Me? Overprotective? Nah.
Pay no attention to the bubble I’ve placed my daughter in for safekeeping
My daughter recently mowed the lawn for the first time, and it is huge news around our house.
In virtually every other family in America, it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it is at our address because I was convinced she was going to slam into an unforeseen yellow jacket nest and run herself over with the mower while fleeing for her life.
Up until recently, when my now 15-year-old wanted tea, I’d heat up the water for her because I was sure she’d lean over the stove and burst into flames. None of this is a reflection of her at all. A cognitive behavioral therapist would say that I regularly jump to conclusions that end in the worst case scenario. The Mom-on-Board will tell you it’s just me being me. I can be a tad overprotective. Or alarmingly smothering. Whichever.
Things began to change recently, however, when my wife pointed out the obvious: “She’s going to have to know how to do certain things,” she said. “She’s going to have to know how to mow the lawn and cook dinner and take care of herself. She’s going to have to know how to change a tire, fill the car up with gas and drive.”
It’s when she used the phrase “drive” that she started sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher. If I have a hard time letting her mess around with whirling razor-sharp blades on the front lawn or steeping leaves over the open pit of lava in our kitchen, imagine my level of stress when she gets behind the wheel.
For a while it looked like I was getting worse. One of her daily tasks is taking the dog out to do his business. That simple job was in jeopardy because I saw a bear in our backyard. (Note: This is not the case of an overprotective dad mistaking an overachieving squirrel for a grizzly. It was a real bear.) As far as I was concerned, if the bear wasn't standing on his hind legs, wearing a pork pie hat and necktie and looking for picnic baskets, this was mortal danger. That particular encounter only lasted a few seconds before I made a slight sound and it bolted into the woods never to be seen again, but the damage to my psyche was done.
Luckily, my aversion for taking the dog out was stronger than the fear of having my child mauled by a bear, so Figgy gets to do his thing.
Still, she's learning. Or, more accurately, I'm learning. Since the revelation that I'm not going to be driving her around or making tea for her the rest of her life, she's mastered such skills as making macaroni and cheese. It's a start.
So the lawn got mowed, and my kid is a little closer to being able to take care of things for herself — though she didn't exactly relish the task. She likes yard work about as much as I do — which is to say not even a little. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, especially when it lands in grass that's way overgrown.
Maybe I'll get her a bear saddle and trust fate.
Bill Burke lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. It's the house with the perfectly manicured lawn and grizzly bears. He is also the managing editor of custom publications at McLean Communications.