Parental Controls

(from Within My Illusions)

I tell my dad that there are times
when I’m home doing the stuff –
you know, the adulting stuff –
and I look around and think,
Where did all the grownups go
and who left me in charge?
He laughs and says that sometimes
he catches his reflection in a store window
and wonders who the old man is
staring back at him?

My teenage boy’s annoyed
about the parental controls
on his phone which require my approval
before he can download a new app.

I tell him that sometimes
parental controls are annoying
and sometimes they are helpful.
I tell him that his job
is to push the boundaries
and my job is to hold them.
I don’t like this part of the job very much.

Sometimes I hate that I wasted
so many tired years
wanting him to grow up faster
when now all I want
is to slow things down
and keep him close a little longer.

As if I could place a parental control on time.

My little girl tells me
that my New Year’s resolution
should be to practice patience
because sometimes (often)
I interrupt her questions
before she finishes asking,
because I already know
what she’s going to ask
and that the answer will be no.
She says she doesn’t care
as much about the answer.
She wants me to hear her.

But I hate how often the word No
comes out of my mouth:
Can I just have a little activity book? No.
A small Lego? No.
A make-your-own stuffed animal? No.
Pottery? No.
Froot Loops? No.
Icee? No.
Smoothie? No.
When will you let me have Sprite? Never.
Pizza? Fine.

She and I spent so much time and excitement
looking for the perfect loft bed for her room.
I didn’t stop to think how far away
she would feel as she drifts off to sleep
five feet above the ground.
And though the rule is
she sleeps in her bed on weeknights,
I smile in the morning when I wake
to find she has landed in mine.

This boundary suddenly seems
as ridiculous to me
as trying to control
who they are becoming.

“You know, she’s going to have
to grow up eventually,”
her brother tells me.
I wonder if there’s still a little boy
inside this wise young man
who stands in front of me.
His next question: “Hey Mom,
can we make the frosting
for my birthday cake?”
reassures me.

Chocolate spreads over his face
As he licks the mixer blade.
“You know,” I say,
“You can use your fingers
to scrape off the frosting.
You’ll get more out of it that way.”