I’ll Follow You

As you may have determined, my poor mother who is probably about ready to kill me, was just a tad protective.  My aunt is the one, who thought of this story, and it is funny in a way and we laugh about it now. 🙂

An exciting time in any young person’s life is getting their driver’s license.  I was no different.  My parents sent me to Driver’s Ed the summer before I turned 16.  Driver’s Ed was fun, easy, and nerve-racking all at the same time.  You see I had no problem with driving and the instructor only commented that I was cautious which I don’t think is too bad.  Of course my car had the scary driver in it.  You know the type where they hit the gas instead of the brake. 🙂  I think our instructor about lost it when that happened.

I was not that scary driver.  Of course my dad might comment that I was scary in my own way.  For example, if I didn’t need to cross a centerline, I wouldn’t.  I drove my mom’s Buick Regal down a road with parked cars on it and didn’t cross the centerline once.  Dad actually brought his arm in which he had been hanging out the window.  I made him a little nervous.  When we got to my destination, my mom started criticizing me in front of my grandparents.  Dad had a nervous laugh over it while we were there and was more teasing me.  I asked a simple question, “Did I hit anything? The answer is no, and I knew that there was room for the car and had no need to cross the centerline, so why would I.”  Grandma (GmaS) sided with me which put an end to the discussion. She was great about that. 😉

Anyway, I flew through Driver’s Ed without any trouble and at some point close to my birthday my dad and I went car shopping.  Dad was looking for something in good condition that looked sporty, but without the cost of a sports car.  I was just excited to get a car.  Honestly, I think getting me a car was more for dad than me.  My father had been hauling my behind to/from school for band practice, games, competitions, clubs, etc through junior high and high school.  At least my high school was only 15 minutes away (the junior high was over 30 minutes away).  🙂

We found a 1987 Plymouth Duster in red of course that I fell in love with and dad liked as well.  It looked sporty, but wasn’t a sports car which meant the price was reasonable.  This became my car and was promptly named Little Red.  Dad had a red pickup at the time which he called Red…he soon got another vehicle, but the name stuck with my car.

Luckily my birthday fell such that I didn’t get my license until the weather was nice out, so I could get a whole spring, summer, and fall behind the wheel before dealing with snow.  I still remember my first time driving.  This was before cell phones, so I had no way to let my mom know I was ok until I returned home.  I am sure she worried the whole time.

Anyway, my first drive was up to the general store that my other Grandma (GmaB) worked in.  I drove up there and spent some time with her.  It was a Thursday and little did I know I was there on delivery day.  I stood talking to GmaB while she put price tags on items and stocked the shelves.  She was the only one working, so she had to take care of the register too.  Well, stocking is in my wheel house.  I love organizing things.  So, while she took care of a customer, I stocked the shelves for her.  When she returned, she was a little surprised, but I had done it correctly by moving the old stock to the front and every single can was turned in exactly the same direction.

Before the next customer arrived, GmaB showed me where the price was on the next box and how to set the machine.  So, I just continued on stocking the shelves.  I loved it and GmaB was happy for the help.  After that, I went down there every Thursday that summer to help with the stocking.  Most of the time it was for free, but every now and then I’d get $20 from GmaB for helping out without being asked.  She said it was gas money for coming down there.

Fridays I spent at GmaS’ house taking her to the store and wherever she needed to go.  We played Yatzee and ate lunch together which usually consisted of Totino’s pizza.  I loved spending time with both of my grandma’s.

Time flew by and school was back in session.  I was driving to school every day and made sure before I left that the calendar was up to date with my after school activities.  The snow came early that year and we got some snow in December.  I woke up to about 2 inches on the ground.  Not much at all, but enough to panic my mom.  The normal routine in our house in the morning was dad was up first and then I got up at 6 am.  My job before walking out the door was to wake mom up.  This was back when alarm clocks only had one setting.  I know the dark ages.  It was easier for me to get mom up than for dad to reset the alarm clock.

Dad told me before he left for work to be careful and take my time getting to school.  He also suggested leaving at 6:30 am instead of 6:45 am to ensure that I had enough time.  He may have been nervous about me driving in the snow, but he didn’t show it.  Dad told me that what would be, would be and if I got in an accident, that we could fix the car and just relax and drive smart.

Dad left and mom was up.  I think he knew what was brewing and got out of there.  Mom first said, “You’re not driving today.  You’re taking the bus.”  To which I replied, “Of course I’m driving to school today.  I refuse to take the bus.  I hate that bus.  Plus dad is fine with me driving.”  My bus went through a bad neighborhood.  We lived in a safe area, but there were just a few of us over there, so we got stuck with the bus that went through the bad trailer park.  I had some trouble in the past with bullies on the bus, so I was not eager to get back on that bus.  I had the taste of freedom.

I told mom that dad said for me to leave a little earlier and that I would be fine.  Mom, not wanting to undermine dad, found another way to make sure I was ok.  She said, “Fine! I’ll follow you.”  I was flabbergasted, “What? To school? Nobody else’s mom is following them.  You can’t do this to me.”  She said, “It’s that or the bus.”  I then realized the time…Dad had told me to leave at 6:30 am and it was 6:10 am.  I could get ready in 20 minutes, but could mom?

I said, “I’m not riding the bus.  If you want to follow me, fine! I will not be late to school though.  Dad told me to leave at 6:30 am and that is the time I will walk out the door.  You want to follow me?  You have 20 minutes to get ready.”  It’s funny now, but I was hopping mad.  Mom was just worried.

Miraculously, my mother was ready at 6:30 am.  I have no idea how she did it.  Knowing her, she probably didn’t put her make-up on until she got to work.  So, out we headed.  I had to clean off my car since it sat outside, but I was ready to go in no time.  Mom said she was ready and for me to lead.

I was nervous, but I kept my head like dad told me.  I put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.  I pulled forward to the stop sign on the street and waited for mom.  When I saw her behind me I took off.  Our road’s speed limit is 45 mph, and I gradually increased to 35 mph.  I was comfortable at that speed and the car was fine.  It was not slipping or sliding.  All was good.  I decided to look to see how mom was doing.

Let’s just say not well. 😉  Hee-hee.  You see my car was front wheel drive and hers was rear wheel drive.  This means that my car had the weight of the engine on the tires with the power.  Moms’ car however did not and add on top of that that dad hadn’t put weights in the back of mom’s car yet, so she had no weight on those tires at all.

I was fairly confident in the road ahead, but I couldn’t leave her, so I slowed a bit and watched her in my rear view mirror.  Mom’s car was fish-tailing like you wouldn’t believe.  She had absolutely no traction at all.  I was just thinking “Ha! My car is just fine!”

Once we got to the busy intersection at the end of the road, I could no longer hang back or I would affect other drivers, so I said to myself “Self do you what you need to do to get to school safe and sound.  Do not cause an accident by driving too slow.  Mom is an adult and can take care of herself.”  I did just that.  The light turned green and I took off.  I glanced back and mom was still at the intersection spinning her tires.  Hee-hee. Poor mom!  This wasn’t turning out how she thought it would.

I drove the rest of the way to school which wasn’t that far.  Mom followed the whole way with her car fish-tailing the whole way.  I pulled in the school parking lot, and mom pulled in to go out the other entrance to get turned around.  When I walked in school, several people walked up and asked me if my mom followed me to school.  I said yes, but my car was better and I don’t think she’ll do it again.  Most kids left at that because they all knew my mom and how protective she was.  I just had to endure teasing from a small lot which I could handle.  They were friends and I would certainly rib them a bit if they’re parents even thought to do the same.

After school, I headed home.  The roads were clear by then, and dad asked how it went.  We got home around the same time.  His eyes twinkled when I told him mom followed me to school.  He asked how that went.  I said, “I had no trouble, but mom fish-tailed the whole way.”  Dad was a little worried that he had forgotten to put weights in the back of mom’s car.

When she got home, we asked her how her morning drive was.  Her reply?  To dad, “You need to put weights in the back of my car.”  To me, “Don’t ever drive away from me again when I’m following you.  You were going too fast.”  I had already told dad of my speeds and that I traveled with traffic, so I knew I had backup if needed.  I just simply replied that I did not want to cause an accident by not traveling with traffic because I was waiting for you to catch up. I then dropped it.  Mom hadn’t thought of that.

After that whenever it snowed; my mom may have been concerned about me driving, but she never followed me again.  In fact, my mom would beg me to let her drive my car.  I think this did two things, she knew I wasn’t driving and she got a better car in snow.  The only drawback for her was I still wouldn’t ride the bus, so I said “Fine, but you have to take me to school and I’ll get my friends to drive me home.  Also, please don’t make me late because I don’t want to get into trouble.”  Mom agreed knowing that more than likely the roads would be fine for the drive home, but she was putting my life in my friends’ hands instead of mine.  It is a thought that has always occurred to me.

And so that’s how it went all winter.  It would snow and mom would steal my car.

I don’t want people to think that my mom and I fought all the time.  We didn’t and we probably weren’t even close most of the time.  This is a story that we laugh about now. 🙂  I think in general we picked our battles.  Most of the time I had no problem with respecting my elder’s decisions, but in certain instances like this one, I wasn’t giving in.  Riding the bus was like a death sentence to me.  I had put up with it for four years and I didn’t feel like I should have to deal with that any more because I had my own car.  Although at some point during the year, I did make “friends” with the people who previously picked on me.  Helping out their friends with class work helped with that. 🙂

The moral of my story is please parents who are worried about their children driving in inclement weather for the first time and there’s only 2 inches on the ground…relax and trust your kids.  Every time they drive, it is a learning experience and that is how we grow up.  As my dad said, a car can be fixed and just tell them to use their heads.  Please don’t follow them to school and embarrass them.  For some kids, that could cause a major uproar in their school life where you just try to fit in.

Saturdays

After my brother passed away (well even before then), my mother became extremely protective (an understatement).  This was the 70s back when parents who grew up in the 50s-60s still remembered what it was like to run around a small town without parental supervision as very young kids.  But times were different, Manson and Dahmer were well known serial killers plus Adam Walsh was kidnapped and killed in 1981.

So my mom was extremely protective.  Dad was protective too, but I think he remembered what it was like to have freedom as a kid to make decisions and learn what the consequences to those decisions would be.  When my parents moved into their second house (the first I remember), they put up a privacy fence.  This fence was funny because if the wind blew just right, sections would fall down.  When it was built they didn’t use treated lumber, so it just came right back down.  I think in the time that we lived there that my dad actually put up two fences.  The first fence was all at once and the second fence in sections as they fell down. 🙂

When I finally learned to ride my bike at five, my mom would only let me go to the end of the third house to the right and to the end of our neighbors to the left.  The reason I couldn’t go far to the left was our neighbors had a really tall hedge that my mom couldn’t see over.  If she couldn’t see me, then I couldn’t go there.

Btw, the guy in the third house really didn’t like us kids.  He hated kids riding in his yard.  I was ok because my father was the same way only he had a kid (and I told my friends to not ride in our grass), so the guy never had any ill will towards me because I wouldn’t ride in his yard or anyone else’s.  But I do remember my friends telling me that they got yelled at by him.

Once I was in elementary school and had friends in the neighborhood, this was a pain.  Nobody wants to play with you if you can’t go very far.  I mean what’s the fun in riding on the sidewalk between 5 houses?  Not much.

Around age nine, my reach extended to riding on the sidewalk to the end of our street.  This was about 3-4 houses more to the right.  I still couldn’t go past the hedge to the left.  This opened me up a tad and at least I could use my imagination to go further.  My friends still lived in another area of our neighborhood.

At age 11, I was allowed to ride in the street.  I still had the same reach, but now it was extended to the other side of the street.  I used to log a lot of hours just simply riding up and down the street looking for someone outside to play with.  The problem was that most of my friends could go further than I could and went to play on other streets.

Around this time, my mom started working some Saturdays.  It wasn’t all the time and she only worked a half day, but those were the greatest days of my life. 🙂  One would think that a child would miss their mom on that day, but my dad made things fun for me.  🙂  Dad was the more relaxed parent in case you can’t tell.

The first Saturday mom worked, my dad and I were eating breakfast when mom left.  Dad looked at me and asked if I could keep a secret.  I replied with yes thinking that he and I were going to go buy or build something for mom.  He told me that a half hour after mom left; I could go outside and ride my bike.  I said ok, but I was a little let down…I mean I do that all the time and I was kind of thinking that this was going to be special.

He continued and said that I could go anywhere in the neighborhood I wanted as long as I didn’t cross or go near the busy road that was the entrance to our neighborhood.  My jaw dropped at this!  I mean, I could go over to Eddie, Jesse, and Melissa’s house!  A miracle was happening right in our kitchen. 🙂

He finished with asking if I was wearing my watch.  Of course I had my Big Bird watch on and dad made sure that the battery was still functioning and that it was currently set to the correct time.  He told me that mom was due home around 12:30 pm and to be safe that needed to be back home by 11:30 am an hour before she was due home.  He asked if I could do this, and I said yes.

Dad finished with “It is real important that you are home by 11:30 am or we will both be in trouble.  You cannot tell your mother now or ever.  This has to be a secret because if she ever finds out, we will both be in more trouble that you know can happen.  Have fun and be safe!  I will be here if you need me.  You have to finish your breakfast first and then you can go.”

I think dad knew that I wouldn’t be back until 11:30 am, so he wanted me to be nice and full before heading out.  I snarfed down breakfast at a pace that was very unladylike.  I put my plate in the sink and ran to put on my tennis shoes.  With a “Thanks Dad”, I headed out on my adventure.

My first stop (and I would formally like to apologize to Jesse’s parents for showing up at 8 am on a Saturday) was Jesse’s house.  I rode as fast as I could to her house because I knew she’d be surprised to see me.  She knew I wasn’t allowed out of my area.  I knocked on the door and asked if she could come out to play.  I think her mom was shocked to see me and that shocked expression it wasn’t just the time of day I was there, but that I was there at all.  Her mom said something about Jesse watching cartoons and asked if I wanted to come in.  I told her that I would pass because I only had until 11:30 am to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  My mom didn’t talk to her much, so I figured I was pretty safe.  Plus I think most of the mom’s around the neighborhood were just happy to see me get some freedom.  They wouldn’t rat me out.

The next thing I knew as I was riding away I heard my name being called.  Jesse heard what I told her mom and went to get dressed and put her shoes on in record time.  After chatting about this new liberty I was given while riding, I asked if she wanted to ride over to Eddie’s house to see if he could play as well.

Jesse knew exactly where he lived and we headed over there.  Once again a mom was surprised to see me at her door and called Eddie to see if he wanted to play.  He did and so our group was now three.  We all three wanted Melissa to play as well, so over to her house we went.  Now going to Melissa’s house was interesting because she lived close to the road that I was not allowed to cross.  I was a tad nervous, but I knew we wouldn’t cross it and she wasn’t on the corner, so I went along.

Melissa being a really good friend, of course came out to play.  Her mom was the one I was most worried about because our mom’s talked more frequently.  I was asked about being over there, and I said that my dad said it was ok and that mom wasn’t home.  I asked her to not tell my mom or dad and I would be in trouble.  She smiled and said that she was very happy to see me and that she would keep our secret.  She told us all to be safe, smart, and to have fun.

We rode all over the neighborhood.  We had bike races and stopped to chat with various friends along the way.  We all wound up over at Eddie’s house playing some game outside.  Time flew by and the next thing I knew it was 11:00 am.  I told everyone that I wanted to ride some more before going home as I only had a half hour.  I thanked them all for being great friends and making my Saturday the best I had ever had.  Jesse and Melissa joined me on my final ride.  Melissa had to head home as well, and Jesse was getting hungry for lunch as she didn’t get any breakfast because of how early I was at her house.  So, we rode over there first.  Then I rode with Melissa to her house.  I circled back around and still had five minutes, so I went down a cul-de-sac behind our house before going home.  I was in the driveway right at 11:30 am.

I went inside to let dad know that I was home.  Dad told me that he was happy that I was home on time because mom got off a little early and was on her way. 🙂  He told me to remember it is a secret and to not tell her.  Plus he said that since I was responsible with my time and as long as mom doesn’t find out that I could do this again, the next time my mom worked on Saturday.  Dad then said that I should head out and ride my bike because that is what I would be doing normally on a Saturday morning.  I headed back outside to ride in my limited area.  It was way different riding there after having all that freedom.

I soon saw mom’s car come down the street.  So I did what I always did, I headed home to say hi.  Mom gave me a hug and asked if I had fun with dad this morning.  I told that I did and that he let me ride my bike all morning.  She simply assumed it was in the designated area.  😉  I never elaborated on it.  I was honest, I did ride my bike.  Dad said that same thing that I just rode my bike all morning.

I had a blast that morning and I thank my dad for allowing me to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  I remember asking mom week to week if she had to work on Saturday.  If she said yes, I said “Awww, that’s too bad.”  Inside I was excited as could be that mom had to work.  And so it went while we lived in that house.  If mom had to work on Saturday, I had freedom for a few hours.  I think dad planned to not have any errands on those Saturday mornings, so that I could have a little freedom.

I know that no one ratted dad and I out.  None of my friends or their parents said a word to my mom.  I know this because one evening when I was in my 30s and was home visiting, dad and I came clean.

We were at dinner and were reminiscing about the days gone by.  Without thinking first, I asked dad if he remembered those Saturdays when mom worked.  He said, “The ones where I let you ride around the neighborhood?”  I think both of us thought we would be in the clear at this point.  I was 30 for Pete’s sake.

Mom asked what we meant by that with a very wary voice.  We came clean and explained everything.  As we were detailing my exploits, mom’s eyes got darker and darker as she became madder and madder.  She turned and looked at dad and said “I can’t believe you let her do that.  She could have been kidnapped or worse.  How could you do that?” Dad and I said we were sorry for deceiving her, but I told her that I was happy that dad let me ride around the block and trusted me to be safe.

With that, mom was done with dinner and ready to leave.  In fact she walked out ahead of us.  We were upset that she was mad, but grinning from ear to ear that she never found out.  I figured one of the other mom’s would eventually say something offhandedly not remembering it was a secret.

Mom has never forgiven us for that and I doubt that she ever will.  She did say that she was happy that nothing happened to me and dropped the subject.  I am happy she knows though.  I think in today’s world that there are a lot of parents who are just like my mom which is why I am telling this story.  Should they be?  I don’t know, but I think the media adds a lot to perceptions about today’s world; just like the media did back in 1981 when Adam Walsh was kidnapped.

So, for those very protective parents, I suggest (unless you truly live in a bad neighborhood…we didn’t) that you let your kids have a few hours to ride around the block.  If they are responsible, let them do it every now and then.  It teaches them responsibility and gives them a feeling of independence plus it is a way to show your kids that you trust them.  If they don’t follow the rules, don’t let them do it again for awhile.  This will help teach them that there are consequences to their actions.

I know I will always cherish those days and I remember them fondly. 🙂  Thanks Dad!

I Grew Up an Only Child

Whenever meeting new people in a social situation, a certain question always gets asked: “Do you have any siblings?”  My answer is always “I grew up an only Child.”  Smart people will catch that I didn’t actually answer the question, and will ask a follow up question like “What does that mean?”

The reason I answer the way I do is avoidance, so I don’t have to deal with any lag in the conversation.  Most people won’t catch that I didn’t answer the actual question, therefore no lag.  You see I do have a brother, but he died right after I turned five and he was two and a half.  Therefore when I say I grew up an only child, it’s true…I did.

It is simply an easier answer than saying “Yes, but my brother passed away when I was five.”  That answer will only lead to surprising the person out of their socks and put them in a position where they don’t really know how to proceed.

I’m not sure why people are so uncomfortable when you don’t sugar coat something like this, but I guess it’s a difficult topic for most because they remember someone close to them who has passed away.  This probably makes them sad, and when meeting someone new, you usually like to have your best foot forward; not your saddest foot.

My brother was sick from the time he was born until he passed away, but let me tell you my parents were awesome.  I don’t remember ever thinking he was really sick or any resentment towards him because he was so sick.  I just remember I liked having a brother.  Personally, I feel lucky that I remember him at all.  I’ve heard that most kids don’t remember much until they are five, so I am very lucky indeed.

My parents took very good care of my brother, so much so that my mom told me later on when I was an adult that the doctors were surprised at how long he lived.  My parents made a lot of trips to the hospital with him during his short two and a half years.  They made a lot of sacrifices for him, but he received the best care that could be provided.

I only have a few memories of my brother.  Only one involves a hospital and that was the day he passed away.  Most of the time while my parents went to the hospital, I went to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house to be spoiled. 🙂

Other memories are silly like getting his leftover baby food jars when mom finished feeding him.  I used to stick my little fingers in the jar and get every last scrap of baby food out of it.

But by far, my best and favorite memory of my brother is an example of how much my parents tried to keep things as normal as possible for me.  They found a way for me to play with my brother.  🙂

Our house had an L-shaped hallway that started in the living room and ended in a bedroom.  It wasn’t a long distance, but when you are under five, it seems like a long way.  My mom would sit in the living room and dad in the bedroom.  Then Mom would put my brother into a stroller and strap him in.  After she double-checked to make sure he was ok, I was off.  I would stroll him from one parent to the other.  One of them could always see him, and I knew better than to run or be careless with him.  I had to stop at each end, so that my parents could ensure that he was ok.  Then I would turn around and go the other direction.  I have no idea how much time I spent strolling him and I am sure it was probably shorter than I remember.

It may seem like such a small thing to remember and not a fun activity, but I loved it!  I felt like I was taking care of him as well and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for that memory.

Here’s some advice for everyone…When you meet someone that lost a sibling at an early age and they remember their sibling, try saying “I’m sorry that you lost your brother/sister, but I am happy that you got to know them and that you have memories to remember them by.”  Hopefully, this will help you get past the lag in conversation that might occur. 🙂

The Next Generation is Interviewing for Jobs

I recently attended a Leadership Conference at work on Interviewing Techniques, and was extremely surprised at the next generation that is entering the workforce.

We were told that some of the next generation that is graduating from college and starting to enter the workforce is bringing mommy and/or daddy to their job interviews.  Let me just ask, “Really?”

For those who are interviewers, you can tell mommy and daddy that they cannot be in the interview with their little baby because mommy and daddy are not the candidates for the job.  If you choose to, you could ask mommy and daddy in the lobby why they think they should be there and what information are they looking to help their little baby with obtaining.

Other than that, throw them out the door. 🙂 Well, not literally, just give them a magazine and tell them that you will bring their precious little baby back to them.  Well, maybe not in those terms, but that’s what I would love to say to any mommy or daddy that arrives at an interview with their precious baby.  I would also like to ask the precious little baby if they need a pacifier.

I mean seriously little babies, you expect me to give you a job when you can’t even show that you can go to a job interview without having your hand held by your mommy and daddy?  Forget it, it shows to me that you have no backbone and cannot work in a group environment where you need to speak up for the betterment of the team without someone holding your hand.  I have no respect for you or anyone regardless of age that brings mommy and daddy to the interview.

Please don’t even apply for a job until you can stand on your own two feet and wipe your nose yourself.  Nobody who interviews you will respect you and if for some reason someone hires you (doubtful), you will be always thought of as the baby.  People might not say it to your face, but they will be thinking it.  You will have no respect among your peers.

And yes, I used mommy, daddy, and baby as terms for you on purpose because that is what you all are; a bunch of overprotective parents and little brat.

I know interviewing can be scary and nerve racking, but everyone goes through it and by bringing your mommy and daddy; you are just making things worse.  Everybody flubs an interview or two.  I did, my friends did, but you know what?  We took it as a learning lesson and did that much better at the next interview.  Learn from your mistakes because they will make you a better interviewee in the long run.

As for mommy and daddy, your precious little baby is growing up and it is time to finally cut the cord. Let go a little and let them grow.  It’ll be OK because your precious baby will not get their dream job if you show up at the interview with them, but if you aren’t there, they at least have a chance.

So, kids grow up, stand on your own two feet without assistance, and interview for a job on your own.  You can do it!