Friday, September 11, 2015

Softness



We parents say we had it harder.  "We walked to school uphill both ways. Kids today are the couch potatoes, the 'soft Americans' President Kennedy was so concerned about, even way back in the 1960s."

Who is to blame? We shuttle them from school to soccer to ballet practice. We make their orthodontist appointments for them.

should know better.

At 10 I was sent to Vermont to stay for two weeks to help out my namesake aunt who had a natural food store yet I wouldn't dream of sending my kids anywhere near White River Junction. Let alone on a plane with a lanyard that said, "Unaccompanied Minor." It is so scary, just the thought. How did my parents let me go?

At 12 I went alone to British English to spend Easter with the children of a friend my grandfather had made during the war. When I think back on this it is with wonder. My parents: "Hey, let's send our oldest daughter across the Atlantic? Yes! That is an idea that is good. She will come back talking about crumpets."

Yet I butter my kids' toast and cut off the offending crusts. Sweetie, should you never encounter anything more odious or confusing than a Crust. Not baggage claim.

Perhaps we ourselves -- modern parents -- are the feared soft Americans.

My protectiveness, and helicopterishness, and just plain fear -- and the fantasy that I have Control Over Every Outcome -- have gone too far.  I told Husb. recently that I want to get our son, 10, full-protective body armor of the old-fashioned Japanese samurai type. His testosterone is kicking in, playing havoc with his executive function. He is rash, stubborn, and thrill-seeking.

He is biking his cheap mountain bike down cement staircases around the private school campus where we live while hooting, "While biking with no hands I can do a bunny hop! Watch me, Mommy!" and no doubt unsettling fundraising.

But, I have to remember Mark Twain. He said, "A man who carries at cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way."

So, go with gusto, son, bike down those terrifyingly steep crumbling stairs, sweet cherub, whose newborn scent I can still sometimes detect under the feverish tweenerish sweat.

I will be there, as a the kind of mother I have become, to freak out completely, when you fall.


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