Adjusting Your Parental Comfort Zone
“You want to do WHAT?!” is a phrase I have used a few times, aloud and otherwise, and sometimes with an expletive in mind, when hearing that my daughter wants to do something that sounds dangerous. Stage combat with real swords. Bringing home the school alligator for spring break. Eating haggis. Walking on stilts. Going to Romania for a month to work in a bear sanctuary.
My offspring (the one and only) is one of the most fearless people I know, and someone who yearns to do absolutely as much as possible in the relatively short time we have on this earth. This has been true since she was small. Even Halloween costumes had to be inspired and specific (Rainbow Godzilla, with certain sequins sewn just-so on the left knee). And how many parents would ALLOW the science class alligator (his name was Frodo) to spend time in their house? The gross part was buying live fish to feed him (I took no part in this “circle of life” tragedy, by the way.)
Suffice it to say that life in my household has always been eye-opening, unexpected, and unique. She was the first child (at age 4) to “escape” from a Disney World childcare location (The Neverland Club at the Polynesian resort/hotel). Her dollhouse beds were always filled with worms, small plastic centipedes, and caterpillars. She was into theater and could speak and sing before hundreds of people without being nervous, and could wield a battleaxe by the age of 12 with skill and dexterity. Her room is a collection of weaponry (including a working crossbow), and her friends continue to buy her Christmas gifts like machete’s and war hammers. If Barbie came with a vampire-slaying kit, my kid would have it, but the doll would be tossed away like yesterday’s garbage. In fact, the only Barbie she ever bought was one that came with small plastic dogs. She put the dogs in the dollhouse and the Barbie was never seen again. At 16 she went abroad with her school, travelling to the Netherlands and escaped being a traffic splat on a couple different occasions. Imagine being a parent and seeing Facebook messages from her friends that read “Well, guess who almost got run over by a bus today!?” or “Guess who crashed her bike into a car and they had to call an ambulance?” I didn’t have to guess…
So, at 18, when said daughter wanted to go travel Europe (alone), my Mom-“No”-Meter went off and I started to panic. Had we allowed too much independence? Why does she want to go so far away? Doesn’t she realize what could happen? I saw the movie “Taken,” so I knew the real scoop. Still, we considered options and compromised – I found a nice program where she could spend a couple weeks entertaining children in Scotland – she found a project in Outer Mongolia where she would help people with their yaks – I found a group helping the needy in London – she wanted the gypsy caravan in the woods of Ireland. The compromise was the one-month project in Romania – where she is today – taking care of rescued circus and zoo bears from around the regions.
Today’s Facebook post from my adventurous one? “On a mountain, surrounded by dogs, full of spaghetti, and covered in raw fish/spoiled food. To me, this = ultimate success.”
Seriously not my idea of a good time, but she’s loving it. More than that, she is getting to experience the world, which so many of us have ignored. We look at our National Geographic magazines and our coffee-table books and see pictures of native lands, but she has the aplomb to go there and see it first-hand, and to get down and dirty with the details at that! I love that about her. And I love that she bounds forth without a care, mindful of possible pitfalls, but without the OMG attitude that comes with age for so many of us.
Do I still worry? Of course! I’m a Mom (a forever assignment for those of us who take it seriously). But when I read her text from night one in Romania: “In a Karaoke bar with two Australians, a Turkish gentleman, and lots of Romanians, drinking espresso shots and singing ‘Dancing Queen’ – best night ever” I know that these are experiences that can’t happen unless a parent lets go a little and gives their kid the blessing of trust and freedom to make their own way in the world.
Sometimes, I wish it wasn’t so far away, but I know that no matter where in the world she roams, her joyous, adventurous spirit stays with me every day. And I kind of wish I was with her (but without the raw fish). Ewwwwww.