To Honk Or Not To Honk: A Parenting Victory

Looking back over the years, as I am doing right now from a newly empty nest, I had one intuitive parenting victory that I want to share with you who still have your kids at home so that down the road you too can rejoice and not kick yourself:

I did not honk my horn at my children. 

I get that some people are honkers; for them an aggressive laying on the horn is just a great communication tool, and they’d be surprised anyone thought any deeper about it. But for the rest of us . . .

Sunday morning. The girls were off to college, only the boy was at home, and because his bones grew an inch a month, or so it seemed, he slept like the dead. And even deader on Sundays. He seemed to understand it was the day of Sabbath rest.

He didn’t really ‘wake up’ as much as slowly surface, like a log released from a river bottom. All that rapid bone growth required hot abundant protein in the morning – like eggs and cheese and bacon. But he only had time to grab a granola bar along with his tie, belt, socks, and shoes, all to be put on in the car.

Six feet, three inches plus his hair, folded in half, and accessorizing in a Fiat.  I rode to church with Mr. Bean.

I assume he grabbed the granola bar; I never saw him do so because I was always sitting in the car by that time waiting, and that is the point of my story. I like to get to church early, especially if I am teaching a Sunday school class. I talk to a lot of people on Sundays, and my nerves just need my ducks in a row.

Anyway, I waited, chomping at the bit, and every Sunday I had to make a choice while sitting in the Fiat. To honk or not to honk, that was the question. He was inside feeling no sense of urgency whatsoever, and my legs were both cramped from holding down the clutch and the brake in first gear, ready to go. And I waited, and the back door never opened. Whether t’was nobler in mind to wait it out or honk the heck out of the horn, aye, there’s the rub.

Preaching to myself, I would say, “Just be patient. Honking is rude and dehumanizing. Civilized people get out, go in, and say mildly, ‘Are you coming?’” But once buckled in to the AC’d car, I wasn’t getting back out, civilized or no, so I would decide I had every good reason to honk and reach my hand to do it, and then decide not to, and Civilized and Uncivilized would war for awhile before the back door would finally slam and he would appear, grinning and at peace with the world. And I was always glad I hadn’t honked.

But I was never so glad I hadn’t honked as I was the first Sunday he was off to college and I walked out the door, got in the car, backed out, and drove to church. Oh the sad, sad, convenience of it all. Oh, the untethered, unwanted earliness. Woohoo, I didn’t have to wait! Boohoo, I wished I had to wait! And as I mourned freely all the way to church I comforted myself knowing that I had not honked my horn at him. At least I had that.

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DSCN6082Sincerely,
A Mom In Transition

P.S. (One week later – wearing huge photo-booth party glasses and popping a confetti cannon) Empty nest is fun!!  “Limbo, limbo, limbo, cha-cha, limbo . . .”

P.P.S. I read a recent good article urging us to be careful writing about our children.  I used care with this and meant to spotlight my retrospective relief rather than the college boy’s foibles.  Some context was necessary.

Ode To August And An Incoming Class

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In August, I watch
Tall children-students flower right in front of me.
And it is marvelous. A late-summer garden,
Juniors walk in and blossom into seniors as I hand them a syllabus.

Mysteriously, gracefully, they step right in
To the gap left in May
By a group that seemed irreplaceable, and certainly was so.
But this new class has its own feel,
Its own paths to tread of the infinite number possible
From a single starting point – like Beowulf.

So they pick different flowers on their own path,
Similar species picked by those May graduates, but a crimson sunflower,
Or a zinnia bent on proving that we underestimate zinnias, which we do.
Different flowers from the same story. And I am reminded
God’s good earth is inexhaustible.

And they learn to listen; and they do listen.
They talk of last year’s storytellers and their stories.
And I can’t be impatient with them
Because they are never impatient with me,
“It has to go through the app, Mrs. Sieg. See that blue square?”
We’ve come full circle; Mrs. Smith taught them blue squares
On their K5 carpet squares,
And now they teach me.
And they notice my new shoes and that I wore my hair up today.
And they ask questions bigger than one answer,
‘Why?’ ‘How?’ ‘Why?’
I walk up to the question in my new shoes and give it what I know
And hope it’s a beginning for them.

They are held together by their age, their moment,
This year’s variety,
But they welcome me to listen.
I love their words – the forming words they put on the trends of the minute.
I borrow their energy, their foreverness.

It is August. August is possibility.

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Annual Pictures At The Green Door