By Stefanie Cloutier
As my kids have gotten older, I have become less critical to their everyday survival. I expected this to happen. What I didn’t expect was to become invisible. They don’t seem able to see me wiping up crumbs right in front of them, or unloading the dishwasher. I can in fact go whole days without hearing a word exchanged between us unless I initiate it. For all intents and purposes, I am a non-person, not worthy of notice.
Until I start to walk toward the door with an overnight bag on my shoulder. Then suddenly it’s the Spanish Inquisition.
“You’re leaving?? Where??”
“How long will you be gone?”
“Is there ice cream in the freezer?” This last from the teen boy who still believes that fairies come in at night and clean up his ice cream detritus.
(Side note: if you haven’t seen this video about the magic laundry basket, go right now and watch it. I’ll wait.)
Mind you, these are children in college and high school. They have licenses, jobs, and a calendar full of social activities. My leaving should have little to no impact on their lives, especially since my husband is a far better cook than I am. I’m usually only going for a night or two, but they behave as if I’m moving out of state.
And it’s especially fascinating given that all they think it’s necessary to tell me is that they’re going “out,” “with friends,” and will return “by curfew.” If I find out anything, it’s usually by accident.
So recently, while on my way out to run an errand, I casually asked my son what his plans were for the day. I was expecting him to say, “nothing,” so was surprised when he said, “I’m thinking of going swimming with some friends.”
I stopped in my tracks. This is not something he usually does, so it merited further inquiry. I knew I had only about three questions before getting The Glare, so I stuck with the basics: who was he going with, where was he swimming, and when would he be back. He answered: this afternoon, with a girl he’d dated a few times, and at a river I’d never heard of. “We’re jumping off a bridge,” he added.
Now he absolutely had my attention. “How high a bridge?” I asked. “Thirty feet?” he said, clearly unsure, then seeing the look of horror on my face, amended his answer. “Ten feet? Five?”
The point, I explained, wasn’t to give me an answer designed to make me feel better. The point was for me to know the ACTUAL height so I could know just how freaked out I needed to be.
I had exceeded my questioning capacity, and he was exasperated. “Why are you so uptight?” he fumed. To which I replied, “It’s called parenting.”
Fortunately, in these days of Google, whatever info my children are hesitant to give up can easily be found with a few keystrokes. In a matter of minutes I discovered the whereabouts of the bridge, called the local police department, and asked exactly how high this bridge was, if this was a known activity, and if the river was deep enough to not cripple my kid for life.
My son was incredulous. I was triumphant.
Satisfied with their answers, I gave him the car keys and permission to go. And now he knows that not only am I NOT invisible, I’m still a force to be reckoned with.