Saturday, August 15, 2015

Don't Be Stupid!

My son has his driver's license.  He passed.  Ok.  He's 18.  I used every opportunity to keep him from getting that license.  Call me overprotective. I just didn't want to go through it all over again. 


I've had two daughters who drove as teenagers.  The phone rings and I can't move my feet.  One girl hit a parked car on her way to high school.  How does that happen?  Oh, that's right.  You have to adjust the radio.  She called and in a panic said, "get over here quick with your checkbook."  Another time she opened her door just as a bike messenger was passing her.  Thank the Lord he didn't get seriously hurt.  The car door though was a different story.  My daughter lives and works in the city now.  No car. 


In hindsight, holding off on getting his license might not have been the smartest thing to do.  I cut off his balls.  A guy needs to drive if he wants to take out a girl or meet his friends.  It made me sick the other night when I heard him pull up....on his bike. 


His dad waited with him at the DMV.  I rubbed my son's back when he walked in.  Part of me was saying, "I'm sorry."  Another part, "I'm proud of you." Part of me was saying, "Don't be stupid."  I had read that Blago's wife, Patti, was sad that Blago wasn't there when his daughter got her license.  He had missed out on that wonderful rite of passage.  I thought about that as I hugged my son.  So grateful to share this moment.


Next morning my son drove me to church and then he left for the first time driving on his own, driving a long way on the expressway to work out for baseball.  I gave him a simple wave.  Be safe.  Don't be stupid.


I turned around and walked into church.  A funeral Mass for a 22 year old cousin.  This young man never woke up Sunday morning.  Imagine.  No drugs or alcohol.  He worked for a sports company that drug tested employees.  He was an ice hockey star athlete in town.  His mother told me that she woke up in the middle of the night and happened to check on her three kids.  Her son was sleeping and the sheet was off.  She pulled the bed sheet up to his waist.  She heard him sleeping.  The next morning she came in with groceries only to hear the screams from her husband and younger son. 


Protect your children all you want, I thought.  Sometimes, it's just out of our control.


Years ago, a man moved in across from my old house.  His wife was living there.  I thought she was a widow.  Turns out that the man was a child molester who was returning after having spent 7 years in prison for raping two 7 year old girls.  My daughters were 11 & 9.  I freaked out.  I called John Kass at the Tribune.  "What do I do?  I'm a prisoner in my house."  He told me I couldn't do a thing.  "Get a dog."  I saw a woman leave his house.  Her blazer blew open from the wind, and I saw she was strapped with a gun.  His parole officer, I assumed.  "What do I do?" I screamed out at her. "Just don't do anything stupid" was her calm reply.  I got it. 


A week later I drove past a house on the other side of town.  There was a "for sale" sign in front.  The best part is that there was a park and a creek right across the street.  I thought, "I don't care what this costs.  I will never, ever have to worry about who is looking at me through their window."  I'm grateful each time I pull up to my house. 


A Chicago Tribune columnist asked readers what advice to give our children as they leave for college.  Next week I make the long journey to drive my son to school.  I'm dropping him off 14 hours away.  He's going to be in a totally different part of the country.  The boys there go mud-running with their trucks.  They hunt. They tie up alligators.   Things my son has never even seen someone do.   I plan on turning to him and simply say, "Don't be stupid."  I hope he gets it. 




Grateful that I'll be able to drive with him.  To hug him.  To deliver my advice in person.  To rub his back.   Things Blago was never able to give his daughter.