Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How Not To Be Scared

Laughing and screaming through the summer storm, as thunder rumbles around us and rain starts to pelt us, we tumble toward to our red VW microbus. A mass of rubber boots, rain ponchos, shorts and tan little bodies all pile into the side door of the bus. Before anyone is in their seat….or for that matter…before even the door is closed…we are traveling to the front beach to better experience the storm moving over Cape Cod. This was my mother’s reaction to storms—“Let’s get closer so we can see it better and really feel the thunder in our chests!”

My grandmother, on the other hand, was home at the beach house hiding in a back bedroom with the curtains drawn and the lights out and jumping in fear with every thunder bolt or flash of lightening.

I asked my grandmother once, why was it that she was so scared of storms whereas her daughter loved them. She said that her mother was deathly afraid of storms and she passed that trait on to my grandmother when she was little.

My grandmother said she was determined not to do the same to my mother—she wanted my mother to be strong and fearless. My grandmother realized she would have to pretend not to be afraid of anything. So all through my mother’s childhood, my very fearful little grandmother would bravely sit quietly through storms, swim with my mother in the cold and rough Marblehead waves and keep her eyes open on scary amusement park rides.

My grandmother said with pride—“and see your mother is not afraid of anything. She won swimming championships, she traveled to NYC and started a new life by herself and now she runs toward the storms. That is what I always wanted for my daughter—to be brave and strong. “

So as I watch The Beast running towards her future with a wild abandon that excites and frightens me—I want to grasp her hand like when she was little crossing a busy street, but instead--I smile calmly. I take a deep breath and try my best to convince her I am not scared because I too want my daughter to brave and strong.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Please Call

I tell my child all the time--"It is not that I don’t trust you or that I feel you lack common sense…you just have no idea HOW incredibly morbid by imagination is—please call when you get to where you are going"

The Beast, unlike her mother, thinks the best of everyone. I am sure she has Beethoven’s 9th symphony cheerfully playing in the background of her psyche at all times, while I have the 5th symphony as the sound track of my life—that of death approaching me and all my loved ones…

At the subway turnstiles I steel myself …”I love you. Remember to stop and think if you are unsure. Never be too polite to tell some creepy guy “NO!” and I mean LOUD. Remember “NO!”…no other word is needed—everyone knows what it means and people will help….but you will be fine. I will be the one to worry—remember…PLEASE CALL WHEN YOU GET THERE.”

She takes her Metro Card out and like a pro slides it through the turnstile and turns briefly to me with a smile to tell me to be brave. She is off—without a concern. She knows where she is going—she has the inspirational Ode To Joy theme song playing in her head as she bounces down the subway stairs and off to SoHo and her new life as a teen writer.

It is so hard to let go—and to balance my clawing fear against the knowledge that independence is something to be encouraged—hanging with city kids in niche bookstores, eating exotic food from hipster food trucks, daydreaming in cool designer boutiques….

It is the beginning of an adult life, of life that is widening beyond…sniff…us

She arrived back at my office after her solo subway travels. She had a glow of success radiating from her. The office IT guy comes up and says, “You know, city kids ride the subway all the time by themselves. It is not a big deal.”

She looked him up and down and said “No! It is a big deal for me and I am proud. You cannot take that away from me.”

Hearing the word NO—my co-worker Debbie, like all good New Yorkers, comes over to assist—“You tell him girl!” she cheered.

And that is what we give our kids when we let them go—we are giving them a confidence and a pride that no one can take away from them.