“I don’t get it. I read the birthday party invitation quickly but it sounds like she wants everyone to drop the kids off at her house, then she’s going to bring them up to the movies at the mall?” I asked my wife in astonishment.
“Sounds like it,” she said.
“Well, how many kids are going? I mean, how many kids can she take in her car?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It sounds strange to me,” Marie said.
“And you’re ok with this?” I asked.
“No. think you should drive Tyler up to the mall yourself and meet them there,” she said.
“I agree. I mean, first of all, I don’t know how she’s getting them up there. I don’t know how many kids are going, and how many parents are going to watch them. I don’t know how’s she’s going to shepherd all these kids through that crazy parking lot and up four floors in that crazy mall. There’s no information in this invitation explaining how any of this is going to work,” I said.
And so with this incident, we’ve entered into a new phase of parenting. Fresh off the, “We, of course, go everywhere with our kids and stay there the whole time” phase, we’re now at the, “I’ll drop them off if the plan makes sense but I’m not a free-ranging type of Dad, so you better lay something out for me that’s not insane” phase.
And after all the sleepless nights raising these maniacs, I’m not about to throw caution to the wind and, with a nonchalant wave of the hand, cast them off into the great unknown. I did want Tyler to have a good time with his friends, however, so I was open to my wife’s idea of how we could just meet the hosts in the middle, so to speak.
My plan called for me, Tyler and Parker (my 6 year-old) to meet the birthday gang at the mall, right outside where they collect the tickets for the movie. Doing that, we figured, would remove the parking-lot-through-mall odyssey, which made my wife and me very uncomfortable. As I thought more about it — since my wife was working at the hospital that weekend and Parker and I didn’t have much going on — I figured the little guy and I would go in and see the same movie (“Garden Gnomes,” God help me).
Oh, and the party plan didn’t end there. Our hosts wanted the kids to go back to their house after the movie for continued merriment. (Yes – I did think they were asking a lot in that the whole party would take four hours). So I texted Sally, the birthday Mom, and relayed my plan; to which she had no objection.
When the birthday gang arrived at the movies, we were already there. All went well (except for the fact I couldn’t sleep through the whole movie) and we were ready for the final phase of my plan — Parker and I helping escort all the kids through the mall and through the parking lot.
“You can pick up Tyler at 7,” Sally said, as the credits rolled.
“Yeah. That sounds great. I’ll just help you and your husband walk the kids down and then we’ll go,” I said.
“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” she said. “We’ve got it.”
“I don’t mind,” I insisted. “You’ve got a lot of kids to handle here.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said, giving me that, “You’re insane,” look.
“Well, you know me, Sally,” I said. “I’m silly.”
With that uncomfortable standoff behind us, I proceeded to walk with her, her husband, and the seven dwarves to their car, only peeling off with Parker when we were very close.
Now, seeing that I had already texted Sally my plan and received no objections, I was irritated that she decided to balk in real time. I mean, I had obviously been uncomfortable with her plan, so a response from her more along the lines of, “Sure. Let’s all walk the kids down together,” would have been a lot nicer than trying to make me feel foolish.
I don’t doubt that some of you reading this column think I’m nuttier than a fruitcake, as did Sally, and apparently, as did the parents who happily shipped their kids off to the movies for the day did. But for all I know there were others who simply declined the invitation because it didn’t add up.
What I do know is that in this type of thing there are no do overs. Sally, watching three or four other kids, all trying to show off for each other, might have taken her eye off Tyler for a moment — perhaps a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time moment when a child predator was hunting at this super busy mall, which is connected to as many major highways as the heart is connected to veins and arteries. Let’s say everything went wrong and Sally came back from the party with a heaping helping of, “I’m so sorrys,” but no Tyler. Then my wife, Parker and I would be the ones looking at an empty bedroom no one had the strength to clean out.
Take that risk so I don’t look silly to Sally or anyone to whom she might relate my tale of purported helicopter parenting? I don’t think so.
When the risk looks good on paper and the plan makes sense, I’ll let Tyler go, and then, if something goes wrong, I can live with myself and perhaps find the strength to clean out the bedroom, but I’ll never apologize for going toe-to-toe with Free-rangin’ Sally and any of her ilk.