I must not care about my children anymore -- because I don't ask as many questions!
Beth Falkenstein: When they were younger, say, between the ages of two and ten, and they were invited for a playdate or sleepover, I would barrage the friend's parents with an array of probing questions. Are there any guns in the house? How about alcohol? Is there a swimming pool? Is it fenced? Is there a security alarm on your house? Do you have any restraining orders out against anyone, and does that person know the security code to the alarm on your house?...
Now if my kids tell me they're going to a friend's house, I don't even remember to ask them for the phone number.
Before you hit that "Comment" button, let me say that obviously I still love my kids -- hyperbole can be an effective comic tool for a writer; in fact, hyperbole is the single greatest comic tool a writer could ever want, but I digress -- but what else could account for the fact that I have gotten so casual when it comes to ensuring their well-being?
Could it be that perhaps I've gotten lazy? Instead of doing all the safety research myself, I have to admit that lately I defer to the judgment of parents that have gone before me. That is to say, if a parent I trust is, or has, also allowed their child to visit the new friend's house, then I figure it's probably okay to send my kid, too.
Or maybe as they enter their tweens and teens, the list of things to worry about has gotten so long that I don't dare even start. I mean, it never used to be an issue whether or not there would be boys at a particular party when the girls were toddlers. No one dared touch anyone for fear of catching cooties. Now I care very much if there are boys present, and cooties are the least of my communicable disease worries. And then there's the problem of drugs. I never had any concern when my 5-year-old attended a party that the birthday boy would be rolling joints since a) he had the hand-eye coordination of a kindergartener, and b) creatures that get high on sugar don't need cocaine. Today, I wouldn't even know which drugs to ask about. Do they still make Quaaludes?
There is one other possible explanation as to why I have stopped checking up on every friend my children have and every household they enter, and I'm sure it's the real reason: I have done such a superior job raising them that they are therefore completely trustworthy and I can be confident that they will always make smart choices.
Did that last one make you laugh? What'd I tell you about hyperbole?
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to "Self," "Redbook," and "YM" magazines before taking a full time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10), and is grateful that they approve of inter-office romance, because Beth thinks her co-worker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|