22 June 2005

Single...With Children: Publication Date: 22 June 2005

Single with Children: When their buttons are pushed, parents must recall who's in charge

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 06/22/05

It's every parents worst nightmare. A phone call at 2 a.m.

Of course, I was still up, as I usually am at the reasonable hour of 2 a.m. It's when I usually find my best writing groove. But even though I wasn't jarred out of a deep REM sleep, it's still never a good time for a phone call.

It usually means T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

"Ms. Parker?" a male voice inquired.

"Yes, can I help you?" realizing it wasn't a prank call, because pranksters don't usually address the object of their antics with such courtesy. The downside to this was the wave of panic as I instantly considered all of the possible reasons for a 2 a.m. phone call.

"This is Officer ... . I'm here with Justin."

If you're a parent, I don't need to tell you how adept we are at painting the most horrific scenarios in the span of what canít be more than a few seconds.

I'm sure I stumbled through an answer ... but whatever it was, a little part of me was dying inside.

"Justin is fine ... "I know that creating hysteria is never anyone's primary purpose, but this is a great way to BEGIN any phone call to the parent of a teenager. It may even prevent a few panic attacks.

"He's parked at the Dairy Queen, and it seems he's run out of gas and he said you would be happy to bring him enough to make it home."

What followed was the exact location of which Dairy Queen, along with the welcome calm that follows a heart attack in the making.

"Of course, Officer. Tell Justin we'll be right there."

Nothing more than the miscalculation of a gas gauge. Thank you, God.

Only then, after you are completely assured that your child is safe and well, do you launch into, "What was he thinking? Why did he cut it so close? Does he have ANY idea how scared I was to get an early morning phone call from a policeman?"

On some level, I'm sure he does, but I have to extend him the benefit of the doubt. He's never had kids - but maybe someday he will recall how the same situations occurred and scared the wits out of me as he deals with his own, clueless teenagers.

If he doesn't have the gift of recollection, I do hope that I am around to jog his memory.

When we arrived, Justin was mildly embarrassed but certainly grateful to be in receipt of a gas can. Of course, I quizzed him on what coursed through my mind when I received the phone call.

"Well, if I still had my cell phone, a policeman wouldnít have had to call you. But remember? You took that away a few months ago."

For a few seconds, I bought into his line of reasoning but I instantly shook it off.

I lobbed my response right back and reminded him why I was forced to remove his cell phone, along with the privileges that went along with it. Rare were the times it was used to give me updates and pertinent information.

I could see he regretted bringing the topic up, and he returned to his almost humble demeanor with a hint of gratitude that his fuel had been delivered with such speed.

I will be the first to admit I am a slow-study when it comes to remembering I have far more power than I have historically tried to exercise in creating boundaries, limits and eliciting acceptable behavior. It is a process I still struggle with.

Sometimes I just have to be reminded who is still in charge.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at SusieWrites@ec.rr.com, write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166 or visit her diary at www.susiewrites.blogspot.com.

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