“You can’t let fear stop you,” I stated boldly as I stood there fixed in domesticity, senses alert to the smells emanating from Sunday supper baking in the oven. “I once drove through Roger’s Pass in a snowstorm! If I could do it, you can too!”
And it was then, right at that precise moment, when I first realized, like really realized, I’ve been over-protecting my kids for two full decades.
I’d set out to be a different kind of parent, one that went coolly, like hey man, with the flow: an honest-to-goodness ‘hippie momma’ for the modern day. I’d set out to be the kind of mother who would swaddle her babe in a flowered scarf, strap that babe to her back, and set off down the proverbial road of life. That’s not an easy task when you end up with four babes and you only have two hands and one back; and, oh yah, you move to another country, and return, a few times (and your husband is not exactly the ‘flower-power’ type, thankfully!).
But what was my grown son so afraid of? What was he so cautious about doing?
He wasn’t expressing fear of going hiking in Matchu Picchu or underwater cave diving in the Media Luna. He wasn’t balking at the idea of anything perilous or dodgy. He was merely expressing his reluctance to spend time ‘alone’ when visiting Paris, as in France, without having confidence in his French skills (keeping in mind that my children are fully bilingual in English and Spanish and have all taken core French in school for years).
“What are ya, nuts?” his younger sister blurted. “If I had the chance to go to Paris I would drop everything and just GO!”
“I wouldn’t let you go alone to Paris, young lady!” I remarked.
I mean wait! Hear me out!
There’s a big difference between being a young, inexperienced, ‘cared for and cushioned in every way’ teenager and going off into the ‘big ole’ world’ unsupervised, or being a newly-minted graduate of university (and a six-foot tall, strong, healthy male), isn’t there?
I mean, isn’t there?
But what kind of message was I giving my children (specifically my daughter)?
I busied myself with the laundry, becoming ensconced in the onslaught of memories that came over me, while the kids did their thing (waited for the meal to be prepared and served by their very motherly mother).
How many madcap or downright screwball things had I done in my lifetime? How many?
And I had so many great memories because of them.
And, I became who I am today because of them too!
So why was I, in my youth, so fearless? Why was I so eager to get out and experience the great big world?
There are vast differences between the way I grew up and the way I’m raising my kids, starting with the fact that I was raised in Small Town Ontario, and my kids have already lived in two provinces, in two countries, and carry three nationalities in their blood.
I had an enormous amount of freedom growing up (typical of other kids in my home town, and of our -lucky- generation), which made me very independent and, most ironically (given that our town had a population of three thousand wholesome individuals), street-wise at a younger age. But, I must have also had an innate sense of adventure (and confidence), a sort of itinerant urge to get out there, that some of my children have not yet honed. That must be it. I’ll blame it on my genetic make-up! My father is a wanderer. It’s his fault.
Is the world more dangerous today, or are we, as parents, simply more fearful?
Just to be clear, none of my ‘zanier’ experiences were ever truly dangerous: I was not a thrill-seeking, risk-taking child or teen. On the contrary, I was always aware of the rules, safety concerns, and moderation in the activities and adventures I sought. I mean, sailing out to the middle of the local lake and tipping the boat, without lifejackets, was never our plan! And we could see the shoreline, for sure, one hundred percent, if we squinted.
I never once thought the bungee cord would actually break as I plunged over that raging canyon in Australia, dangling by a thin elastic thread. Who’s to say a novice skier can’t tackle the triple black diamond run at Blackcomb Mountain in any given January? Who? Huh?
And that band trip to New Orleans? That time we marched in the Mardi Gras parade in the wild streets of an inebriated city, in the midst of their best annual party, and I danced to the beat of another band’s drums (having been separated from my own miles earlier)…well that was just good clean fun! As was Bourbon Street later on, when all of my friends were scattered about, lured by the music and caught on the current of revellers.
Driving (alone) out to British Columbia without a map (and no such thing as a cell phone) wasn’t difficult at all. It never crossed my mind that I could be putting myself in any danger, at any time, other than having some money stolen from me at the Youth Hostel in Calgary, getting semi-lost in the Badlands, or once, for a split-second, in the backwoods of Montana; and other than…those blizzard warnings while driving through Glacier National Park. It was all good!
And here I am today to tell the tales. Right?
The oven timer beeped. The roast was done and the kids were, as they said emphatically, starving! I dropped the laundry basket in the guest room and sauntered back into the living room smiling like the Cheshire Cat.
“What?” my son asked.
“Have you ever heard any Dixieland music?” I asked.
“Nope,” he answered.
“How do you feel about Jazz?” I asked.
“I haven’t heard much,” he said.
“You ever heard of a place called Preservation Hall?” I asked him, taking the beef out and slicing it just so, jiggling my hips a little, thinking…
“Isn’t that down south?” he asked, taking out his phone and Googling it up.
“Yes,” I said. “Check it out. You should go some time. Maybe after you get back from Paris?” I smiled.
Tailgate Ramble. Tuba Skinny. Jackson Stomp. When the Saints Go Marching In. I Get The Blues. The Bourbon Street Parade. Going Back Home.
I didn’t eat that afternoon. I made myself a cafe au lait and danced around the kitchen listening to the memories of that time I marched in the Mardi Gras parade, alone, wearing plastic beads and a fake crown, in a crowd of thousands.
But if I’d had a washboard and some thimbles I might have also played a harmless little tune.