In the driver’s seat

Charlotte had been hiking before. Up the same mountain, in fact. On the same trail. At the same time of year. She has experience. So I put on my metaphorical duct tape and left her in charge of getting ready.

Duct Tape Moment BadgeShe was going with another family this time—of one of her good friends. I had said what time we needed to leave to meet the friend at her house. Charlotte was up in her room. The time came and went. I knocked on her door…

“Charlotte? Did you change your mind? If so, I just need to call and tell them not to wait for you.”

“No, mom, I’m coming! I just needed to finish my penquin!”

I had assumed she was up there getting ready, but she was actually making a penguin with a paper animal kit she’d gotten for her birthday.

“Look mom!” She held up the penguin proudly.

“Uh-huh. I see you figured out how to make those animals. I’ll be in the car…”

“Ok! I’ll be right there!”

After a few minutes, she jumped in the car, “Am I late?”

“A little, but I think you’re still ok.” I glanced back. She had her spray’n’fan bottle (not for drinking) and her fleece jacket, and she was wearing her good walking shoes. But…headed for a 2-hour hike with no backpack, no water, and no food. And she didn’t eat breakfast either.

I felt the duct tape weakening. Ok, wait…will she starve? No. Will she die of thirst? No. She’ll have to share with someone. (Not her favorite.) Will I feel like a bad mom sending her off with another family unprepared for the hike? Yes indeed.

We drove to the friend’s house.

“Charlotte, where’s your water bottle?” the friend’s mother asked almost immediately after we arrived. I cringed but pressed my lips together and waited for Charlotte to answer. “Oh…I forgot…” The mother all but rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll see if I can find one you can borrow.”

Ugh, this is so hard. Her friend and her hike, but I still feel guilty! (Or embarrassed, or both.) I said goodbye and thought to myself, I hope someone shares their snack, and I drove away.

I told Fenner what happened and when Charlotte got back (happy and healthy) Fenner said, “Charlotte, what did you do on the mountain with no food and no water?!”

Charlotte shrugged and replied, “I hiked it…slowly.”

So often my worry turns out to be much ado about nothing. And here was yet another reminder of how much kids can handle and how little we really need to interfere.

Later I told my husband Jerry the whole story and added, “When she did that same hike with us I helped her get ready and I thought she’d remember what to bring, but it doesn’t work that way.”

“No,” he said, “It’s just like driving. If you’re in the passenger seat there’s no real need to pay attention. You have to be the driver to really learn your way around.

Explore posts in the same categories: Weeks following: Miscellaneous

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3 Comments on “In the driver’s seat”

  1. cindypierce Says:

    “You have to be the driver to really learn your way around.” Thank you for nailing this down for me. It is the key to the whole thing. This situation is really the toughest, and now I will have courage to hang in there. When it could be a burden to another family. You have given me strength to let it go and let them hike “slowly” without food and water (and raincoat, sweatshirt, walking shoes or whatever). GREAT post.

  2. Slawebb Says:

    good for you for holding your tongue. It ‘s so hard sometimes. Your husband made a good point, if your not in the drivers seat you don’t have to pay attention. So really it’s about putting our kids in the driver’s seat as much as possible. not easy but worthwhile.


  3. We were at the Maker’s Faire this weekend and in the “learn to solder” area. My 8 year old accidentally soldered two connections together and the volunteer who was helping grabbed it out of his hand and “fixed” it for him (after doing the same thing to the grown up who had the same problem right before my son). I just wanted to whack the volunteer upside the head. Of course he did also stop to tell us that the 12 year old girl who was on stage next to us was “OBVIOUSLY a government plant who thought we were naive enough to believe…” I didn’t listen to the rest…. 🙂

    PS: Maker’s Faire ROCKED. Kids learned to solder (my daughter already knew how, but the boys learned), build robots, knit. We saw exploding film canisters and exploding bubbles, as well roses frozen by dry ice, 3D printers (my 8-year old explained to my mom how they work) and a life sized game of “Mousetrap”. The “marble” was a bowling ball, and the “trap” was a 2 ton safe which crushed a car.

    Helicopters. Submarines. Toothpick buildings. A lego-powered, computer controlled pancake machine. Make your own buttons, animation, build art.

    Wow, so much in just one day, and there’s many more things I’m not even thinking of….


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