(a reprint from April, 2005)
Moms tend to worry a lot.
Some moms, like a few I know well, worry about most everything these days. Moms begin to fret right about the time their children get old enough to leave their plastic bubble and explore a world outside the front door.
This is no criticism of my wife or any mom, to be sure. We live in an age defined by an entirely new vocabulary of stressors—Amber alerts, Megan’s law, sleeper cells, dirty bombs, WMD, tsunamis, West Nile, antibiotic resistant germs, just to name a few. So when little Johnny heads out the door, moms get nervous.
When this happens in our home, my wife shows her fondness for the c-word.
“Mom, I’m going to a movie.” “OK, Tommy. Be careful!” “Mom, it’s a movie, not Iraq!” “I don’t care. Be careful!”
Another instance: “Mom, I’m riding my bike up the street.” “Wear your helmet! And be really careful!”
Sporting events, especially baseball games: “Mom, my ride is here for my baseball game.” “Wear your protective cup! And your mouth guard. And your helmet. And be careful!”
These admonitions typically bounce off my kids’ ears. But moms know this, of course. They are moms. They know everything. So they do more. They plan ahead and follow up. They use their cell phones prodigiously, interrogate the child upon his arrival home and leave nothing to chance.
Last year, my wife packed three trunks for Boy Scout camp. Her “safety plan” included enough mosquito repellent to drown every bug in St. Clare county, a lifetime of sunscreen and a 10-pack of toilet seat covers. The boys used none of them.
Moms hope to never rely on their husbands to execute the “safety plan.” My wife says I’m easily distracted by anything and everything all the time.
For example, when the kids are at the park, and she tells me to “watch the children,” no self-respecting man would take that literally. You can read the paper, make phone calls or even nod off and still be “watching” the little tykes.
And nothing can juice up a moms’ stress more than a vacation. You are leaving their comfort zone and mixing with strangers—often driving or flying great distances, which means a loss of control, anxiety, panic.
Throw in bad weather, cold temperatures, and a 9-year-old daughter on snow skis, and it’s medication time.
So when the Keenans headed to Keystone, Colo., for spring break, and my wife decided to take a break from the mountain, the custody of her only daughter was in my capable hands.
I got a lecture with all the buzz words.
“It’s cold out. It’s snowing. Do not let Maggie separate for a second. Blah, blah.” I reassured her: “It’s fine. It’s OK. Chill.”
But my wife had a plan, which I discovered at the end of the day after I delivered the angel child back to her mom’s secure arms.
In Maggie’s coat was a note, which my wife placed in her zipper pocket. The note read something like this: “If you have found this note it’s because my daughter has been separated from her dad. I asked my husband to ski with my daughter and never lose Maggie. “HE FAILED IN THE ONE THING I ASKED OF HIM. “Maggie Keenan is my only daughter. I will come pick her up. Do not bother trying to locate my husband. Here are four numbers where you can reach me. “I am expecting your call.
“913-xxx-xxxx (cell phone)
“970-xxx-xxxx (condo number)
“913-xxx-xxxx (my sister’s number)
“913-xxx-xxxx (my mom’s number)
“If you should run across Maggie’s dad, please inform him that there are some hotel vacancies in the Dillon area and he should get a room there. He will also need to find his own way back to Kansas City. And a good divorce lawyer. “And while you have Maggie, please be careful.”