Most days, I'm a competent adult - fairly secure and in charge of my life. But do you ever get those fleeting moments when suddenly you're struck by the fact that you're the parent now? I do. Parenthood is a huge responsibility. Sometimes I feel like I need to push the child in me to step up to the challenge.
Like most adults, I look back over some of the things I did in my youth (hitch-hiking, partying, smoking ...) and thank God I made it through those years alive. They all seemed like good ideas at the time and everyone I knew was doing the same stuff. I put my life at risk many times without really thinking about what could go wrong. Now I know I was very, very lucky.
Having been there myself, I worry about my daughter, Emily. Em is a responsible girl. She's respectful and follows rules faithfully. I trust her, like my mom trusted me. Hmm.
I know taking some risks is part of growing up and I don't want to know every detail of her life. She needs her privacy and I know she'll make mistakes. I just want to help her avoid those life-altering ones. At the same time, I don't want to be one of those helicopter parents who hovers over their child and makes them a nervous wreck. So where do I draw the line?
I decided I needed to start by setting a good example for Emily, but when it comes to driving, that's harder than I'd thought. Putting away the cell phone when I drive is not a big issue for me. I've never had that need for constant contact. But driving after a glass or two of wine? I have to admit I've done it.
So I needed to hit the 'reset button' and not only change that behavior, but make sure my daughter got the message. My husband, Al, and I alternate being the designated driver when we go out. Before we go, I make a point of voicing who will be the designated driver. I want Emily to hear us planning to get home safely before we go out so she will too.
One of my proudest moments came after a show on NBC called "What Would Your Child Do?" They put youth in staged situations which could be dangerous in the real world. Then they watched to see if the kids would do as they'd been told or succumb to peer pressure. One of the scenarios involved a teacher handing car keys to a teen who'd admitted he was drunk to his peers. The question was - would the teens get in the car with him driving anyway?
They did and that provided a great teaching moment for me to talk with Emily. We talked about the situation and I ended with - "Em, don't ever get in the vehicle with any driver who's been drinking or done drugs. Not even a teacher or a parent. Don't even get in the car with me if I've been drinking."
Em rolled her eyes (which would normally make me mad) and said, "That would never happen, Mom! If you've had one glass of wine you say 'I can't drive because I've had a glass of wine.'"
My inner child was beaming.