Ditching the Helicopter

It’s time to hang up my helmet…

Helicopter graphic by the incomparable Breena Nuñez

I’ve been a mom for almost 35 years. I passed Helicopter Parenting 101 with flying colors. My friend admirably remarked once that, “You always know where your kids are!” I was proud of that….but it’s time to retire the whirlybird. My youngest just graduated from high school last week, and promptly moved to LA. What!!!???

I thought I was doing well…trying not to care where they were or when they’re gonna be coming home. Trying to mind my own business (which for three and a half decades was them). But tonight, a friend of my daughter’s was over and they were going out….I “kneejerked” suggested they get something for their brother….their brother who is 28 years old….”a grown man” he always reminds me. Shoot, I can’t undo my meddling or their embarrassment.

So….I am going to retire the helicopter, and entrust these birdies to God. Y’all pray for me because worrying and fretting is in my nature, I inherited it from the best – my dad. We are so thankful he never had a cell phone. But he did just fine with a landline. We all have stories of him tracking someone down who he was worried about. I think Katie has the best stories, he called hospitals, police departments and the CHP looking for her once.

Uhm…I haven’t gone that far…except, maybe, when Eva and Nonnie missed their train stop in San Bruno. They were young, about 14. They both had phones, and both their phones, of course, had died. And it was 10:00 at night. A perfect worrying storm. How I lived through those years, I don’t know. A good and gracious God, no doubt, helped his anxious daughter.

Anyway, I am waiting at the train for these two girls. The 10:00 train, heading towards the City (the only real City – San Francisco) comes…and goes. No girls get off. Huh? Oh no…

I don’t have my phone because I left it with Espi at the house in case they called. OK, maybe they’re getting off at South City. So, I race over there. Nobody is to be found in that scary, desolate station.

So as I was beginning to hyperventilate, I run over to the nearby 7-11 and call Espi to find out if she had heard from Eva. She responds, “Yeah…all she said was that the next station is ‘Bayshore'”.

Oh crap….

Anyone familiar with San Francisco knows that the Bayshore area off 101 isn’t the best neighborhood, especially for two young teenagers, and most especially at night. It’s almost 11:00 now. I race over to the Bayshore station which is not far from a few, uhm, well, uhm, unsavory areas of the City. There is NO ONE there. It’s a large, dark station and I don’t even know where they would’ve even gotten off at. It’s almost 11:30. My blood pressure is climbing. I don’t know what to do.

I run back to San Bruno to my trusty pay phone at 7-11, and call Espi again for any update. None. So what could I do, but go full blown Dad Mode. I call the police, I call the San Francisco Police, the South San Francisco Police and the San Bruno Police. Did I miss anyone? Each of those agencies went and looked for two teenage girls at their respective stations and found no one.

So I go back to the San Bruno station and wait in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do next, fighting off the worst that possibly could go wrong. Not long after midnight, the last train pulls into the station, the train from the City, and off pops our girls.

And in an indignant, but relieved, imitation of my father, I take a deep breath and ask pointedly, “Where the hell have you guys been?”

They weren’t too keen on all the story details when I told them on our way home. Well, too *&^##! bad.

I should’ve ditched the helicopter then…yet, I still had another decade of mothering to go. But, it’s time now to retire the worry, the anxiety and the overseeing. They are on their own. Mission accomplished.

It’s time to let them go, let them go out “the gate” and live their own lives. Their lives which were so much a part of mine. I knew from the beginning I was only a temporary guardian, and that role is complete now. Though they were the stars of my show, I must be happy to be only a supporting character in theirs. It’s okay.

I’m looking forward to a new future…with new experiences and new freedoms. But I will always miss my littles, and I will continue to watch – and pray – from afar, just not overhead.

https://wordpress.com/post/fromtheshoe.com/67 – Hope for the Helicopter Mom

The Emptying Nest

empty-nest

I’m not at the official empty nest season yet; I still have a couple perched to fly as well as a couple still needing nesting. But many of my birds have, indeed, flown. The season has started.

In 2005, when we left our home in San Pablo to live in El Sobrante, all ten were under the same roof. One birdie flew away for a bit, but came back, bringing a new bird to our family. He nested with the brothers. So for a time, the nest held 11 chicks. The nest was hustling and bustling with all the chicks and their friends.There was constant band playing from the garage, little kids running after chickens in the yard, fighting, bickering, eating, laughing…our last time as a family together. For me those three years were a refuge from the dark times we left. Getting ready for the three holiday seasons we spent there was the funniest part of the year.

“I miss you most of all, my darling(s) when autumn leaves start to fall.”

In 2008, circumstances  caused this nest to be vacated, to be vacated immediately. That was the last time all my birds were together. Two birds moved away from me. I took eight with me to the Peninsula. But eventually, two more would fly away, and for awhile I had six. But the carousel goes round and round, two more would graduate. Then a third. One flew off last year and another moved elsewhere this spring. We are down to four. Two of them are adults, perched. I’m not going to nudge them like a good mother eagle would do.

I don’t know how I did all that. I don’t think I did it (mothering) very well. But I know I loved it, I loved the little kids, the crazy, the boundless energy, the joy in the midst of pain, I loved them. I still do. But I miss them most of all when autumn leaves begin to fall.

 

As poignant and nostalgic I sometimes get, I have learned these past few years not to fear the future. I have been raising kids for almost thirty years. For thirty years that has been my primary purpose. I can start to see beyond this purpose, and I’m not sure what lies in that territory. But I trust the Lord to guide and provide. Maybe I’ll go back to Europe for a spell before the carousel slows to a stop. Maybe. I don’t seem to fear my fears so much anymore.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19, NASB

Things I Hate About Motherhood

crazy

I love being a mom. Not that I’m really good at it, but I like it. I like my kids, and they give me a lot of laughs and joy. Yet, there are a few things I hate about motherhood that are pretty typical, but was ignorant of when I started the journey. I’m not talking about the labor and delivery, even though that was challenging or even the sleepless nights, what I am talking about are events further down the parenting road.

Fighting

Probably number one on the list is fighting among the kids. They fought when they were little too. I was happy to move into a three bedroom house, then I had enough corners to put them all in.

A characteristic that doesn’t particularly bother me about one kid wreaks havoc on another. Then it becomes a bickerfest. And you’re mad at both, even the whiner. Sometimes just playful banter among them can turn on a dime. My college roommate shared some wisdom from her mother, “Laughing turns to crying!” So true. I hope as they get older, they will learn to be patient with each other. I’m being patient waiting.

Guilt

I don’t think there is any parent that doesn’t feel guilty about how they’ve raised their children. Folks say, “You did the best you could.” Well, not really. I did try, I tried hard. But I don’t think I did my best, I could’ve done better, but I didn’t. But I tried. I get an A for effort. We’ll see how the Lord grades me later on.

Navigating through the teenage years, I’ve had to acquire a skin of armor against the guilt trips from the kids. Kids can make you feel guilty almost as bad as parents or the church. But I’ve come to an age where I stand by my decisions and am courageous defending them. Hopefully, the kids will appreciate the good things.

Letting Go

I didn’t think it would be so hard when the kids flew the nest. Even when the first one left and there were still at least nine in the house, sometimes we had extras, I missed that one.  Each time a child moved on, I was so sad. I worried whether they could make it out in that big bad world. But, they ended up doing OK.

I feel bad for my youngest ones. You see the older ones just had to get use to these  new people coming into the family when the little ones were born; but, the little ones have to watch their siblings leave them. Siblings that they became close to, siblings who were their best friends. I knew it was sad for me, I only realized lately how sad it is for them too.

Aside from the things I hate about Motherhood, the things I love truly outweigh these difficulties. Of all the things I’ve learned while mothering, learning to love and be loved is foremost the best thing.