There are moments that freeze your parental heart, brief instants that bring forward all of the fear of what can go wrong and these moments are often affiliated with teens and driving. Tonight was one of those instances that led to a call from my wife about Middle, who had been involved in a minor collision in a friend’s car just a minute after leaving our home. She actually came upon the accident scene when she left to join me at Youngest’s baseball game, which was a shock in itself when she recognized the crunched vehicle as the one that had been sitting in our driveway just moments before. When I answered my phone standing next to Youngest’s dugout, her first words were everyone is alright; while they were meant as an immediate salve for what was to follow, the intellectual understanding was overwhelmed by the emotional recognition of what could have happened instead, what’s happened to thousands of teenagers in automobiles.
When your kids leave the house and start to go into the world, there will be such calls. They’ll come from teachers and principals, school nurses and coaches, even from your child herself. They might even come from a policeman on that rare and terrifying occasion. The point is to understand that the calls will come and the best that you can do is to, as the Old Testament prophet might say, gird your loins for that moment so that you manage it well. The only way to avoid the prospect of such calls is to keep the kids continually underfoot and dependent and that utterly defeats the job of being a parent, which is to prepare your child to take his or her place in the great wide world.
And in the great expanse of time between those calls, continue to listen and teach, tell them that you love them and say a silent prayer when they walk out the door.