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Lost Phone

We were incredibly lucky to have both been in university settings when our kids were born.  When No. 1 arrived, we were both still grad students.  Not long after No. 2 arrived, (about 10 days to be exact), mom-person defended her dissertation and gained the appellation prependage Dr. 

While there are lots of perks attendant to grad school, not the least of them phenomenal health insurance, that’s not the one that’s come to mind for me just now.  The one I’m most grateful for at the moment with respect to our kids was the opportunities for sheer independence.  Most days, we’d meet for lunch on the quad of whatever university we were hanging out at at the time, (physics research requires a bit of travel), to eat lunch.  During those lunches, the kids could crawl, toddle, or jog off into the distance.  There were no roads, and therefore no cars.  And, I realize now with a certain wistful bliss I had no knowledge of at the time, there were also very few people at hand that new what a baby was, and even fewer who had preconceived notions of what exactly a baby should be doing.  As No. 1, and later No. 2 wandered across the quad, alternately greeting students, and exploring the world, the students giggled, waved back, looked hazily confused through what was obviously days’ worth of sleep deprivation, and carried on with their own lives whether amused, confused, or oblivious.  Through it all, the kids got to see the world through their own eyes free of us, and free of expectations. 

As the kids have grown, so has their independence, and the amount of freedom mom-person and I can handle.  Not long after wandering across quads, the kids were headed diligently through coffee shops or pubs to get a glass of water from the container on the counter they could just reach over, or to retrieve a bottle of ketchup for their french fries.  A little while later, they started trekking back to the coffee shop down the block from our bench to grab a few more napkins, or a cup of water, (oh the water bottles that we don’t haul around!)  Our oldest, six year old No. 1 recently finagled a free round of ice cream for her and her sibs after she ventured past the cafe/bar partition in a tiny little town in Wyoming looking for a glass of water, and wound up exchanging a bit of witty banter with the other patrons.

Most recently though, No. 1 and 2 have demonstrated they they can cross the street by themselves, and this has opened up a whole new world of freedom and responsibility for them.  When we have the time in the mornings, 1 and 2 leash up their dog, who was present at both of their births, and take her up the hill to the hundreds of acres of park that sprawls above us.  The kids have explored every trail that runs through our portion of the park.  They’ve climbed the trees and careened down the hills.  Still, in case there are issues, they take mom-person’s phone so they can call home for help if they need to.  In truth, the phone is mostly in case they run into a ‘concerned adult’, because unlike college campuses, we’ve found that the rest of the world has very definite opinions about what a six and four year old should and should not be doing, and very few qualms about expressing them.

On a happier note, the kids have never had call to use the phone, pun not intended.   Sure, we’ve received a few calls.  I’ve jumped up concerned about what unforeseen thing has befallen my kids.  In the end though, the calls have been about their faithful dog slipping her leash, or the indignities of not being able to unilaterally choose the direction at every fork in the trail.

Consequently, this weekend, it was blissfully delightful that not too long after the pair had set out with their dog, and a poop sack, they were back.  With the dog, and without the poop sack in case you were wondering  No phone calls, no fretfully worrying when they’d arrive, they’d merely set out, had their adventure and returned! 

Then it happened.  “Give mom her phone back,” I said. 

“Oooh, um, we left it in the forest.”

“What do you mean you left it in the forest?”

“We must have left it in that spot we were playing.”

Fortunately mom-person loses her phone on a not infrequent basis, and so recently switched to the best burner-phone $10 can buy at our local Walgreens.  Not too much was at stake.  Still, my adult problem-solving brain kicked into gear exploring the many options for retrieving the phone.  I could ask exactly where that spot they were playing was.  I could ask when No. 2’s pocket felt lighter.  I could ask the last place they saw that phone.  I could wander up to the forest and help them look.  It all seemed so futile.  Fortunately it seemed so futile that my adult problem-solving brain did the exact best thing it could have, it gave up.

Without mentioning a word of my concerns, or the many, many options I’d just reviewed in my fevered mind, I simply said, “Go back and get Mom’s phone from where you left it.”

The kids headed back out, leaving the dog behind this time.  I got distracted with cleaning.  My adult-mind consequently didn’t worry about how long they would take, or if they’d find the phone, or if they were even looking.  And, loe and behold after a period of time that I can’t be sure of, but that seemed like 10 minutes, they returned triumphantly with the phone in hand!

They grew, I got to rest, they’re more capable in my mind, and every bit as good as they ever were in their own.  A lot of the time, the less I do, the better things turn out.

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