This Car Brakes and Blinks--Teen Driver

I would like to personally thank the senator that passed the new bill with stricter mandates for teen Oklahoma drivers--particularly the idea that all upcoming drivers must attend a driver’s education class.  It’s probably a good idea that all teen drivers are required to know how to drive before they set off on the state’s highways. 

But, now I have a 15 ½ year-old and I’m disconcerted to find that the new law applies to us.  In my brain Joy reminds me of the freedom of having a teen driver but Fear and Anxiety put up a good fight.  Finally great memories of those teen yearnings win out so we're driving.

I am told over the grapevine (my teen’s peers) that she must drive six months before she can apply for a license, and that to drive she must get a learners permit. We go to the licensing division, and dream of driving while standing in an hour-long line inching forward until we reach the sign on the wall that explains the forms and documentation we should have had in order to even qualify to stand in the line.  Oops.  I drive home and we return with a minimum of information, proof that her school offers drivers ed., proof that she is alive, (birth certificate) and proof that she is a citizen of the United States (a social security number),  we again rejoin the line with other kids her age and compare notes with them.  “Is this all we need?”  They aren’t sure either. 

She makes it through the gauntlet and takes a written test (computerized and multiple choice), and misses three, which is almost the limit I’m told, by the guy ahead of me who has taken the test four times and missed six and who has finally decided to study for it.  Yay!  She can drive! 

Then I ask the examiner when can she drive, what time of day, and with whom?  The examiner doesn’t know, she tells me to ask when we walk across to the tag agency, where we will pay and get her permit.

But when we do that, they don’t know there either.  So, here I am, with a new teen driver with no experience and a brand new permit ready and roaring to go.  Rumor has it, again through the grapevine that she can drive anywhere with anyone over 21 in the front seat!  That’s all she needs to know!  She’s off.  Which is the gas pedal again? 

Sometime in the near future, she hopes to get her driving permit, so eventually she’ll have to show up at some driver’s education class and the teacher will attempt to undo the mistakes I’ve panic-drilled into her brain.  It may take years of deprogramming to correct those mistakes. 

As she wings around corners and I stomp a hole in the floorboards, I wonder how the new laws have made the roads any safer? 

We turn into our driveway at 25 mph, plow over the front flower bed and screech to a halt two inches from a stone pylon that holds up the south end of the house.

Maybe someday I’ll look up the law and see what the bill maker really intended,  but until then, this car brakes, turns, and blinks for no apparent reason.   We’re driving. 

P.S.  Can I get a magnetic sticker for the back of my car that says, “Warning: Passenger Driver?” 


Because I Said So!

Perfecting parent paranoia,[1] is my new focus of the day. From the moment the squirmy little things are placed in my custody, I am consumed with being a better parent, but the advice book I’ve picked up today calls every other parenting book “bunk” and reminds me again that authors must be experts and authorities to sell books—or at least sound like it by degrading all opposing voices.

I think that this is precisely why these persons feel qualified to write books on parenting because professing to be an expert is not only a primary parental prerequisite—it is the parent's creed.

Reality Bite: Because I Said So. Not only am I an expert, but at times, I am a personification of the perfect one.

[1] Isn’t that a great alliteration?

...belay that!

Are you always pondering how to parent better?   

Me too, but focusing on that instead of the perils of parenting is a bad idea when you are midway up the middle of a steep climb.  

My momma mantra is, "I do what I do, 'cause the kids need me to." My husband's daddy didactic is, "Watch and learn," which is why we climb.  

The parenting Ah-HA moment that smacked me right upside the head, was in the form of a 10.2 static rope attached to a 110 lb., thirteen year old.  That’s what I deserve for allowing my mind to wander while I am belaying, but the parenting Ah-Ha that resulted was teen-altering! 

BELAY:  Sailor slang to stop or cease.  To play out or cinch up the climber's line.  

Belay techniques vary as do parenting techniques, but both involve securing the subject to something stable, and then cinching up the slack.  This provides stability as the subject advances.

One method attaches the belayer into the middle of the rig.   This technique is more difficult and exhausting for the belayer because it required constant vigilance, and extraordinary muscle power and if/when the climber slips, both the climber and the belayer get jerked around.  This also requires calculations and estimations of height/weight ratios and personally I find that adding MATH to anything complicates everything.   

I do NOT, neither as the belayer nor as a parent, wish to become a tethered monitor between my climber and his challenge. 

My job as a parent is to direct the belay—to provide encouragement and be a minimal stop gap measure should my youth slip.   I do not prevent the slip nor should I. 

If my parenting design is right, I'm linked outside of the whole set up.  As the adventurer proceeds confidently with a solid anchor, when he/she slips, they can recover their footing and find stronger handholds to continue to climb upward.   

I don’t know about you, but at some point in the future, I want my children to gain the confidence to climb off lead. (Not so sure about it in the literal sense, but certainly figuratively.)  

If my youth has made his own small missteps and learned from those slips to seek more stable grips, then when he goes off on his own to ascend his own pinnacles, he will progress much more secure and confident in his own abilities. 

So I get out of the way and give plenty of lead so that these youth can control their own ascent.  My goal?   I am raising a lead climber!   
 Reality Bite:  It's not only a great family activity but with my careful mommy machinations, the plan for a family canyoneering vacation can happen in Maui which will also involve some beneficial beach time for the Mom!


…accidents waiting

The Abuse Noose

In spite of our best attempts as a parents to bridle and reign in chaos, nature tilts the balance against children.  Their heads are too big for their bodies and their bodies to big for their brains, which means children are predisposed to injury, and some kids more than others.

Our accident-prone son walks a careful tightrope--he looks like the victim of abuse most of the time.   But most of the time, the careful walk is to our kid doctor who, over the years, has become willing to produce evidence that we live at a kid construction site and though he's banged up a lot, the bulk of the child’s injuries haven’t even warranted a doctor visit.
Old-fashioned selfie - Aidan's self portrait
Dear Me:
The child is a Laurel and Hardy movie. At three, he walks out an unfinished doorway two stories up and falls headfirst down to a concrete basement. Somehow he misses the ledge by a hair’s width and lands on an aunt who breaks the fall. Angels among us? T.


My initial parenting plan at the onset was to shield my children from all types of injury. There would be no sports; instead they would cleve to academia;[1] and their greatest physical risk would be carpal tunnel. We abandoned our country lives and joined civilization to curtail the risks of farm vehicles and rural implements and to minimize the perils of guns vs. animal.

Dear Me,
He falls in the pool at three and spends the night in the hospital playroom, to assure the doctors that he hasn’t drowned. Then shortly after that, the boy rides down the sidewalk in the wagon and clothes-lines himself with a minivan. Soggily, T.


The detailed parent plan states that we never run without goggles carrying anything sharper than spaghetti and that helmets and full body pads are required to open anything carbonated, and yet still, somehow the youngest ducks under my protective arm and prefers to fly on the wings of his guardian angel.

Dear Me:
No sports—I cringe to think how bad it could be when something as innocuous as the swing at the playground requires the H-thrust
[2] to blow out a gummy bear.

Poison control asks “Has he thrown up yet?” when I call about his gulping a glass of hydrogen peroxide. They reassure me, “Oh, don’t worry, he will.” “For hours,” is what they meant.

The cartwheel down the escalator at the airport gets him a split cranium. Sirens at an airport are never a good thing for the mental well-being of the general flying public.

A week later when he took a header out of the wagon, the sight of blood made his sister yell excitedly, “Run get the camera, he’s hurt again!”       Much too old for this, Tired, T

Yet, it is the summer of our disconcert.[3] We walk into the sports store and somehow it is the littlest one who gets his chubby arm jammed and smashed by the automatic door opening. Later that day he swims in the lake next to a water moccasin and then to top off the evening, he takes a header off the trampoline causing his college-aged caregiver to ask if he normally goes into seizures after head injuries.  "Yes," we assure her, "Yes, yes he does."

He’s going to be a BASE jumper. I should just resign myself to that eventuality right this moment. But until then, I do what I can to provide a childhood that is safe and for the most part, pleasantly memorable. I fear a risk-free childhood could provide a therapeutic future, but I'd like to avoid a future of therapy based on overprotective parents.

Dear me:
Jumping off the bed splits the lip and that requires stitches. Mom didn’t think it needed stitches, so the scar is now permanent. I’m not worried because men like scars and women have this soft spot for the battle-torn.

Racing through the house, he somehow misses the three-foot opening and slams into the doorframe head on. When the cartoons depict the lump raising right before the eyes… it’s not all in jest. I’m considering becoming an EMT for peace of mind.


So I seek to minimize the damage and prepare him for a lifetime of pain. His threshold is already two stories high, so maybe he’ll be a stuntman, or a telemarketer. I shudder.

Reality Bite: The child falls now and immediately yells reassurance. “Don’t worry Mom, I didn’t hurt my head.”

[1] Closely related to macademia. It’s all nuts.

[2] The Heimlich that is no longer allowed to be called Heimlich since some lawyer identified it as a revenue source.

[3] The grammar guru hates this phrasing, but Steinbeck broke the rule first, so it's okay.


…on strike

I’m on strike so when I sleep in, the husband feigns surprise. He rolls over, hits the snooze button and groans, “Honey, it’s six.”

My eyes flick open, then slam shut as I snap back, “So what? I’m not getting up today.”

He frowns and rolls up onto one elbow and surveys my stubbornly stiff posture then asks, “Is this a continuation of last night’s conversation?”

For men, a good night’s sleep is the udder balm that somehow coats and soothes the sore spot lingering from the previous night’s licking. He may heal and forget by morning, but I am a prod, a scab picker and with enough persistence, I can create a wound I’ll never forget.[1]

The conflict last night was a result of his complaining about coming home after a twelve-hour work day to unfed children, a disordered house, and an absent wife.

Admittedly, I had been at a parenting class all morning and when I got home, I only managed five loaves of banana bread and a loaf of whole wheat-flax seed bread. I started the homemade potato cauliflower ham and cheese soup, but I had neglected to finish it. I left instructions for adding the milk and heating it up. What?

We wranglers, who have no full-time job outside of the corral, must guard against being thought of as little more than the manure spreader. It’s best for the whole herd if somehow the trail boss reminds each one of the little doggies that they too have a position of importance in the pasture.

When they forget and take me for granted, I respond by getting all wound up and spring loaded. When that happens, watch out! Take it from the professional cow chip slinger, the reverberation is going to be big.

In the midst of rounding up the homework, piano practice, drop offs to swimming, and tae-kwan-do, I didn’t get my whip up to direct the herd in everything else that needed to be unpacked from vacation. Nor had I made the bed.

So, I’m on strike and I’m wandering around the house having to stop myself from the automatic pilot that switches on and forces me to bend over, pick up and put away the haphazard turbulence that swirls around the maelstrom of living.

I live to hear the words, “Thank you.” In lieu of that I’ll take, “You’re right.” Two little tiny inconsequential words, but I’m willing to take them in past tense, after the fact, “You were right,” would suit fine. It may well be the last thing I hear as I’m passing from this life, “All right! Okay! You were right!” And will I be satisfied? Perhaps then, and only then.

To me:
I find myself standing at the door holding it shut and speaking through the window to the miscreant outside wailing in the rain.

“I told you that you didn’t want to go out in this torrent, but did you listen? No!” “I knew that you would be utterly miserable within moments of setting foot outside!” “I am not opening this door until you admit that I am right.”
I wait resolutely ten more seconds and then piteously open the door as the cat dashes in, and rubs wet matted fur on my legs as she dashes off to dry out on my bedspread.

Am I desperate? Perhaps. T.

[1] …anything that I remember, anyway.


...still striking

I’m on strike! I could use some pointers from the AFL-CIO. Where do I go after the initial demand? Do I negotiate at this avenue? Is there an easier way to make a valid point—aside from a walk-out?

Are there better alternatives than scrawling my complaints and demands in spray paint across the picket fence out front?

That was the big complaint! The bed wasn’t made. The second biggest was that I don’t empathize. Eighty percent of the time, the bed’s not made and 100% of the time I can't empathize, so what’s new about that? I don’t understand the problem!

At this juncture, there is no hope for shorter hours, less overtime, more sick leave and vacation pay, and I’ve had my fill of being the sole unskilled laborer on the payroll! We’ve reached an impasse and I’m done bargaining!

I can't negotiate the paycheck, what paycheck? It’s all non-negotiable, so it’s a walkout. I’m leaving the house. I can’t abandon the little one—that’s illegal! So I’ll drop him with a friend who owes me and then I’m leaving. I’ll just escape from the mess and it will cease to exist while I am somewhere else.

Oh, I’m not going shopping, that's too easy. I’m going to help someone move. I’ll pack, clean and organize their house.

Reality Bite: And I’ll be sure to make their bed.

...strike reality

My strike isn't working.

In my reality, the teen-ager says, “No problem, I’ll call somebody else to take me to swim,” and the tween yells, “Yeah! No piano.”

It’s not working. If they aren’t missing me, maybe I wasn’t important in the first place. Am I unnecessary? Have I taught them to be too self-sufficient? They pack their lunches, do their own homework, fix their dinner. Yikes! What have I done?

My only reassurance is that the children do none of these things well, nor consistently. They still need me around to remind them to clean it up, pick it up, wipe it up, scoop it up and take it to their own personal dumping ground.

That’s it! That is what they will miss, that constant nit pick, picking. I have purpose; I am the designated nag!

Ah ha! That’s what the husband missed yesterday. It wasn’t what I do for him, but the noise I make doing it. He missed that! And that was why, when I engaged in rebuttal last night and we got it all said before bed, that he was able to go to sleep refreshed and able to wake up thinking all was well again with the world.

See? Brilliant me!

Wow, another epiphany! Why don’t I feel better? Somehow, I still feel torched by the short end of the wick!

So, I’m still on strike. Maybe I’ll just shut up. That’ll teach them.