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Cutting the Strings

A friend recently (and humorously) observed that I have a dark side.  The size of this tumor is usually in direct proportion to the amount of news I’m consuming at any given time, but nothing helps it metastasize like an injection of maternal paranoia.  Today’s dose was courtesy of Thing1’s desire not to sit through a second stint of basketball practice.

Thing2’s (our six-year-old) coach had announced a lunchtime tournament at morning practice.  Having sat through one practice, Thing1 had promptly responded that he would not be attending regardless of any promise or threat on our part.  So the decision was made that at twelve-going-on-thirty, Thing1 was old enough to stay home alone for an hour.

Now our town – a bustling metropolis of about 300 – has a motto.  Whatever happens here stays here… but nothing ever happens here.  And, as apt as it is, for some reason, as we drove Thing1 back to the house, I found myself checking my mental list of escaped convicts and serial killers-on-the-loose (I have been watching too much news lately).  With each turn, I rattled off one more rule for Thing1.

“Keep the phone with you.   Keep the doors locked.  Don’t answer the phone…”

“Don’t shower while you’re making toast,” interjected the Big Guy, attempting to deflate my paranoia.

Thing1 listened to my missives with good-natured patience, certain as all immortal preteens are that all would be well for the upcoming hour.  We got back to the house and I walked Thing1 in and laid out the rules once more.  I had grabbed my sunglasses and was heading for the door when Thing1 emerged from his room once more.  He bent down and gave me a big hug (something that only happens when no one he knows is around).  I hugged him back tightly, remembering for a moment – as I often do at these moments – a time when I was able to hold him as a bundle against my shoulder.

Then he straightened and patted my shoulder and said, “You’ll be fine, Mom.”  And he disappeared into his room to pretend to study for the 30 seconds it took me to leave and double-lock the door.  And, as I got back in the car, that dark side I’d been feeding too well lately started to shrink.