I am EXACTLY the parent I swore I would never be... Are you?
I've journaled all my life and I very distinctly remember writing things that sounded somewhat like this: When you're a mom always be fun. NEVER make your kids eat vegetables. Let them have soda whenever they want, stay up until Johnny Carson is over, and stay home from school to play Atari, Mr. Mouth and Parcheesi at least once a week.
As I hit high school my notes-to-self changed a bit, but I think the underlying "be fun" message remained unscathed: Remind your older self to never be as overprotective as Dad. Don't make your kids beep you (who knew beepers would become obsolete?) five times a night to check in, give them a break if they skip school or drink at a party or spend the night at a boy's house -- if they swear they were "good."
Well, as it turns out, I'm not one to heed self-warnings.
I just returned from a trip to Vermont where I watched parents cheer their kids on as they dove off of rock and cliffs ('jumped to their possible deaths?'), and it made me realize that I may be the most un-fun parent ever.
This was the scene on the downhill rocky-terrained hike to Bingham Falls (a natural swimming hole where no swimming hole keepers come to file the edges down on the sharp rocks or scrub off the moss that makes them slippery):
Me: "J, Ry, stop running! Wait for us. Mark, they shouldn't be taking this hike in flip flops, what was I thinking?"
Mark: "Jenny, they're fine." (But he always says that, so, what does he know?)
At least five children ran past us in flip flops to mock me and make me seem even more over-protective. Their parents leisurely lollygagged behind, talking to and enjoying one another -- never screaming for their little ones to slow down or to put on some hiking shoes or to watch where they're going.
Who the hell are these people and wow are they so calm? I thought to myself.
Must be "back woods" kinda folk that have tons of kids that are both siblings and cousins and who are viewed as superfluous enough that they wouldn't mind losing one or two in the course of an afternoon.
Me; "J, wait up, I've seen you trip twice. Slow down, the falls aren't going anywhere."
Finally, we arrived at the bottom of the rocky, jutty, sharp path and navigated our way over and under fallen trees and around crags to get the rapids and falls below. As my 7-year-old daughter and I slithered under a tree that two women were using as a seat, I overheard one of them tell the other about a child that had slipped and landed himself in the hospital an hour earlier.
"People were screaming to locate his parents" she explained.
My heart skipped a beat. What were his parents doing that took precedence over watching their son jump from a cliff? I guess if you've seen one kid jump from a cliff, you've seen 'em all? That's what they say.
I'd also been told by a lady on my zip-line tour that kids had died here in the past. Yep, the day before, as my son and I hung 70 ft. in the air, affixed to a tree by two of those metal clicking things climbers use, I was warned about the dangers of the Falls.
Not so un-fun, right?
Ironic, I know.
I allowed J to jump from one of the lower rocks and watched him slip a couple times getting there, each time nervously pretending to find this whole activity acceptable and mentally berating myself for not being as awesome as the other parents, who cheered and hooted.
Those parents looked to be perfectly calm and not at all searching for rocks in the water that their kids could hit or mossy patches on the rocks that their kids could slip on.
Then it occurred to me that ALL of those parents couldn't be "back woods" folk with an abundance of disposable offspring. So I was forced to consider the more obvious explanation: They were all totally high on wild growing pot that was emitting an odor and osmosis-ing into their systems. Yes, yes, and I was somehow immune to it and therefore, the only reasonable person in the bunch.
With that in mind, I put my foot down and yelled, "this is the last jump." And when he returned asking for another, but from a new spot on the mountain ledge that required you to sidle up with your back against it, I did the only thing a reasonable person who was not high would do: I faked a heart attack.
Which was not as excellent of a ploy as it would seem!
Even as I laid on the ground clutching my chest and yelling, *"Elizabeth, I'm comin' to join you," my son, begged, "Just one more time, please mom! PLEASE! You're so UN-FUN."
"Your mom is having a freakin' heart attack here," I exclaimed. "Could we not head back to the hotel and do something a little less dangerous, like the Alpine Slide?"
Sheesh, kids today. You tell them they can't jump off a mountain, and have a slightly dramatic albeit, faux heart attack, and the next thing you know, you're "un-fun?"
My son broods from a rock at the highest point he's allowed to jump
So we left. My daughter, proud that she'd made the hike down. My son, sulking and annoyed. And me, giddily clawing my way back up to our car, as relieved and UN-FUN as ever.
*If you got the Elizabeth reference, you're not only old like me, but you have horrible taste in 70's TV and I think we'd totally be friends!
PS: If you're thinking, Hey neurotic overprotective lady, speak for yourself -- I'm one of the fun cheering parents, who may or may not have an osmosis high... please send your thoughts to JennysTherapist@aol.com.
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