Photo: Sean Locke
I may as well come clean from the beginning. I am a hypocrite. A phony. Full of bull, or something that comes from a bull. I am a whitewashed sepulcher. I can talk the talk, but not walk the walk, etcetera. “Wow!” you may think to yourself. “That sounds harsh. She must suffer from a poor self-concept. She beats herself mercilessly like Silas of Da Vinci Code fame.” Or you really couldn’t care less and are just wondering what all of this is leading up to.
I am a Montessori teacher. I am very proud of being a Montessori teacher. One of the aspects that I love is that the philosophy and methodology that I subscribe to teaches independence from an early age. Preschoolers in our environment learn to pour from child sized glass pitchers and serve snack to their class. They lace, button, snap, sew, and help to “restore the environment,” or clean up the classroom. In the elementary school, students are expected to take ownership of their education by making choices about all of the work that they do and being responsible for those choices. I have counseled countless parents over the years in the “art of letting go,” so that their children can function as autonomous human beings. I have looked with bewilderment and something akin to horror at the mother of a second grader as she confessed that her son had never been on a field trip without her. But as I mentioned earlier, I am a hypocrite.
My own children are products of Montessori education. You might think that this fact, added to the reality of my being a teacher in that system, would make it easier for me to cut the proverbial “apron strings". You are much too logical, my friend. You underestimate the folly of human nature, especially my human nature. The fact is, when it comes to my own children I can be consumed with trepidation for their well-being. Here is one example -- my oldest son, Gabe, has just recently been allowed by yours truly to ride around our neighborhood on his bike. He is TWELVE years old. ….Please stop laughing…I mean it….Thank you. Anyway, the reasons that I gave to him for not letting him loose on his bike were fairly vague, but in my mind they went something like this: He could get hit by a Hummer, snatched by the sex crazed predator the elderly lady on the corner is SURE she saw, end up on Loop 410 near the Airport Boulevard exit during 5:00 traffic, or be attacked by the ferocious Yorkie Terrier across the street. You know the one I mean. The one that sounds like a wild duck when it breathes. Anyway, I realized that to continue to limit his freedom I would actually have to verbalize the reasons outside of my body. Which would make me sound…I don’t know…crazy? So I let him go.
We started out small. I told him that he could ride unfettered for thirty minutes. About twenty-five minutes into his ride, I found things that had to be done in the front yard. I needed to water the plants that had already been watered, sweep the driveway of nonexistent debris, and look down the street every two seconds for his red bicycle. We (I) overcame that parenting obstacle and now, Gabe is free to ride his bike anywhere in the neighborhood as long as he’s home on time. I am sure you are relieved. I know Gabriel was.
My youngest son, Sam, was in YMCA camp this past summer. When I dropped him off, I literally had to force myself to stop my internal dialogue about the ineptitude of the counselors, the strong probability that he could drown during swim time, the fact that he might make no friends and sit by himself all week, or that he would forget to drink enough water and pass out during dodge ball. I started breathing again when I picked him up and saw none of these events had come to pass. Thank you for not laughing this time.
You see, all of this self-revelation has been spurred by my thinking about the “Big Event” that is happening in our household day after tomorrow. My husband, Andy, and Gabe are flying to New York City for my brother-in-law’s graduation from medical school. Due to D.T.S.S, or Dual Teacher Salary Syndrome, Sam and I are staying home. The list of AWFUL, EVIL possibilities on this trip is copious. Here are a few for your reading pleasure. Gabriel could get separated from Andy at the airport and forget his name, phone number, and where we live, and have no way to get home. He could be abducted by a predator dressed as a policeman while asking for directions or fall off the Empire State building. Lady Liberty’s torch could fall on him and crush him. He might get caught up in an art thievery gang while at the Metropolitan Museum, choke on a Sabrett’s hot dog, or (brace yourself), get picked up by The Learning Channel’s “Cash Cab” and not know the answer to even one single question. Do you see all of the ramifications of releasing your children? Of course I wouldn’t dare tell the parents of my students any of this.
I am reminded the movie What About Bob? as I am writing this. Have you seen it? In case you haven’t, here is a short synopsis. In the film, Bill Murray plays a completely neurotic character (unlike myself, naturally) who in addition to being afraid of EVERYTHING, fakes conditions like Turret’s Syndrome and heart attacks, because “if I fake it, then I don’t have it.” As a parent, this is part of my M.O. In other words, I think of the most heinous, atrocious things that I can, and name them. By doing so, psychologically I am warding off the demons of things that could actually happen, but probably won’t.
But back to the issue of my being a phony, fear filled, neurotic, micro-managing hypocrite. I am issuing an apology. I request forgiveness from the parents of students I have judged silently over the years for not sufficiently releasing their offspring, my husband for making him suffer by living with such a maniac for the past thirteen years, and to my children, Gabe and Sam, for not allowing them to learn to take risks sooner. I am just learning how to myself. Thank you for reading this confession. I am thinking it may be okay to let myself off the hook a bit. Perhaps I am not a complete hypocrite, after all, but a mother learning to let go. What do you think?
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