Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Don't blame me. Blame my cell phone.

Was I this crazy before cell phones? I really don’t think so.

Last night, I talked via Skype with my son, who is studying in London for six weeks. He’s been there for a week, and it was great to see him on the computer; he looked great and seemed happy. He talked to the dog, who clearly didn’t understand why he could see and hear his master, but couldn’t find him in the room. So we enjoyed the hilarity and were having a fun conversation when, suddenly, the mood changed.

“We’re going to Dublin for the weekend – Thursday to Sunday,” Scott said. “I probably won’t have an easy way to talk to you till I get back.”

My adrenaline surged, and I fired off a barrage of questions: Who’s going? Where are you staying? Do you have enough money? Do you know how to exchange dollars for pounds or Euros? Will your computer be locked up safely?

And then I asked the stupidest question of all: “Is there an adult over there you can go to with any questions you might have?”

He chucked and said, “Uh, Mom? I’d go to myself.”

Of course, because, you see, he is an adult. By the time he’s home from overseas, he’ll be three days shy of 23.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I constantly have to fight my tendency to be a helicopter parent. (Actually, in my case “helicopter” is probably too kind. What would that make me – a Hovercraft parent, maybe?) Primarily, I blame my genetic makeup. But I also blame cell phones.

Cell phones simply make things too easy for parents like me. When I was in college, I called home once a week, from a landline, and wrote letters the rest of the time. Communicating with folks two hours away took some effort and also was expensive, so it was kept to a minimum.

But now, with the press of one button, I’m connected to my kids whenever I need or want to speak to them. We found out prior to Scott’s departure that his phone wouldn’t work in London, but then he discovered how easily we could Skype, and via the computer, we’ve connected daily, either by video chat or email. That’s been fine.

But Dublin? With no contact? How will that work?

In all fairness to my OCD tendencies, I can somewhat justify my fears; remember Natalie Holloway? How about Amanda Knox? Both were out of the country when they allegedly made unwise decisions that led to tragic consequences. I’ve always read that young people’s brains aren’t fully developed till they’re 25, so I’m probably wise to not assume my kids are always going to think things through entirely.

At the same time, though, as Scott puts it: “I don’t want to die as much as you don’t want me to die, so I place a pretty high priority on taking care of myself.”

I imagine all parents eventually accept the realization that no matter how diligently they try, they can’t keep their kids safe 100 percent of the time. Many parents apparently reach that decision far earlier than I have, but nonetheless, I’m resolving to get there.

I had dinner a couple of weeks ago with my former father-in-law, and as we chuckled over my hyper-protective tendencies, he told a story of my former mother-in-law, who would wait up for her teenage and young-adult children while expressing her frustration that her husband was able to go to sleep without worry.

“Shirley, you can wait up as long as you want, but eventually, you’ll have to fall asleep,” my former father-in-law said. “But remember, God never sleeps. After you’ve gone to bed, He’ll still watch over them. So take advantage of that, and get some rest.”

Perhaps I’ll have to remind God to take a glance over at Dublin during the coming days. In the meantime, Scott’s not leaving London till tomorrow night; there’s time for one more Skype conversation. After all, someone has to remind him to pack his wallet and his passport, right?

Yes, old habits die hard. But, hey … I’m trying.

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