Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A chilly school day and other ruminations of parenthood

This morning is one of those that make me long for the days of former Gov. Arne Carlson, who famously closed schools when he thought it was too cold for man or beast. On my way to work this morning, the thermometer registered a balmy -13. And the windchill was -30-something.

Then again, I don't have kids in school. Thank God. I am so glad to be finished with those years. I feel like I went to grade school, high school and college at least four times: once myself, and once again for each of my children. When the first kid starts school, the experience kind of takes you back. It's a nostalgic kind of thing: You get a kick out of the wide-ruled notebooks, the No. 2 pencils, the first experience of detention, the challenge of dealing with a bad grade, a cold shoulder or a broken heart. By the time you've done this over and over and over again, it's just plain tiresome. Makes me wonder how those St. Paul Irish-Catholic moms with the nine or 10 kids managed to keep sane by the time the last one got on the bus. An old friend, a middle child among nine, said her mom "went on retreat" a few times. Only when she was in her 40s did she learn her mom actually went into rehab for alcoholism!

Today the whole "kids in school" phase of parenting is even more difficult. I notice that parents of students at the university where I work are involved to a point of being so overprotective that I think their kids will never earn their independence. But the world is much more a place to be protected from than it ever used to be. When I was in college I called my mom (or she called me) about once every couple of weeks. A long-distance phone call was like a bon bon: an expensive, short-lived treat. Today, college kids talk or IM with their parents every day.

Parents of young children, please note: You really won't want to talk to your children every day when they're in college. If you have more than one child, this practice will frazzle your nerves and wear you out. You don't need to know when your kid fails a test, had his car booted for unpaid parking tickets or yelled at a slobby roommate. He'll work it out without you, and he'll work it out better in the long run. Really. Look at it this way: When your co-workers steal your lunch from the employee fridge, who you gonna call? Mom? Seriously.

To be continued ...

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