Tornado warnings carry an entirely new level of tension when you can’t see your children with your own eyes.
Last night, like a good part of the country, my wife and I watched as dangerous storms raced across the county – many leaving wide paths of destruction behind.
Only last night, she and I sat alone on the sofa knowing both of our children were not under the same roof. One, hours away at college and living on his own, the other, an hour away with a group of friends. As parents, our protective instincts set off loud buzzers inside of us. But for once we found ourselves without anyone to protect.
What an odd, uncomfortable feeling. Your mind races – generally in the wrong direction – as you want to reach out to them, telling to head for cover.
The television weathercaster only increased our collective anxiety by placing a red box over our community showing us in the direct pathway for an oncoming tornado-producing storm.
Yes, this was our first taste of what we might soon find ourselves experiencing as empty nesters. And you can file this one under ‘no fun’.
As a parent, we’ve all developed our ‘safety plan’ – taking comfort in knowing we all know what to do and where to meet when dangerous weather visits. My wife and I each playing different roles, would go through the house getting everyone downstairs to a hall bathroom. When we’d all meet in the cramped space, she’d have blankets, flashlights, shoes and a few other emergency items stashed in the corner. If nothing else, all of us being together made us feel better.
But last night, with hundreds of miles between one of us and knowing our other was with friends in a nearby county, we felt uncomfortably out of control.
We all raise our children to be good adults, trusting they will make the right decisions in the face of danger. But at one point as a parent, it is no longer your place to pick up the phone and call out orders from your old structure. Sometimes geography interrupts, other times allowing them the opportunity to grow steps in the way. Either way, I can’t imagine parents ever get comfortable with this this new structure.
While I know the time has passed, some of my favorite memories include our family coming together when weather swirled and pounded outside our four walls. Flashes of thunder and lightening followed by the sound of small feet racing down the hallway and leaping into the air and landing in our bed are one of the greatest moments of life as a parent. For, even if just for a few moments, everyone in one bed feels as if you’re safe on a protective life raft. And with each additional flash of lightening you feel everyone instinctively inch closer as they wait for thunder to physically crash through the walls an into the bedsprings.
In many ways, this one of the moments you understand what parenting is all about – putting your fears aside and playing the protector even if you, too, are scared inside.
But last night, as dangerous storms raced towards us, there were only two of us on the once comfortable ‘life raft’ of safety. What I wonder is will we ever be able to unwind our instincts? If not, this could be a long ride.
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