Sunday, May 3, 2009

Another parental rite of passage

It happened this week for the first time. I knew it would, eventually.

The first School Phone Call.

My heart dropped.

'Cause when you're at work, and your cell phone rings, and it's your kid's school you know they're not calling to tell you how great he is and boy doesn't he add so much sparkle to the program and congratulations on doing such an excellent job raising him. When you see that name on your caller i.d., you know it can only be one of two things: He's either hurt or he's in trouble. Either way, all I immediately wanted to know was: "How bad is it?" Fortunately, it wasn't too bad. He sprained a finger in a fall. A little ice and he recovered. Me, on the other hand...I'm still healing.

There is just something very jarring about the first "your child got hurt" phone call. It is yet another reminder of the fact that we can not protect our children. Oh, we try. Some of us try more than others. But the bottom line is, we can't. I never wanted to be one of those overprotective moms. I grew up in a wonderful but traditional Cuban household, where I was not allowed to ride bike around the neighborhood, attend slumber parties, or play in the front yard. To this day, when my kids are running around, my parents will yell out "Don't run! You'll fall!" To an old Cuban grandparent, a scraped knee is a near tragedy.

No matter how much you resist repeating the patterns of your childhood, you find out that sometimes they are there, underneath it all, hidden in your psyche, and you have to consciously catch yourself if you want to do some things differently. So I work at it. I force myself to be nonchalant as often as humanly possible for me. And when I start to behave even slightly neurotically, my husband--who gives a whole new definition to the term 'laid-back'--will call me on it...and I am reminded of how difficult it was (and sometimes still is) to be independent and self-confident and daring when you were brought up in a bubble. I so don't want that for my boys.

But when the phone rang and I heard he was hurt...panic threatened. And as relieved as I was that it was really nothing, I know that that was probably the first of many calls. And really, I wonder, would that be a bad thing? Because I kinda figure that the fact that my sister and I never once broke a bone or required a single stitch must mean that we missed out on some "stuff" out there while growing up. And so, everyday, I am torn. I want to keep my boys safe, but I don't want them to grow up sheltered. I want them to run, to fall, to learn, to explore, to be adventurous...all the things I started to do only after I became an adult.

But I still don't want to see "Ben's School" on my caller ID...unless they're gonna tell me how great he is.


  1. Oh, I so understand. You want to keep them safe, but you have to let them live their lives, take their risks. I haven't received THE CALL yet. But there have been a few close calls on my watch. It's difficult to rationalize the fact that they will get hurt when it is our job as mothers to keep them safe!

  2. was that jenny - is she trying to get pregnant? oh wow, if she is!! everyone's doing it these days - ha!!
    I know that kid will bump and bruise and scratch and scrape, so i try not to be paranoid, although the phone call is always unnerving!
    We are trying to do a few days of daycare here and there to get her acclimated and i want to know the place you took Ben for swimming lessons. She loves the bath but figured out not so much the ocean yet!! Love ya - ttys!


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