Oh, there are days when you just have to say “was that my child?”
Friday was a half-day for the girls. The little one had a movie-date with her Brownie troop, the middle one came home, and the oldest one asked for ten dollars so she could walk downtown to have lunch with friends–friends I’d never heard of and had never met. Since she had never asked to do this before and tends not to initiate outings like this and since she and her sister have been downtown on several occasions without me, and, finally, since she had the cell phone, I said okay.
The middle one and I ran off to have lunch and do our Target shopping (but got stuck in a road repaving hell and just came back home, instead), and then my husband and the furnace/AC repair guys (the temp dipped to below 40 and our brand new furnace wasn’t heating) showed up, and then I got a phone call from work, and then in the middle of all that, my cell phone rang. My middle daughter answered while I was talking on the home phone and she kept interupting me and I kept getting irritated because I knew from the ring tone that it was the girls’ cell phone. Finally, my middle daughter said loudly and insistently, “she said it’s a ‘no questions asked policy thing and she needs you right away.”
So I did what any jangled mom would do. I told the woman from work that I’d call her back from my cell and I took care of the rest of my business (that may have come out wrong) as I drove down to the school to pick up my daughter who I saw sitting under a tree with her knees up to her chest.
You know, you tell your kids to pick up their socks, practice their tubas and brush their teeth and its as if you are the wind blowing through their ears. They don’t hear a thing. So you never know if they hear you on what’s really important and when they not only hear it, but get it, it just leaves you breathless.
You see, I’ve told her and told her sister a couple of things over the years and more than once, of course: 1) Use me as an excuse (ie, you don’t have to do what your friends are doing and if you don’t feel comfortable, then you can always say ‘my mom said I can’t,’ and sulk appropriately so they know it isn’t because you aren’t cool but because your mother is the biggest doofus in the entire world); and 2) I will come get you, no questions asked (ie, if you are at a party and you want to come home and either you or your friends are doing or have done something you’d rather I didn’ t know about, call me and I will come get you … no questions asked).
So, when I heard the “no questions asked” language, I responded as quickly as I could–but I still couldn’t help myself from asking questions. She jumped in the van and I said, “are you okay?” and then “what happened.” Funny, though, she went ahead and answered the questions without squirming or reminding me I said “no questions.” So, I guess I need to rename it: some questions asked.
What happened is one of the new friends suggested they go to the park near the middle school after lunch, knowing that there was a fight planned there. When my daughter figured out what was going on, she just booked it out of there, found a safe place to call, and invoked the code. She was scared. After I asked her if she was okay and a few other questions, I asked her: “should we be calling someone and getting an adult involved?” No, she said. They were just talking, yelling she said, and, since I had to learn to trust her instincts on how to get out of a situation that made her uncomfortable, I trusted her instincts that this was something best left to children to settle. Perhaps I was wrong–I have yet to decide if I did the wrong or right thing in that moment, but I knew she just wanted to get out of there and get home, so that’s what we did.
She asked me not to tell her dad about the whole thing and I asked her why (another pesky question). “Because he blows things all up,” she said, meaning out of proportion, but you get the drift. I told her I couldn’t imagine her father getting mad at her for doing exactly what we have asked her to do–and a brave thing as well and I thanked her for being brave and calling us–but I let her make the choice of when and how to share the situation with her dad. And she chose to do so.
Long story short: something sunk in. In other words: it worked. In other other words: I’d rather have her socks on the floor and her tuba unpracticed if it gets her to listen to her gut and even, sometimes, her mother.
Please, please, please let this be a sign of things to come. Please, please, please let her listen to that small voice within that says ‘get me the hell out of here. And please, please, please let me always hear her, even when the other phone is ringing, the furnace isn’t working, and the nattering sounds and events of the normal are loudly competing for my attention.
And thank you, thank you, thank you, for keeping my smart girl safe.
P.S. This one is for MsKitty.