Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wanderer, thy name is Miriam.

Published March 9, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Kids should come with defibrillators.

Or if not those, kids should come with nitroglycerin…or baby aspirin...or a do it yourself CPR guide. If I make it to 35 without having a stress-induced heart attack, I think someone needs to throw me a party. Whether it’s Cate running along steep petrified dunes in Snow Canyon like she’s learned to fly or Michael thinking if he can dodge a ball he can dodge traffic, my kids get my heart pounding and not always in a good way.

I had one of those experiences yesterday, when a child I will not name (because it’s been more than 24 hours and I’m finally starting to feel just the tiniest bit gracious) decided to go to a friend’s house after school and stay there until 7:30 pm with nary a word to his/her worry-crazed mother. After several circuits around the neighborhood in the car, a call to the police, and several tearful hours imagining the worst and then realizing I could imagine even worse things, the child in question arrived home with a deer in the headlights look to my “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN AND WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?”

I know what they’re thinking when they do things like this. Aw, those unsightly brown patches in Mom’s gray hair probably bother her a lot. I think I’ll help her out with that. Or. She’ll laugh about this later. Or. Whatever doesn’t kill her only makes her stronger. She’ll thank me when she really thinks about it.

As a mom who’s had her fair share of scares over the years, I’ve come to believe that whatever doesn’t kill me now kills me slowly; I will most certainly not laugh at this later; and if my kids don’t pony up for some hair dye soon, I’m going to start taxing their allowances whenever shocks like this occur.

I’m still questioning my decision not to share with an entire community which of my children committed this act. Actually, last night I wrote column notes saying not only would I like to humiliate my child by letting the entire community know, I’d also like to have this child wear the scarlet letters SMMTD for “Scared My Mother to Death” if I thought it would make him/her never do it again. A 24 hour time-out has calmed my nerves a bit, so I’m content knowing his/her teacher knows, along with the police, the neighbors, my close friends, and every single coworker I saw today.

A 24 hour time out served more than just that purpose. No mother should discipline a wandering child on the same day that he/she is found safe. Emotions are always in the extreme at moments like those. Either you’ll punish too harshly or you’ll smother your child with kisses and say, “I don’t care what you did! I’m not even going to punish you! I’m just glad you’re safe!” For my part, I allowed my offspring to make a sandwich and then go to bed early with the admonition that the consequence would follow in the morning because, “If I consequence you now, I’ll ground you for the rest of your life and sell all your toys. Believe me, you want to stay in your room for your own protection.”

Gray hair and palpitating heart aside, I am very glad my wayward child made it home in one piece. The punishment for the crime is reasonable and impactful. I’m feeling a lot less tense and edgy, and I’m hopeful all my kids have learned a valuable lesson in PICKING UP THE GOSH DARNED PHONE AND CALLING YOUR MOTHER WHEN YOU WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE OR WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE!

No, really…much less tense and edgy.