The Power of a Metaphor

First ResponderEarly last summer, I got what I asked for.

“We don’t want to be regular babysitters.” We had sighed. “We just want to be grandparents.”

Our children listened. Our daughter put the Friday baby into day care, and our daughter-in-law traded her crazy grad school schedule for a slightly less crazy work schedule.

“You don’t need to take Auggie on Wednesday mornings any more.” she had replied happily.

Camp Uncle Josh did not get cancelled. But I went from two and a half days of babysitting to one day of babysitting.

I was free!!!!

And. Bored. So. Bored.

I never thought I’d be bored. But. I can only read so many articles a day on what a horrible person Donald Trump is. I can only play so much FreeCell. Last summer, It was too hot to cook, too dry to garden, and my foot hurt when I hiked. And I’d lost interest in knitting when the little boys took over my lap space.

I even sunk to reading “cozies.” For the uninitiated, “cozies” are British mysteries where nothing bad ever happens; everyone drinks tea all day; and the last page of the book features a desert recipe. I confess, I read “Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon;” Aunt Dimity being a ghost who communicates from the great beyond by means of a pen and notebook. As the somewhat flaky heroine reads the ghostly lines, they disappear. It was an embarrassing summer.

And I wasn’t even managing to write anything.

I was, to put it mildly, at loose ends.

And then, just to make me feel worse, my daughter had a terrible, horrible, no-good week.

She was in her first trimester, and everything made her nauseous. Plus, she was juggling a job, and two toddlers. In between all of this, she was getting ready to go camping. And just when she thought her week couldn’t get worse, it did.

Monday night, her husband came home and had trouble getting out of his car due to a bad back. He made it to the couch and spent the night there. Tuesday morning, he rolled off the couch and couldn’t get up. After an ambulance ride to Sturdy, he was diagnosed with a herniated disc.

I offered to take the older child, Max, overnight. (“What!?” shouted my husband “I’ll never get any sleep!”)

That was a good because Wednesday morning, the second child began vomiting and running a temperature. My daughter’s husband was still on the couch barely able to move; he had a doctor’s appointment; she had to miss work; and since the baby refused to leave her arms, she wasn’t getting anything done.

“Can you keep Max as long as you want, and then, a little longer?” she pleaded “And can dad come drive Ryan to the doctors?”

We bought Max back Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, I hung out with my daughter at the playground and listened to her vent.

“My husband is driving me crazy! My kids are driving me crazy. There’s so much left to do! I don’t feel well…” she fumed.

So, Friday, we took the boys blueberry picking.

But the contrast between her frantic schedule, and my boredom made me feel even worse about my own life. I confided my own angst over the phone.

“I’ve got to do something with my life…” I sighed. “Everyone is so busy, and I’m just bored. Maybe…maybe…I need to go back to work.”

This might not have been the appropriate time to say an inappropriate four-letter word. There was a long moment of horrified silence.

“Noooo.” she cried. “Mom. Noooo. You can’t get a job. I need you… You and Dad are my heroes!”

Hmmm. During her terrible, week, I had chastised my daughter for having too much ambition, and guilt.

“Relax.” I admonished. “Things will get done. Enjoy snuggling on the couch with your baby.”

“You can only control your own attitude.” I pontificated.

Now, she was turning tables and trying to tell me that it was OK to relax a little.

“You and Dad” she continued “…You…you’re my…first responders!”

First responders? I shook my head. Really. What a ridiculous idea. First responders are heroic, strong, and young. I’m…umm…not. The comparison seemed ironic and even disrespectful.

“First responders?” I replied tentatively “You mean, like, I’m sitting there in the station, playing FreeCell, checking Facebook, reading cozies, drinking tea, all the while just waiting to spring into action?”

“Right! Exactly Mom!”

I liked it!

I liked it a lot. It’s funny how an just the right word can change everything. Hmmm, I thought…I’m not unemployed, I’m retired. I’m not lazy; I’m just being judicious about commitments. I’m not useless, I’m my children’s very own First Responder! It was the metaphor that made all the difference.

Like my daughter, I’ve always measured life in terms of accomplishments. Chores done, meals made, paychecks deposited. But part of the reason I wanted to be “just a grandparent” was so that I could be “in reserve,” so I could respond to small problems before they grew. When I was young I could always call my own mother, and she would always respond. Now, I can only pay her back by passing it forward.

First responder huh? I thought happily. Thank you Tracy. All right, I thought, maybe it’s good that I got what I asked for…


Trapped on Toddler Island

Toddler Island

“Six toddlers? You mean I’m going to be trapped on Toddler Island?”

I was apprehensive. Very apprehensive. But early this summer my daughter talked me into it.

“Mom! Come up to Maine with us.”

“Maine? The island? The island that’s only accessible by boat? The island that has no plumbing or electricity? Ummm…we …continue reading


Sole or Soul? Lost in the Woods

Deep and Dark

It wasn’t my plan to get lost. I just wanted to explore someplace new. …continue reading