When you are a parent raising children one of the things you have to do as they grow older is to slacken the leash. You give them a little more freedom each year. Sometimes you have to pull it back a bit, but if they are going to become fully realized adults they have to let them go off, a little at a time.
In order to keep from losing their minds all parents engage in a sort of denial. They don’t think about all the really bad things that can happen when the children are off on their own, or if they do think about them they dismiss the thought. I could happen, but it won’t happen to us.
Kevin’s death has shattered my sense of denial. It can happen, it DID happen, it could happen again.
Like most everyone my wife and I did stupid things when we were young. We ignored the potential consequences and we survived. We are hardly unique. Just about everyone I know did the stupid things we beg our children not to do and lived to tell the tale. Kevin did some of the same kind of stupid things many of us did, but one night, it ended in tragedy.
I have two other children. In about a year the older will have his license. The younger will be in middle school. Each of them will be taking steps towards their eventual independence and I have had my blinders ripped away.
Right now when either child is out of the house I’m in a state of high anxiety, bordering on panic if they are late to check in. My heart rate is quicker, I breathe faster and a little shallower. I want to know where they are, who they are with, and I want to be the one bringing them home. I am, pretty much, a basket case.
Once they are home I relax. I beat the odds for another night.
But it can only get worse as they get older.
There will be Proms, Graduations, parties, hundreds of chances for that one bad night. There could even be those nights when they do everything right and someone else doesn’t. Someday they’ll go off to college, I wonder if I’ll still be insane?
I know what I HAVE to do. Somehow I have to trust them, and the world. I just wonder if I’ll be able to stand it.