new york city kid in arkansas
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This is a ten day old portrait of a mother with worry fatigue, caught starting into her smartphone at the Find My app, once again tracking the little circle that represents her timid 16 year old driving himself home in the pitch dark for the first time from an evening choir practice at the high school. Both Worried Mother and Timid Driver have come a long way in the first few weeks of the new school year, growing in confidence and experience. And one of us now sleeps with a specially made, overpriced mouth guard to keep her teeth from grinding.

I’m also someone’s child, and he too worries when I drive alone, especially when it’s six hours to see him like I just did over Labor Day weekend. While sitting around a beautiful outdoor fire in my dad’s back yard Saturday night he asked, “When you drive all those hours alone like that, do you ever fear for your safety since you’re a woman?” I answered, “Of course.” Later I asked him what it was like sending three daughters out on the road to drive alone back in the 1980s. He answered, “Awful. I hated it more than anything. It was the worst thing about parenting.”

There really are so many terrible things about parenting. Sleep deprivation, tantrums, potty training, teeth falling out, friend problems, school issues, perfectionism, gender identity, health scares, personality flaws, arguments … and that’s just up to age six. Things get so much better and worse, easier and harder, and then they’re driving and then college and then what? Do we live out the rest of our days watching their every move on our stupid phones? Do we ever really have an entire week of good, uninterrupted sleep?

On Sunday my dad gave me a break and did the driving himself to my mom’s place 90 miles away. She greeted us with an anxious smile, worried about her medication, apologizing for her hair, nervous for our outing. And this is when the strange and uncomfortable child-parent switcharoo happened. I kept my eyes on her obsessively, helping her in and out of the car, complimenting her hair, willing her to relax and enjoy our day together. After a lunch out, shopping, a coffee break, and some quality time in her room where my dad and I performed a passionate tutorial costarring her TV remote, we got back in the car for the 90 minute trip back to his house, her old house, my old house. At some point we sat in a daze on a bench and ate cashews, apples and his homemade banana bread (which he remembered to make without nuts in my honor). We were a little sad and a little tired. The next day I would drive six more hours to get home to my other stress source and reason to live.

The morning after that strange selfie was taken, Huck drove Troy to work early so that he could have the car for the day. I got distracted emptying the dishwasher and was surprised me when he entered through the garage. “Oh!” I exclaimed, “I forgot to watch where you were on my phone.”

Sounding exactly like these two he said, “I’m so proud of you.”


Pappy T

September 9th, 2021

Proud indeed.


September 9th, 2021

Teary at 6:45am. Beautiful, gut-kicking heart clench in a bucket.

Aunt Jeni

September 9th, 2021

Yes to all of this, and I’m proud of all of us! XOXO

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