I'll never forget something my friend Melinda told me when her daughters were elementary-aged. She admitted that while she had never seen herself as having a control issue, she in fact did. And it only showed up as her little ladies began having minds of their own. When you lose the ability to ensure that each perfectly matched hair bow is tied just so, with shoes appropriate for the occasion, and cute, polite answers you've painstakingly practiced with your angels come rolling off their tongues each time an adult questions them, you panic a little bit. Or a whole lot. It just seems wrong, that all of a sudden you can't dictate each decision, each move, each action. After all, you've been given the right to be solely in charge of these beings you've birthed and raised, right?
Wrong. I realized the depth of my own control issue a few days ago.
We got up at the break of dawn to make sure we were on time to Emma's first high school audition. For those of you who don't live in NYC, normal places as my children would say, I'll try to briefly explain. Manhattan doesn't come with zoned public high schools. You don't move into town and go put your name on a list at the Department of Education. You must apply, and carefully consider which school out of hundreds to list first, second, third, up to twelve, realizing that if your first choice doesn't accept you, you run a risk with your following choices, as they might only accept students who listed THEM as number one. You also have the option of auditioning for performing arts schools, as my daughter has chosen to do. This comes with additional risks, however...if you list a performing arts school as your number one choice, you may jeopardize your chances of getting into a top academic school, where there are plenty of qualified students listing them first. Throw on top of it all that we've homeschooled since moving here, so nothing but my daughter's name shows up on the computer when an interested school might look at her records. If ever there's a time for a mom to become helicopterish it's now. How detailed should I make her portfolio? How can I ensure they see her standardized test scores? Is it too much to include work samples from every subject? And don't they need to know how many outside classes she has taken? How much community service she's done? How many shows she's been a part of? How well she's learned to navigate the subway system?
I digress. Clearly, this mom has been a little stressed out.
Back to the audition day. Cameron made her eggs, to fill her up in case it was a really long morning. I vocalized her in the closet, to keep the neighbors from complaining. We filled a bag with things to work on while waiting, water bottles and snacks in case hunger set in, extra pencils for her essay. One might think we were preparing for another hurricane.
We took a taxi to make sure we were plenty early. Third in line. Perfect. As more students arrived, I went over every possible scenario with Emma. What will you say if they ask this? What will you do if they stop you early? Are you sure you don't need another drink of water?
Just as Emma reached her limit of Psycho-Mom involvement, a lady came out to welcome everyone. I felt relief knowing that I would get a great spot to wait, being third in line and all. So when I heard the lady's announcement, it took a moment to register.
"Parents, you may leave now. Your student will call you when the auditions are over."
I pretended not to notice how relieved Emma looked as I made sure she had plenty of water and pencils in her bag.
Cameron and I went to a diner for breakfast. I could hardly choke down my food, I was so nervous. Melinda's words came back to me. And I realized, I have a full-fledged control issue. She might be your baby, but she's practically grown. She still needs you, but not in that hovering, I'll-do-it-for-you kind of way. And I felt the strangest mixture of embarrassment, sadness, and relief.
When we picked her up, she was laughing out front with a group of new friends she'd made during the audition. They were comparing stories of how they had messed up, which dance steps were the hardest, how silly they felt answering certain questions. As we walked home and asked her how it went, it wasn't the judges' reactions or the mechanics of the day that she mentioned. It was how much fun the morning had been.
And I made a mental note. To fight against maniacal overseeing of my children's lives. To resist helicopter-mom tendencies, no matter how strong the pull. To celebrate moments instead of trying to control them. To have more fun, and to know when to get out of the way.