It was perhaps not one of my finer parenting moments, but the one time I left my then-18 month old in front of the Teletubbies to have a shower, the episode involved a scary lion and a bear fighting, and then there were tears and a letter to TVO.
Flash forward a dozen years or so.
My son has just left for New York City. He's going with my sister and her crew, and will be a combination mother's helper/tourist for the next few days. An hour ago, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't made sure he had out-of-country health insurance. I scurried and called and now he's covered. I made a quick grocery store run this afternoon too and asked him what I could pick up for him (he has an enormous appetite and a moral aversion to the Golden Arches). He shrugged, couldn't think of anything.
And that's what it's like to parent a teenager. (That plus the weird conversations we've been having these days, wherein my kids think I'm mad at them, when actually I'm struggling to understand the words coming out of their mouths. Case in point: coming out of the dentist earlier today, my other son commented that he was walking manually. I apparently gave him That Look and asked what he meant. He explained that it was taking thought to walk after being drilled for an hour. It wasn't automatic. These teenaged metaphors are sometimes beyond me.)
I've been trying to figure out how to best prepare my eldest for the Big Smoke. I went the first time myself six years ago, and frankly, it was less other-worldly than I had been led to expect. Dense, but not unfamiliar. I got to see the best of New Yorkers too, because I was there to see my sister and her newborn baby, and I got to carry the baby around, a talisman for all to touch and bless.
At almost fifteen years of age and scraping six feet tall, my son is likely not likely to be kidnapped (although I have considered possible scenarios). He's packed five teeshirts, one sweater, no coats, and three camerca batteries: he's there to see through a lens, and I can barely think of a better place to do so.
We sat on the couch for a few minutes before he left. I asked him to ask me three questions, to make sure he was prepared. He asked: What was your favourite place in NYC? (Central Park) How should I approach strangers? (polite detachment) and um, um, um... Are there dogs in NYC? (Yes. Sometimes in purses.)
Then I offered him three pieces of advice. Have an adventure. Remember you aren't invincible. ("I am, I am..."") Remember that you have a mom and a dad and a dog and two siblings who love you.
Dave told him a story about one of his students, who stood in Times Square, showing a friend how much cash he had, and how a hand reached out of the crowd and took his wallet back into the crowds.
Today's been a weird day: I'm letting go of this boy while caring for our puppy who badly, badly cut his back paw yesterday and who needed to spend the morning at the vet today and now looks like a wounded veteran.
But here's how the puppy got hurt: bounding through the woods near our home. And we let him do this and will let him do so again, because there are worse things than injuries. For this dog, as I said recently, is made to run and to leash him up forever would be terribly sad. And likewise, to leash my boy up would be a mistake too. Yes, I reminded him he wasn't invincible. But first I told him to have an adventure.
And I hope he does.