The other morning, I got that phone call every mother fears. I had barely made it back from a rough night of loud dreams and a three-year-old spinning restlessly in the bed next to me. The child will literally wrap herself up like a mummy in the top sheet as she sleeps, sending the blankets sliding off the side of the bed into a heap on the floor, and leaving my body exposed to the elements… which I admit is a blatant exaggeration of my post 1st world problems- a thermostat set to 65 degrees at night, silk blankets, and a drafty window at the foot of my bed.
I was edging into awake from the foggy land of, “What the hell just happened to me? Was I dreaming?” It was not the first time I experienced this same sensation in the last 6 hours. I am considering putting extra effort into my lucid dreaming techniques, my sleep life wouldn’t be so irritating if I was always packing heat, and had my bug-out bag, or at least a sword. My dreams seem to mock how dreadfully ill prepared I feel to handle real life. I was relieved to notice the hint of light beyond my eyelids, a solid excuse to be conscious and put the night behind me. Just before I opened my eyes my phone began to ring.
I rarely get phone calls. Phone calls before the sun is actually up, never. I fumble around in the blanket next to me for my phone. It’s Z, the world would title this man my ex-husband, I consider him my best friend. We have raised our four kids together in spite of our differences. He lives in a neighboring state with our 17-year-old son who is a perfect replica of the two of us. A call from him shortly after 7AM has me concerned that those nightmares may not have stayed in my “sleep”.
I fumble to slide the button on the unlock screen as I slide off the edge of the bed to stumble into the next room to talk.
“Hello?” I whisper, to avoid waking the mummy.
“Good morning. I’m sorry to call so early but I thought I better let you know, your son took out a bus stop this morning.”
Twenty years of mothering, has taught me to take a minute before I react when I am informed of something that involves my children. There is usually a lot more to the story than what the initial set-up is able to portray. Also, I was still in that hazy- is this another fucked up dream sequence? state-of-mind. If I *had* interjected at this point, it might have been something like, “How is that possible? You don’t even have any guns.”
Instead, I waited for further explanation, although I may have said, “Huh?” In the pause before he went on to reveal the even more important details.
“No one was hurt, but my car will have to have some work done and he demolished the shelter at the bus stop.” (Actually, two days later, he got a call from the adjuster to inform him the car is totaled.)
All of these facts are settling into my mind… I’m having a hard time stifling a giggle. Is this appropriate reaction to hearing of your son being involved in a car accident? I don’t know. Eli has his learners permit and is my first child to actually show a real and active interest in driving, so I am new to all of the ramifications of having a child behind the wheel of a vehicle. Honestly, the idea of having a teenager in an unfamiliar city being dependent on public transit is equally unnerving, but such is the life of a college student. It’s all a little bit of letting them go and having faith that they are going to be ok. Phone calls like this are a reminder that real life can be as chaotic and unpredictable as dream life. On this particular morning, the details that followed could easily be portrayed by Mayhem which only added to my levity.
Most of my son’s driving experience has been on the highway when he and his dad go to visit family but recently he has decided he wants more city driving experience which is why he found himself making a right turn out of their neighborhood onto the 4 lane road which is quiet (thankfully) at 6 in the morning to make their way to before-school bible study. Things went wrong immediately. He over-steered, jumped the curb, and drove down the sidewalk into the glass and aluminum bus stop shelter, shearing it off its mounts and pushing it 30 feet into the grass… At approximately 15 mph. And just like any hard-core Mario Cart driver, he never put on the brakes. The reflex that seems natural to those who have been driving real cars for years, I suspect is not so developed in a brain that has never actually had to use the breaks in 14 years of driving. It ended with broken glass from the structures’ roof raining on the windshield and four cop cars showing up to manage the situation. Four. Cop. Cars.
It prompted the immediate and mutual decision to send our child to driving school this summer. I realize this seems like a rather obvious precaution, but it is a simple demonstration of why Z and I are such good friends; we rarely disagree when making decisions for our kids. What they eat and do with their spare time is a completely different story. It is hard to co-parent from several hundred miles away, I must have faith that his dad will give him some extra hugs because the best I can do is FaceTime. I have watched my boys turn into men from afar which created a sadness that weighs heavy on my heart, I never talk about it, because it is my burden to bear for choices I made. It does make me even more thankful for the years I did have their companionship.
I had to acknowledge a long time ago that my children do not belong to me but are here to create their own life. Since I am at the egocentric center of my own universe, I marvel that the most brilliant creatures to ever roam the planet all chose to be my children. I have always felt unworthy, parenting is the most challenging task a person could ever take on, there are no rule books, no real classes, and few good examples to follow. I came equipped with love, instincts, and a will to do my best even if I had no idea what I was doing. I was miserably inadequate and in spite of that, my children are compassionate, successful, young people who I again attribute to the remarkable individuals they are. I am honored that they chose me to be their first companion on this earth, they are each unique and treasured gifts.
I have so many moments, sacred in my memory of my son climbing onto my lap in the quiet of the morning while I said my prayers, or when he first woke up from his nap. He always wanted a little snuggle while he was still sleepy. Laying his shiny blond head against me, his big, brown, eyes would shift off, in a blissful stare, peering into some other dimension while I rocked and held him in that sublime, timeless space. Whenever I worry about or miss him, I focus on those beautiful moments and imagine wrapping big Eli in those same loving prayers and intentions I wrapped little Eli in.
He is still a quiet and sensitive boy, sometimes it takes a little while for situations to work their way through his emotions. I worried about him all day. When I was finally able to get him on the phone to gauge how he was coping he seemed ok, a little embarrassed mostly. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but the incident seems to have made him more popular by earning him the respect of some of the more rebellious of his culinary classmates for sticking it to the man by inadvertently defacing some public property. As a gaming geek, honor roll student, and fan of English humor, he was amused that his predicament actually elevated his position in the dubious social structure of his school. When I told him about the alternate nightmare universe with the gun-toting Eli, he laughed and I knew he was ok. He will cope, learn and adjust. He is clever, since the kid was 9 he has had the ability to complete video games in a matter of hours that are intended to be weeks of entertainment for adults. He will also know he is loved unconditionally and when he makes a mistake, his parents (and the insurance company) will be there for him to help make it right.