Sunday, February 23, 2014

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.

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