheit.

SO! I shucked my ‘work’ clothes.  Donned boots, face mask, insulated jacket, gloves and possible accessories. Fired up that Kubota bitch, Lena…and drove a mile up the road…and then up the steep snowmobile trail towards Spruce Pond…that ‘trail’ that Eli was sure his Explorer could conquer.

We arrived at the vehicle…Eli running up the trail behind me.  Yes, it made sense.  Good sense. The young man no doubt thought I’d offer to let him sit in the bucket or stand on the 3-point hitch and ‘hitch’ a ride…but that would have been DANGEROUS.  So… a little fresh air and exercise were in order!  Heh…

We attached a chain to his rig and to the tractor’s bucket. He got in, started the Ford, put it in reverse….and Lena and I yarded that sucker out of the hole it had been buried in.  After some jigs and jags, the Explorer was once again pointing downhill. 

And I was ‘frozen to the toes’n’!

He followed me down the trail.  Once we were back at the road, I had Eli drive home in his Explorer to wait for me.  Lena doesn’t go much more than 10-12 miles per hour with chains on (and 10 mph at ZERO Fahrenheit is some kinda COLD!) Once I and my frostbitten cheeks and numb fingers arrived at the house, I backed the tractor into the shed, shut her down and instructed Eli to drive me back up to the end of the road so that I could retrieve my truck.  (No, I hadn’t made the poor lad jog ALL the way…only from the end of the road to where he’d gotten his truck buried. I’m not completely heartless, after all.)

All in all, the day ended successfully.  The Explorer is parked in the yard.  My son (whom I love with all my heart) is safe.  Lena is none the worse for wear.  Steven didn’t have to venture into the cold western woods after a long day at work. My cheeks will recover, as will my pinky fingers.

And…I have racked up some serious creds. 

I asked Eli this: “How many boys do you know who have mothers who can and will drive a tractor in sub-zero temps up a mountainside after dark to pull her son’s rig from the snow? Am I not the coolest mother you know?  Or…if it kills you to say ‘yes’ to that…am I not the COLDEST mother you know?”

He had to admit… I am.

Of course, his ability to drive that ‘off-road Ford’ depends on maintaining a good standing with me, so what else could he say?

Sigh… BOYS.  They’re idiots… and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word.

Routine Maintenance at The F.A.R.M. the adrenalin rush is over.   

Steven climbed up onto the porch roof to knock some ice off the valley between this ‘summer kitchen’ addition and the roofs of the main house and the shed.  I was working here at the desk when I heard him put the ladder up, so I opened the window and asked what he was doing.  He told me and I scowled. (That's my 'worry face' in disguise.) I asked if he needed some help. He told me 'no'. My idea? I was going to volunteer to take the screens off the windows and push the snow off from the relative safety of the bedroom…

I admonished Steven that it would be slippery underneath the snow after all the rain we’d recently received.  He acknowledged I was right…and then climbed the ladder anyway – ax in one hand, shovel in the other.  I sighed and went back to work. My husband seems to spend an inordinate amount of time on roofs. Cleaning chimneys, repairing chimneys, re-flashing, painting and yes...shoveling.  Therefore, I spend an equal (and ridiculous) amount of time worrying.

He started pounding the ice and Scruffy got nervous.  She asked to ‘come up’.  (Yes, these little dogs are just like kids and ‘ask’ to be held, sometimes.) I cradled her in my right arm while typing with my left hand. My desk is adjacent to these bedroom windows so I registered Steven’s movements out of the corner of my eye as he worked.

All of a sudden I heard the sound of a big ‘slide’.  Looked up and saw Steven’s feet start to go.  The snow and ice slid off the roof.  The ladder went with it.  As he fell backwards, trying to stop his downwards/forwards momentum, Steven let go of the shovel.  The ax was already sliding off with the snow.

I jumped up just as Steven’s butt hit the roof.  Saw him continue to slide.  I hollered “Hang on!” (as if he needed to be encouraged to do so!) He yelled for Eli, who was inside and downstairs.  I hollered even louder for Eli.

“ELI!!!! GO HELP PAPA!! QUICK!!” and ran out of the bedroom, registering the fact that Steven had stopped his slide—temporarily, at least – with both legs dangling over the edge of the roof and perhaps 4 inches of butt-cheek holding him in place.

I pounded down the stairs and ran through the kitchen, passing Eli as he struggled into his shoes.  His shoes?  He needed SHOES?  Did I have shoes on?  I had no idea! “Get out here and grab the ladder!” I shouted.

As I came off the front steps, what did I hear?

I heard my husband – from his precarious perch on the edge of the other porch roof – holler “Be careful! Don’t slip on the ice, Karen! Let Eli do it!”

Don’t slip on the ice? Let Eli do it?  Eli was still getting dressed, for Pete’s sake! And Steven was barely holding on to the edge of the roof.  Sheesh!

I moved through the soft, wet snow pack to the ladder, stepping onto the partially buried ax as I did so.  I grabbed the ladder.  Eli was right behind me and we stood it upright and leaned it against the roof, to the right of Steven’s legs.  We held it securely. 

Steven was smiling, dammit.  Smiling as he tried to get his right leg onto a rung without shifting his weight enough that his 'slide' would continue. If he did slide the rest of the way off, what lay underneath him – ten feet below – was the railing.  Not snow…but wood.

He managed to get his right foot onto a rung.  Managed to turn himself around and find secure purchase for his left foot. As he started down the ladder he said “Eli, pass me up that shovel.  Might as well get this last bit of ice off.”

Eli leaned down and pulled the shovel out from beneath the snow and ice which had just slid off the roof. He handed it up to his father.  I was still scowling.  Mad?  No.  (Well…maybe a little.  “If they’d listen to ME, this wouldn’t happen!” I was thinking…) Scared?  Not anymore.  (Okay…perhaps a wee bit scared.  After all, my husband had almost [ALMOST!] fallen off the flipping ROOF!) It is possible that ‘scowling’ is my fall-back expression…what I do when I don’t know what other expression is suitable?  I didn’t know and didn’t care.

I realized I had my Crocs on.  Rubber shoes will multiple pre-manufactured holes in them.  Crocs…without socks.  For all practical purposes I was barefoot in the snow.  Barefoot while my husband calmly continued with ‘routine winter maintenance at The F.A.R.M.’

Thank God, he’s safe.  But yeah…I’m pretty much done with winter. I’m through with snow, cold, ice and freezing rain.  It’s way too stressful.

But hey… we’ve gained almost two hours of daylight since December 21st.  Spring will be here before we know it!  Shoveling roofs will take a back seat to removing the banking from the house, tilling the garden, mowing the lawns, painting, clearing brush…working up next year’s firewood…banking the house…and shortly thereafter…shoveling the steps, the walkways and the roofs.

Ah, the joy of ‘routine maintenance at The F.A.R.M.’

Call Me When You Get There

Men are from Mars?

Maybe.  It seems that even “almost-men” have an inherent inability to communicate effectively with the fairer sex.

I like to think I’m imbued with a good dose of common sense.  And I’ve always assumed that – because I am common-sensical – my offspring would be, too.

But it doesn’t always work that way.

Here’s an example of a conversation I recently had with my youngest.  Eli is seventeen.  He is a smart young man; hard-working and with a good sense of humor (most of the time, except when he doesn’t ‘get it’.) But occasionally, there seems to be a ‘disconnect’ between his sharp mind and his ability to reason.  It is my belief that the latter will catch up with the former in the next few years. I’m an eternal optimist, after all.

Eli has his drivers’ license.  He also has a Ford Explorer.  Those are good things.  He likes having this new bit of independence and frankly, I love the fact that his travels can be made without needing his mother as a constant chauffeur.  But having my teenagers on the road has caused me many, many moments of worry.  Panic, even.  I love them.  I want to keep them safe.  Heck… it’s my JOB to keep them safe!

But I have to let them learn and grow and mature.  I can’t smother them completely.  I have to let them ‘go’. 

Within reason, of course.

Often, I let Eli drive to his friend Isaac’s house to visit and spend the night.  This only happens when I think the road conditions are acceptable – but even then, I worry until I know he’s arrived safely.  So I say (every single time!) “Call me when you get there.”

And Eli says (every single time!) “I will, Mum.”

But what Eli doesn’t say is that his promise to call has a caveat.  Several caveats, in fact!  He’ll call IF he remembers.  He’ll call WHEN he remembers.  He’ll call if he’s remembered to take his phone with him – or if he’s forgotten his own cell, he’ll call if the battery in Isaac’s phone is charged.  Or if Isaac’s phone isn’t lost or otherwise engaged. The list of the excuses he’s used for NOT calling me when he arrived at Isaac’s is a long (and inventive) one.

A few days ago, Isaac invited Eli to spend the night at his house.  It was Christmas vacation and my son had worked several days in a row, so I was inclined to let him take off to enjoy a day and night of fun with his friend.  Eli asked for my permission and (after the usual admonitions about what he could and couldn’t do if I allowed him to go) I said ‘yes’.  He threw his clothes into his backpack and started down the stairs with Josie following a few steps behind. 

“I’m ready to go, Mum.”  He looked at me through the balusters as he descended.

“Wait a minute!”

He stopped.

“You call me AS SOON AS YOU GET THERE, okay?”

“Yes, Mum.”  His eyes didn’t roll, but his tone of voice certainly conveyed the same expression.

“I mean it, Eli.  No ‘forgetting’.  If you want to continue to be allowed to drive yourself over there, you have to be responsible enough to call me when you arrive.  I worry, you know…”

“I know, Mum.”

“Okay, then.  Have a good time.  Drive carefully.  I love you.”

“I love you too, Mum.”  He started down the stairs again.

“And what are you going to do as soon as you get to Isaac’s?” I queried. 

I know this boy.  His “Yes, Mum” responses are so automatic that he often doesn’t even absorb the questions I’ve asked.  He doesn’t realize it – but he typically says what I want to hear just to shut me up so that he can be on his way. So yeah – I wanted to cement the notion of ‘calling me’ into his brain.  No ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response… I wanted Eli to have to think about the question before answering. So I asked…

“And what are you going to do as soon as you get to Isaac’s?”

He stopped. Blinked.  And answered.

“Park the truck?”

I laid my head on my desk top, not knowing whether to laugh or cry or scream.  Josie piped up behind her brother – her words preceded by an exaggerated sigh that sounded, hauntingly, like ME.

“Eli, the answer starts with a ‘C’! Sheesh!” (She couldn’t descend the stairs until her brother was allowed to go on his way…so it was important that he get with the program!)

As I write this, I’m laughing.  Eli’s argument in defense of his answer was a good one.  An accurate one.  Every time he goes to Isaac’s, I say “When you get there, park your truck until it’s time to come home.”  His license is still provisional.  He can’t drive anywhere with passengers who are under the age of 18 unless they are family members.  He knows this – but it is a mother’s job to remind him.  So I do. 

And apparently, he’s paid attention to something I’ve said.

Being a parent is a tough job.  I’ve been at this since I was 19 years old and it hasn’t gotten any easier.  If anything, I’m more neurotic than ever. I’m constantly worried about their well-being, whether they are 17 years old…or almost-31.  And yes…last Monday night when we’d had a day of freezing rain atop packed snow, I also emailed oldest son Guy to make sure he was ‘home safe’.  And my father and my mother-in-law did the same.  They called here to make sure Steven and I had also arrived safely home.  It’s a never-ending cycle – but a good one. 

We parents can’t help the way we are…so we just have to hope our progeny will understand and be patient…and CALL when they safely arrive.