Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Turning The Tables

This past Saturday night, the tables turned. My husband Jeff and I went to our friends' home for dinner.We left our children in the care of one another (an arrangement that suits us all well and with which we all feel comfortable). At 12:15 am, the telephone at our friends' place rang and the phone was passed to me. At the other end was an irate child (one of ours), letting me know that our kids were worried about us and demanding that we return home immediately. They are used to seeing us climb into bed by 11 and when the clock struck midnight and we weren't home yet, they tried to reach us but couldn't. Inadvertently and irresponsibly, we had left our cellphones in our coat pockets on "vibrate" so we hadn't heard them ringing when the girls called and texted. When we didn't answer, our kids, knowing exactly where we were supposed to be, had the sense to call and make sure everything was okay. On the way home, Jeff and I acknowledged that it must be a terrible thing to worry about your parents and we felt awful about the whole thing. We were also forced to admit that we'd better start leading a more active social life to help our kids get used to the possibility that we may occasionally like to stay out past midnight. This morning (Sunday), our oldest daughter suggested that we develop some rules and set clearer expectations to govern situations where parents go out and kids stay home. She cogently reminded us that clear rules apply to her when she goes out with friends so we can be assured of her whereabouts and safety at all times and the same should apply to us. Who am I to argue?

We reminded our kids this morning that they should learn from our mistake here and make certain not to repeat it; that "well, you did it too" would not protect them in any way if they should ever fail to stay in touch. We all worry for our kids' safety all the time. It must be absolutely terrifying when you don't know where your child is. I'm glad that our kids are so clear about the rules for staying in touch that they were able to turn the tables on us. Of course, part of growing up and gaining independence is striking out on your own and moving away from the watchful eye of vigilant parents and, I suppose, vigilant children. It's not easy for anyone but necessary for all.

I asked our very grown-up nearly 15 year old to come up with today's book recommendations. I asked her to think of two books where the child or children cared for the parents and took on an adult role. We agreed that there are many but the two that came to mind for her immediately were Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper. These are two very different stories but apposite selections both. Well done!

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