Friday, July 25, 2014

How Not to Be a Scaredy-Cat Mom

This child. Doing STUFF.

We all know the type. You know, the mom who wipes off the entire grocery cart with hand sanitizer before putting her child into the seat. Who explains to her toddler in a crowded public place that she has to wear her harness because she doesn't want her to get an owie.  Or be taken by a stranger. Who lugs her child's fifty-pound, five-point harness, FAA-approved, NASA-tested booster seat through miles of airport security even though her child is old enough that he no longer legally needs to use any kind of car seat, in a car or plane.  We all know her because she's me: The Scaredy-Cat Mom. (In defense of S-CM's everywhere, I'd just like to utter my impenetrable defense at all you naysayers, finger-waggers, and head shakers: "My child is alive! So, HA. Take THAT.").

The problem with being Scaredy-Cat Mom, of course, is that your children inevitably grow up and start doing things.  I tell my children all the time, "Children, STOP. DOING. THINGS."  I tell them patiently, slowly, in a calm voice so they can absorb the depth of this wise and wonderful philosophy: When you do things, sooner or later you get hurt. Conversely, if you stop doing things, you will not get hurt.

But will they listen? No! The ingrates. They won't even do their one and only mother the courtesy of not growing up.  I mean really. Children these days.


So I decided to beat them at their own game, and by 'them,' I mean my children, and my husband too (might as well throw him in for good measure, he's certainly part of the problem by constantly egging them on, for goodness' sake).  I was going to fake them out. I was going to ACT LIKE a non-Scaredy-Cat Mom for a day, and see where that got them.  So here are my tips on how not to be a Scaredy-Cat Mom. If my techniques prove successful for you, please remember, you read them here first.


Karen's Tips and Techniques for being a Not Scaredy Cat Mom

1. Suggest an activity that you would never, ever in your right mind suggest. Preferably by pointing at a picture in a travel magazine and not bothering to read all the foreign language text describing the activity. The mere shock of receiving such an insane suggestion from you will make your family drop their collective jaws in horror, forget all about the suggested activity, and rush you to the hospital suspecting you're delirious. Or have a bad case of Salmonella. 

We were sitting around Srividya and Karthik's living room, browsing an Oslo Guide and deciding what to do next. We'd absorbed just about as much culture, art, design, and architecture as any reasonably sane family could, and we were ready for something different.

Et tu, Brute?
A picture of a smiling child in a helmet, walking on what appeared to be an innocuous, sturdy rope net draped about two feet off the ground caught my eye. "Hey," I said, not bothering to read the text or struggle with Norwegian. "Oslo Sommerpark. This looks nice."

"Oh," said Suresh, glancing over.  Upon seeing the description, he was suddenly entranced. "That does look nice! It's a rope climbing course! Look at that -- some of the courses are 60 feet off the ground!"

Ok, so back up here. A rope-climbing course?

2.  Your family may be temporarily immune to your non-Scaredy Cat techniques. If so, don't back off. Press on.  Eventually, they will get the point of your conversation: not that you want them to Do A Thing, but that you need medical assistance. Stat.

Before I had a chance to say "Hyggelig (Danish for cosy)," Suresh had figured out how we'd get there and when we'd go, which was, apparently, the next day.

"OK!" I said cheerfully. "Tomorrow it is!"

3. Arrange for rain. Rain deflects the attention from you and makes it seem the weather is to blame for embracing the mantra of Not Doing Anything. I know this sounds outlandish. Am I telling you to control the weather?  Everyone knows you can't control the weather.  But I say, oh yes, you can. After all, you can do anything. You're a Mom.

On the train up to Sommerpark, which, incidentally, is actually better known as Oslo Vinterpark, a ski resort, it began to rain quite nicely and exactly according to schedule. I looked at everyone in dismay. "Oh, no! The rain. Maybe we can't go after all!"

I saw everyone's crestfallen faces then, a sharp reminder that I was to be Not a Scaredy Cat Mom. I needed to press on. "Well," I said, "maybe it will clear up once we get there."

4. Obstacles are your friend.  Again, just like rain, obstacles can get in the way of things enough that plans will have to be scrapped and you will not end up looking like the one who scrapped them out of fear, sheer unadulterated fear.

It was a much, much longer walk to Sommerpark from the train station than we anticipated. That too, in the rain, without rain gear or umbrellas. When the rain began pelting down especially hard, we briefly took shelter in the entranceway to a (closed) cafe, but an unfriendly dog on an apologetic owner's leash began to growl at us, so we left and continued the march in the cold rain.

At last, upon arrival at Sommerpark, we realized the park's one cafe was closed, the parking lot was deserted, and not a soul was around except for some young boys kicking around a soccer ball. (You might get excited at this point and think, mistakenly, that you and your family will turn back when faced with such obstacles. Alas, no.) At this juncture, I pressed on, and addressed the Norwegian boys in Danish, which, sadly, they understood, and happily told all of us in English that we were actually in the wrong parking lot, that the Sommerpark rope climbing course was indeed open, and we were a few hundred meters from the rental shop.

5. Wear the wrong shoes.  You've tried all the tactics so far, and nothing seems to be working. Your family is headed pell-mell straight for their own demise. They've stubbornly missed all your artful and subtle cues, and were undaunted by the weather, the closed cafe, and the empty parking lot, and the dang lack of a Scandanavian language barrier isn't helping either.  This is no time to be namby-pamby about it. This is war.

As we were registering, a paperwork process that basically meant signing your life away, your children's lives away, and giving Sommerpark carte blanche use of your credit cards, I sauntered over to the rental guy and said casually, "You know, I'd love to climb. But, unfortunately, I don't think I'm wearing the right shoes." I pointed at my sandals, the only shoes I'd brought along for this whole trip.

The man looked down. "You're right," he said at last. "You can't climb in those."

I nearly hugged him.

6. Finally, when all else fails: Be eaten by midges.

"I can't climb, I have the wrong shoes for it," I told the others. "But you all should go ahead! Don't worry about me. I'll be fine.  I'll just stand below you and ... take pictures!" Actually, if I had not been trying so hard to be a NSC mom at this point, I probably would have just found a nice dry corner in the locker room and curled up in fetal position while my family self-destructed.  Did I want to watch them do this? Did I want to be the one recording this all for posterity? No, no I did not.

I went out to the park with them, geared up in their halters with hooks and clamps and gears. They look part Borg, but weird Borgs, since their faces were fine but they had metal hanging from straps dangling from their middles.

And, with the aid and encouragement of an instructor, they started to climb.

I would like to say I was Calm. Chill as a Cucumber. Collected. Casual. But I was none of those things. I looked up at my family in the trees, lives precariously dependent on merely their own balance and two small metal carabiners, and my heart was in my throat. "STOP! I'm not the mom you think I am!" I wanted to shout. "Come down from there! I surrender! I AM a Scaredy Cat Mom!"

But before I managed to do that, a miracle occurred.  I was attacked by midges. They thronged around my head by the thousands. They flew in my hair, my eyes, my nose, my mouth. They came up my pant legs and up my sleeves. They feasted upon me. They attempted to feast upon my family, too, but once the boys and Suresh got up in the trees, they were safe: we found that there were far fewer midge swarms up there than on the ground.  I was so distracted at having to fend for my life and work the iPhone camera at the same time, that I was distracted from being a Scaredy Cat Mom. It was a truly amazing turn of events, and I have nothing but praise for the ferocity of Norwegian midges.

And, short of a few dozen midge bites from which my skin is still recovering,


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