write on edge: it takes two to make an accident

Contrary to what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “It takes two to make an accident,” my daughter and her car were fully equipped to make the unfortunate happen without anyone else lifting a hand, or in this case, driving a car.

After a long, arduous day of dance rehearsals, my daughter got together with some friends to unwind from their very physical jobs. Eight hours as a dancer running through choreography time and time again can be wearing on the brain as well as the body. So a glass or two of wine can go a long way in numbing the mind and the muscles.

Unfortunately, alcohol and sleep do not mix well unless you can fall right into your bed.

On the way home from getting together with her friends, my daughter must have nodded off for a few seconds when she was nearing her apartment. Her car slammed into a car parked alongside the right-hand curb. The impact frightened the heck out of her, and brought occupants of the nearby house running to see what caused all the racket.

At 11 p.m. on a quiet, charming, tree-lined street everyone was probably getting ready for bed. Accidents were a rare occurrence. While not overly-wide the roads were a decent size, allowing for parking on either side with ample room for passing cars. It’s more than likely then that my daughter’s running into a parked car was THE event of the month. The neighborhood was probably abuzz with what transpired for some time to come.

From what my daughter told my husband and me hours later, the aftermath of the accident seemed to unfold in slow motion.

The owner of the car hit by my daughter’s car was not even in town. His girlfriend was minding it while he was away. Imagine her hysteria over her boyfriend’s smashed-in automobile? Evidently, her mom had to calm her fears as well as my daughter’s. A huge task for any mother. And one for which I’m still very grateful. I wished I could have been there to offer some comfort as well.

My daughter called 911 to report the accident. More than an hour-and-a-half later, the police arrived. In the interim she had called her boyfriend to keep her company. With feet bare and wearing only a ti shirt, he showed up minutes later and stood with her on the sidewalk in the cold, night air. Had they known how long the police would take to arrive, perhaps the kindly mom would have corralled everyone inside her warm house. Who knows? I can only speculate what I MIGHT have done under similar circumstances.

Because she had just gotten her driver’s license months before, my daughter was obviously devastated. Besides feeling badly for those directly involved, she felt tremendous guilt about having abused our trust in her living on her own 3,000 miles away. Only nineteen at the time, my daughter was striving to live like a grownup. In her estimation, she had failed.

After taking care of the details with the police, our daughter returned to her apartment with her boyfriend. With him by her side, she called us at 2 a.m. Of course, we awoke to the phone ringing with heightened trepidation. All parents fear the worst when their teenagers are not at home, whether they’re in the same city or thousands of miles away. More quiet than normal and with great sadness in her voice, my daughter revealed what had happened.

My daughter has a tendency to judge herself and deliver the verdict before we even know she’s on trial. She’s struggled with this dilemma since she was a child. Perhaps it’s something she has in common with many children who feel their parents are perfect, never committing any crimes themselves. We’ve since set her straight. Nobody’s perfect.

After listening to her, I quietly explained to my daughter that our concern was primarily with her safety and that of others. Our stress level diminished considerably upon learning that she was fine, and that no one else was involved. The insurance would pay for damages to both cars. Shedding a few tears of relief, my daughter handed the phone off to her boyfriend who thanked my husband and me for understanding the situation. He explained that were he the one calling his parents about causing the accident, they might have bawled him out. It made me feel good knowing that I got something right as a parent.

The next day and for several days afterwards, my daughter had to handle all the issues concerning the accident. She had to communicate with the insurance company to have her car towed, to contract for a rental car, to have repairs to the other car paid, and so on. All the while she was trying to heal her psyche of her self-inflicted wounds. It took some time for our reassuring words to settle in permanently. Quite some time.

Experiencing her first accident propelled my daughter forward into becoming an adult. There was no turning back after that. For obvious reasons her boyfriend was able to pick up where they left off before the accident. He demanded her undivided attention once he felt she’d had sufficient time to brood about what had happened. Unable to give herself entirely over to his needs, my daughter began to realize that she could no longer give herself over to partying like a teen any longer. The accident was her rite of passage.

Now 27, my daughter has weathered other life-altering experiences, some good, some not-so-good. With each she’s grown in her personal and professional life. All the while I’ve looked on with more than a little interest as her doting mom. And as such, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself, and about parenting a child.

It doesn’t always “take two to make an accident,” but it does take two to forge a great relationship. Parenting my daughter has taught me the fine art of stepping back so that she can… 

…own her own life…

………hugmamma.IMG_4744

(I had written this as an entry for write on edge, but unfortunately missed the deadline by one day. I thought you might still enjoy reading it.)

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when to “cease and desist,”parenting

Sometimes parenting a daughter who is legally an adult at 24, is like “walking on eggshells,” like “walking a tightrope,” like jumping from a plane hoping my parachute will open. Until a few years ago, her life was still within the realm of our control; it still is to some degree, because we continue to offer financial support. But having lived on her own since she was 19, it’s not easy to reel her in at this stage. Not that reeling her in is necessary. But I’m sure all parents agree that there are times we are impatient to substitute our substantial years of experience, for their paltry few. My husband has no problem restraining himself. I, on the other hand, am usually chomping at the bit. This is not surprising, if you’ve been a regular reader of my blog.

Deciding to give an opinion, in the form of advice, is a slippery slope. Fortunately, I have a huge inventory of words at my disposal to wend my way in and out of a tricky conversation. It’s like fencing, or a game of chess. I move; she moves. I act; she reacts; I react, and so on, and so forth. What usually begins as opposing viewpoints, evolves into an understanding of sorts. She sees my perspective as a concerned mom, and I realize her life is hers to live. And that’s the best I can hope for, an understanding that there are 2 sides to every story. But ultimately this is my daughter’s story, not mine. Wouldn’t we all like to write a happily-ever-after for our children?

Living in an apartment together while my daughter trained as a ballerina, gave us 2 1/2  years to bond, and then separate. I knew it was time to leave her, when the time came. Weaning her from total dependence upon my husband and I, was our daughter’s rite-of-passage. And she was ready to take the reins, even though her future, personally and professionally, was far from certain. In the ensuing years, she has weathered her share of challenges, managing the repair work when her bathroom ceiling fell in, minor car accidents, the end of a long relationship, auditioning for a dance job, career politics, and health issues. We were always available, on the other end of the telephone.

Children grow up, despite our hovering. What my daughter and I have always shared, and continue to share, is a two-way conversation. We’ve never turned our backs on communication, because we know we love each other unconditionally. There are tears and raised voices, for sure, but there are calming words and soothing hugs as well.

So I continue to hover, and will probably do so until I draw my last breath. My daughter will always know where I stand. What she does with that knowledge is her decision as an adult. I can’t live her life, I can only cherish it. So while I won’t cease and desist, I will step back, knowing that my daughter is well equipped to determine the course of her life. I’ll be here when her life takes a “detour.” She will probably seek advice, and I’ll be happy to oblige. As Elizabeth Edwards told Wolf Blitzer of CNN in an interview, “There’s no mother who doesn’t want to put her two cents in.”

for staying involved, hugs…hugmamma.